Questioning our worth is the unsolicited and unwelcome gift of adulthood.
No one ever looked at a newborn and gauged their worth. Children don’t question their worth unless they experience early life trauma. Even then, their experience is more one of confusion than unworthiness.
However, as adults, most of us make a daily, sometimes hourly practice of taking the temperature of our worthiness. We keep waiting for just the right number, to settle the question of our worth once and for all!
Why do we start off on this relentless and futile journey?
Most of us know that unicorns DON’T exist, yet so many of us assume this unicorn called “worthiness” is real and thus embark on a life-long journey to prove its existence.
And then wonder why we are exhausted most of the time?
My own search for proof of worth started when I was about 12 years old. We had recently immigrated to the United States from Iran and suddenly I found myself in a world that was wildly different from the one I had experienced since birth. Seemingly overnight, I had changed from a playful child with a sense of security, connection, and lightness to a lonely, disconnected, and misunderstood adolescent.
Seventh grade is arguably ground zero for our desire to belong. Most of us will do anything to enjoy the protection and friendship that comes with being part of a clique. I was no exception in my desire to belong, but in 1978 — in the unfolding shadow of the Iranian Hostage Crisis — there seemed to be no vacancies in any group for a sad, quiet and different looking Middle Eastern girl.
My young mind was not equipped to understand the context of my experience and I internalized other peoples’ rejection to mean that I’m not good enough.
Looking back I realize that the question I made up in my mind and later allowed to settle into my bones at that delicate age was,
“What do I need to do to become worthy?”
I have now coached hundreds of people of all ages and backgrounds and am certain that most of us give power to this question at some point in our lives without the slightest understanding of its destructive effects.
To believe that our worth lives outside of ourselves is to make Sisyphus our Life Coach and trusted advisor. The boulder I began to push up the hill repeatedly was called achievement. This endless and exhausting exercise may have begun in my teens but it continued on for decades.
It’s not a coincidence that all my clients share the same psychographic regardless of their age and background. They are all top performing and high achieving.
Look past their circumstances and you’ll see that the 17 year old student, the stay at home mom, and the retired entrepreneur share the same relentless drive to achieve as my C-Suite executives and founders.
Achievement in and of itself is not a negative thing. Striving to achieve for the sake of proving our worth is destructive, exhausting and will lead to burnout — but only 100% of the time.
As my own Coach, Rich Litvin, says,
“You can never get enough of what you don’t need.”
I help my clients understand the distinction between achieving for worth and achieving for joy, fun, and desire. Our achievements are simply games we create to stretch and grow ourselves in the game of life — not an evidence of our worthiness.
I put it to you that the question of our worth was decided at birth, or even before.
What matters today is your decision to once and for all drop the question.
I can assure you that in doing so, you won’t lose your edge or become complacent and lazy. You’ll continue to do all the same things, but now with a measure of ease and fun that will bring more lightness to your life.