The Myth of Worthiness

October 14, 2013

waiting

By Amy Hackworth. Image by Justin Hackworth.

I’ve watched Dr. Brené Brown’s 2010 TEDx talk on the power of vulnerability more than once, and I imagine many of you have, too. With over 11 million views, I think it’s safe to say the issues she discusses have struck a chord that resonates with how we think about ourselves, our mistakes, and the need for authentic relationships.

I recently came across a series of clips from a piece she did with Oprah, and there are little bits of wisdom in each one. I’m especially interested in her ideas about how we perceive our “worthiness of love and belonging.” Do we believe we’re worthy of caring relationships? That we’re worthy to be loved, and to love ourselves?

Dr. Brown, here, asserts that we do deserve these things, not because of anything we’ve achieved or accomplished, but because we live and breathe. These are fundamental privileges that accompany living, not special favors we earn by being perfect or even by being great or good. “There are no pre-requisites for worthiness,” she says.

And yet. We often act as if there are. “Sure, I’m pretty worthy of love and belonging,” she suggests we might believe, “but I’d be super worthy if…” We can fill in our own blanks: “if I could lose that last five pounds”, “if I worked harder,” “if I managed work and family just right,” “if I didn’t waste so much time,” “if I could just meet this or that goal.” Often the x to which we assign our worthiness isn’t even an attainable or realistic standard, which ensures that a sense of being enough is continually at arm’s length.

But that’s a myth, friends. We don’t need to wait until things are perfect (because they never will be!) to feel that we are worthy of loving ourselves. We deserve that because we’re here. Now let’s enjoy it.

How do you nurture a sense that you’re enough?  How can we help each other embrace life as it is instead of an unrealistic perfection that isn’t?

P.S. Brené Brown’s 2012 follow-up TED talk is here. And we talked about her ideas of vulnerability and courage several months ago here.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Zoe - SlowMama October 14, 2013 at 12:58 pm

Have you ever read any Conrad Baars? I studied his theories back in the day and they are right on. He says that we all have an intrinsic need for love and it’s only in receiving unconditional love that we can feel worthy, good, and lovable — and have the capacity to love in return. He called this “affirmation” and said that when one is deprived of authentic affirmation (criticism, rejection, being ignored, neglected, or abused, etc.) early in life, emotional growth is stunted. I think many of us suffer from this to one degree or another and that our culture’s obsession with perfection adds to feelings of unworthiness and never being enough.

I’ve come to believe that we can affirm ourselves only to a certain degree; we really need others. This is tough in a culture marked by isolation, independence, busyness, and mobility — true community and deep personal relationships are harder to sustain — but it’s still very possible.

One of the things that has helped me with all this, besides my spiritual life, is gratitude. Cliche, I realize, but if you really, truly try to live from a place of gratitude each day — about everything — it does change your perspective about yourself and your life.

I love your line: “We don’t need to wait until things are perfect (because they never will be!)…” So true!

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2 Amy Hackworth October 14, 2013 at 1:19 pm

I live what you said about gratitude, and such a good observation about the isolation of our culture. It can be difficult to connect, but so important.

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3 Gia October 14, 2013 at 2:32 pm

I love this, and need this… I am so insecure at times.. Like when my relationship is complicated I become so upended and lost. I don’t know the solution.. Except it gets better with time, if I have a fight with my boyfriend. I’ve also realized it’s a lot about our REACTION to life more than what happens to us. It’s up to me to not over react out of fear or insecurity, which is hard when it comes so naturally.

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4 Melissa de la Fuente October 14, 2013 at 6:14 pm

Too true, too true….I love this and couldn’t agree more. Often, I think about how I HOPE my daughters talk to themselves & treat themselves. Then I think, I better set a good example and be kind to myself.
xo
Melissa

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5 Carly October 14, 2013 at 11:49 pm

I think that’s such a useful way to frame being kind to yourself – nurture yourself the way you would nurture your children; encourage and reassure yourself as you would your children. I heard a good maxim for perfectionists the other day – ‘Seventy per cent is perfection.’ I’m pretty certain that I meet the 70% standard in my life and it feels great!

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6 Gabriele October 15, 2013 at 7:01 am

Thank-you for posting about Brene Brown last year. That led me to her TedTalk and her books. “Daring Greatly” added shame to the bouquet of “not enough” feelings we all harbor. These ideas changed the way I teach children. Her definition of shame is not feeling guilty for something we do wrong but the deeper feeling of not being worthy because of something we can’t change change about who we are. We have all felt shamed and sad to say we have all tried shaming others to get what we want.

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7 sarah October 17, 2013 at 6:12 pm

you need to listen to her interview with Krista Tippett on the NPR show On Being- such a powerful interview!

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