5 Reasons That Make It Clear Why You Should Not Let Society Dictate How You Feel

Our sense of worthiness lies at the root of almost everything that happens in our lives. It affects the way we relate to others and ourselves, the way we hide from life or throw ourselves into it, and the way we pretend to be weak or exert disproportionate power onto others. In the name of feeling worthy we will often betray our values and ourselves. Losing our sense of belonging simply feels too risky compared to listening to what we know to be true.

When the outside becomes the compass of my sense of value

Outside compliments and attention serve as a compensation for our inner sense of value. Most moments of feeling valuable are derived externally, from other people’s praise rather than an innate understanding of our own significance. However, when we look outside ourselves for value we betray ourselves and pay the high price of mediocrity. We’re continuously challenged to choose between the outer and inner forces to establish our own self-worth. Self-respect, self-love, and a belief in our basic goodness have to fight against giving in to feelings of social anxiety and shame, the fear of isolation, and the expression of suppressed anger. Our need to belong is the core trigger and nourishing force behind our tendency to give in to these pressures.

Life presents us with many mountain tops of success and valleys of failure. In these valleys, we face embarrassment, exclusion, shame, and guilt. So how can we retain a sense of worthiness, especially during times of distress? Particularly when we feel guilt and shame, it seems almost impossible to reclaim our innocence and give ourselves the chance to start over.

Shame and guilt create strong dynamics of self-punishment and often reinforce an endless cycle of choosing the wrong route to happiness and healthy self-esteem. An extreme example is the struggle of convicted criminals. Once a person has broken a significant rule, our opinion of him changes. He moves to the other side of the line, the dark side, even if it was a momentary lapse in judgment. He is now marked by that bad choice for life. From there the opportunities to return to normalcy are limited.

But the same dynamics apply to all of us. When we fail, or see others fail, a shadow is cast and it is even harder to move on. We fight to forgive ourselves and we fight to remember the goodness that is now buried beneath the failure. But regardless of our failures, our natural right is to be here even when we’re excluded by certain parts of society for breaking their norms, rules, or values.

Tell me who I should be, in order to be worthy

Our sense of worthiness is lost in childhood through experiences that may have felt like the rejection of who we were. This was especially painful when we were being compared to others and didn’t seem to measure up. The resulting inner struggle is an expression of the unworthiness we felt and continues to reflect in our personality.

On the path to claiming a true sense of worthiness, there cannot be any principles or ideologies. These will only further limit our understanding of this complex theme. What we really need is a deep understanding of our humanity and how it got distorted for us along the way, but achieving this is indeed a huge undertaking.

True Worthiness is found in Simplicity

Real worthiness is essentially about allowing ourselves to belong to something that is bigger and not limited to values of family, culture, or religion. Whenever we base worthiness on “exclusivity,” it cannot be real. Whenever we are inferior or superior, there cannot be a truthful sense of worthiness. Therefore, it’s much more about simplicity and it is not about being special. Ironically it is our wish to be “special” that keeps us from feeling worthy.

Interestingly enough, the “self” in us is very simple. However, according to our societal norms, simplicity is a judged and shunned characteristic, and in our endless efforts to be “someone” in order to be noticed, we create this everlasting repetition of unworthiness. Instead of being our natural selves, we learn to be righteous and moral, feeding off of values based on other people’s experiences rather than trusting our own. We learn to emphasize our body and outer appearance while neglecting our essence. Taking this approach to life leads us to try to use power over the people and the world around us. This can take on seemingly endless shapes and distort our sense of reality, making us believe we’re in control.

Finding Your Pace Again

A true sense of worthiness can be felt when we are present. This means allowing ourselves to move at our own pace, even though most of us are used to letting others shape that pace for us. We mostly move according to the pace of others and have lost touch with our own. This “availability to our self” needs time and practice. Remembering that we have boundaries and natural needs are important cornerstones in the process.

Patiently deepening our understanding of simplicity

On this path of gaining our true sense of worthiness, we must learn humility. The kind of humility that accepts our humanity and which allows room for doubts and failures, as well as moments of greatness. A humility that accepts our dark side as part of our confrontation with the complexity of life. A humility which also accepts the limitations of our body and mind. And most of all, we need patience. 

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  1. “… the authoritarian conscience consists of internalized authority, hindering inner growth (or authentic self-worth, including inner freedom, which is indicative of unsound paradigms). On the contrary, humanistic ethics requires developing one’s full potential. The humanistic conscience consists of self-imposed prescriptions that promote inner growth (or authentic self-worth), freedom, and spontaneity. These dictates of the true self foster productive living of … The result of striving towards excellence by the utilization of potentialities is referred to as eudaimonic wellbeing as opposed to hedonic pleasure (Positive Psychology UK, 2011). The latter refers to seeking pleasure for the sake of pleasure, thus meaningless pleasure. Fromm (1955) identified five human needs that had to be met adequately to experience productive living (thus creating sound paradigms) and to avoid insanity:
    1. To relate to others.
    2. To use abilities to create one’s own world.
    3. To have meaningful ties.
    4. To acquire true self-esteem or a sense of identity.
    5. To make sense of life.
    On the other hand, squandering abilities or talents and failing to actualize potentials constitute vice. In nonproductive living (unsound paradigms), fostered by the authoritarian conscience, such qualities as sympathy, trust, creativity, and internal values are either not developed or insufficiently developed as opposed to productive living. External authorities and the market demands define the standards of values or ethics in business and also color the conscience, aspirations, and social relationships, including the capacity to empathize (Fromm, 1947). Source: Bhikharie, R. Managing paradigms to create work-life synergies in executive counseling. Leidschendam, Nederland: Uitgeverij Quist.)

  2. I have been looking at all the ways that I personally am affected by the world around me and have made a series of shifts that are met with varying responses out in the world. I have stopped coloring my hair, wearing makeup, and purchasing any products designed to slow my evidence of aging. The onslaught of anti-aging marketing does so much to still the wise voices of powerful women. And it takes daily commitment and effort to stay with the decisions to value myself as a teacher, healer and powerful leader with important and valuable information for the world. There are so many small steps and practical things that we can begin to do. Let’s focus on actions to support our words. Evaluate yourself, your choices, your behaviors and notice how they affect you and others around you. How deep do your expectation and belief systems go? How do you treat the people in your life around you. Are you judging them, are you supporting them judging themselves. How much do watch of us participate in furthering the terrain down of self-worth, our own and those around us.

    Observe, face the truth, make courageous change, and choose love (for yourself and others.) Thanks for raising this topic!

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