Worthlessness & Belonging
It is a tragic thing that far too many live with a sense of worthlessness. With worthlessness comes the idea of not belonging or not being worthy of belonging. Belonging in this context is more than an identity with a particular group. It is the sort of belonging that enables you to get other fundamental needs met like safety, support, nourishment, and love.
A sense of worthlessness coupled with the threat to belonging is painful enough, but more suffering usually arises out of unconscious attempts to compensate for or manage this pain. There are as many ways to manage pain as there are people and at the same time there are few common ones that you might recognize easily in yourself or others. Some of the most common compensatory strategies for managing emotional pain include:
Withdrawing and keeping life as narrow as possible
Finding value by being the one that everyone needs, the self sacrificing helper
Winning others over through charm and manipulation, telling others what they want to hear so they will let you belong.
Creating an image of invulnerability, challenging others, and acting as if you are in charge.
Claiming specialness or superiority through achievements, abilities, rank, race, beauty, wealth or anything else that you imagine makes you better than others.
As you reflect on these compensatory strategies to win worthiness and belonging, you might start to see how each effectively blocks the very thing it is pursuing. For example, claiming specialness or superiority means you have to see yourself as different from others and view them as less than. You can't belong from that place. Or, winning others over through charm or by acting invulnerable, prevents the authentic you from showing up and being received in the embrace of belonging.
Sadly the fact that these strategies don't meet the needs they are set up for doesn't usually make you give up on them. Instead, these tragic behaviors often escalate in the face of continued unmet needs. As they escalate, they trigger counter reactivity in others and so spins the wheel of suffering.
How can you get off this spinning wheel? Fortunately, the world is abundant with support for change. Let's look at just a couple of simple interventions.
CRITICAL MASS OF CLARITY
When you truly know that something is harmful, it doesn't take any effort to stop doing it. For example, if you eat a strawberry and immediately have difficulty breathing from an allergic reaction, you won't be tempted to eat a strawberry again no matter how delicious they look and smell. If all harmful behaviors resulted in feedback this clear, change would be incredibly easy. As it is, knowing that something is harmful requires subtle attention and continuous reflection. It requires a critical mass of clarity to truly see effects of a behavior and make a change. You have likely experienced this before as a deep shift in your relationship to something in your life. Sometimes getting to this clarity requires enormous suffering. This is often referred to as "a wake up call".
SUPPORT & WORTHINESS
A wake up call will not serve its purpose if there is no support to help you move towards wholeness. For the wake up call to be truly about waking up rather than another form of reactivity, it must be met with love and compassion. From groundedness in love and compassion, you can learn new skills that bring you home to the belonging that was always there.
From a bigger perspective, of course, there is no such thing as worthy or unworthy. This dualism arises from violent notions about who deserves punishment or reward. Nevertheless, you, like many, have been exposed to this notion so much that it may run amuck in your consciousness.
The essential thing is to see the worthlessness program running and the reactivity that arises from it. Seeing this in yourself and others, you can access compassion and interrupt reactivity. The more you see these things clearly the more you understand that all reactive behavior arises out of a sense of threat. When you meet that sense of threat with more threat (demands, anger, criticism), the situation worsens.
When you trust deeply in the truth that everyone belongs and is inherently worthy, you can set a boundary, with yourself and others around reactive behavior, that draws its strength from wisdom and compassion.
PracticeTake a moment right now and look for even the smallest space inside of you that knows the truth about your own worthiness and belonging.