The human brain is amazingly complex. The myth proclaiming people only use 10% of their entire capacity has long been shown to be false, and there are mental exercises one can employ to enhance it and increase its already incredible ability. However, there are also functions the brain does without our consciously thinking about it. Some of these functions include the beating of the heart, digestion, and physical healing.
What is perhaps a more perplexing phenomenon is how our minds work. Dr. William B. Salt II notes, “The brain is the physical organ most associated with mind and consciousness, but the mind is not confined to the brain. The intelligence of your mind permeates every cell of your body, not just brain cells.” Our mind can inspire us, cause us to question, or push us to accomplish feats we never believed possible. It is often the birthplace of invention but unfortunately, it can also be what represses and prohibits us from success.
One of the traps our mind has a difficult time escaping is the idea of worthiness. Are we worthy of anything special or even the simplest of indulgences? Was there some action or thought with which we were associated disqualifying us from achieving our goals or ambition?
For many, the idea of lacking personal value begins in early childhood. There are numerous cultural and familial circumstances that can influence us and even dictate destructive beliefs. At times, they are not intentional. Perhaps a parent worked a long day and upon arriving home, responded to their child in a way that made them feel neglected or experience other detrimental feelings. Whether or not it was deliberate, the child can interpret those words in all kinds of shameful ways. The more frequently they hear them, the more quickly they readily accept them, cementing the idea of unworthiness as a part of their mindset.
Adults additionally are subject to this kind of distorted thinking. Although it may have developed in our youth, we do not simply outgrow it, nor does it vanish on its own. In truth, it becomes more difficult to detect because, after years of this self-inadequate reasoning, it engrains itself in the beliefs about who we are. The idea of being unworthy has been repeated so many times it appears to become factual and something we seem to willingly acknowledge.
The other side of the spectrum
The opposite of unworthiness is entitlement, having the feeling something is owed you because of who you are. It is the notion that your skin color, religion, your family name deems you privileges not available to others or without needing to earn it. It is the bedrock of arrogance and the genesis of narcissism. Just as those who over the years believed their unworthiness became cemented in their mindset, consequently the entitled reinforce theirs as well.
As different as these mentalities appear to be from one another, the one thing they have in common is they both are formulated in the mind.
Changing our mindset
The simple fix would be to become aware of the problem and change the way we think about ourselves. While this basically is the answer, it’s not as easy as snapping your fingers or waving a magic wand. This way of thinking is habitual and, in some cases, nearly addictive.
Those who have grown up continually believing they are unworthy, likewise tend to hone in on ideas that confirm their false belief. It’s a type of negative affirmation validating their shortcomings and supporting the false conviction of who they believed they were and are. Becoming aware of their erroneous thinking is problematical because it’s contrary to the beliefs held for many years. Understandably, they don’t want to believe it and their own mindset blinds them from seeing it.
Thankfully, it’s not impossible to change. It may, however, take the guidance of a thoughtful counselor or therapist to help. Thankfully, most people with this mentality also realize they have issues with shame. They willingly acknowledge shame is prevalent but don’t know how to remedy the problem or what steps to take to fix it. My approach is first to have them think about a close friend. I’ll ask them what they would say to that person if they were to express feelings of unworthiness and having little or no value.
Every client, without exception and hesitation, would tell their friend they were wrong in how they perceived themselves and are definitely worthy of good things. By acknowledging their friend deserves good things, that awareness prompts them to begin to change the way they think about themselves. I also have them recall details of the circumstances which influenced and manipulated their pessimistic assumptions about themselves. As children, perhaps the greatest stumbling block to developing healthy self-esteem is when we are told hurtful words by those we love or trust.
But counteracting those beliefs with kindness to ourselves and acknowledging our self-worth is changing the way we think about ourselves. Sometimes, people are raised to believe kindness was meant solely for others and needing or wanting compassion is selfish or egocentric. But nothing could be further from the truth. Every true deed of kindness is an act of love demonstrating the best intentions are at hand.
It is also possible for those with a self-entitled outlook to break away from their arrogant mindset. Again, the common denominator is kindness. The grip of arrogance is broken by the dignity of kindness. The chains of entitlement are shattered by empathy and caring for others. The more we are earnestly concerned with the outcome of others, our arrogance can no longer thrive.
Changing how we think about ourselves begins in our mind. Transforming it may take time and tremendous effort, but it is truly how we learn to live a meaningful and purpose-filled life.