Tanya Ruckstuhl LICSW
I’m starting an adult anxiety support group in March. It’s going to be good. Details are here: SeattleAnxietySupportGroup.com
Therapy practice offers a daily meditation on healing. Lately I’ve been talking to clients about the healing practice of feeling like they deserve the good things they have or want in their lives, be they a loving relationship or nice home or even the simple ability to go to sleep at night without a litany of worries and tasks trampling their brain.
Many people grew up on homes where they were not told “I love you exactly the way you are.” Instead they were told directly or indirectly “you are loved only when you please me.” This earn-my-love message creates a belief that they are not worthy of esteem or success unless they are performing a task to benefit another person or agency/business. This creates a people-pleasing workaholism that prevents them from developing true self worth. The lack of self worth then creates anxiety, feelings of phoniness and unworthiness when good things do happen.
Self worth exists independent of our actions or their effect on others. It is an internal sense of value and dignity that alerts us if our boundaries are being violated and thus functions as a protective barrier. Self worth also allows us to give to and receive from other people comfortably. If we are valuable internally, we can “afford” to share our things because they are not overly precious. If we are valuable internally we can receive generosity from others because we are worthy of time, attention and material.
Many people worry that feeling good about themselves will make them selfish, that developing self worth will cause them to become socially abrasive or exploitive. In truth operating from a place of self worth will be off-putting to those who don’t have any. That’s because asking for what you want, meaning what you say, communicating directly and unapologetically is terribly threatening to people who don’t have internal permission to do the same. So as we develop self worth there is sometimes a readjustment of friends.
But becoming our own friend means that we actually have more compassion for others, more patience and generosity because we are no longer sinking our energy into trying to derive worth from others’ recognition of our effort (no one can possibly track our accomplishments all the time anyway).
For the New Year here is my wish for you: Deserve the good stuff in your life. Deserve to change the not so good stuff. And if all this sounds like I’m speaking Swahili, get some help. You deserve that too.