The “I’m Not Worthy Syndrome” was popularized by the Saturday Night Live recurring skit “Wayne’s World” performed by comedians Mike Myers and Dana Carvey in the late 80’s. As a teenager at the time, I remember laughing with friends as we mimicked the phrase “I’m not worthy!” repeatedly to one another in social situations relevant to the coined phrase. However, the I’m Not Worthy Syndrome is no laughing matter! The sad reality is many people struggle with feelings of unworthiness that sap their self-esteem and rob them from the richness and joy to be experienced in daily living.
Q: What is the I’m Not Worthy Syndrome?
A: “I’m Not Worthy Syndrome” is a colloquial term rather than an identified mental health disorder referring to the tendency to believe ourselves unworthy of the endless positive experiences life has to offer. We may believe we are unworthy of love, healthy relationships, a fulfilling career, financial success, our goals and dreams, physical health, peace of mind—the list is endless and can induce withholding ourselves from such fundamental needs as feeling safe, feeling joy, and feeling purpose in living.
Q: What’s the cause?
A: The cause of this corrupting culprit varies among individuals but shares one key component for all: it lies in past experiences that initiate us to internalize erroneous beliefs about ourselves. These false beliefs work behind the scenes of our awareness, eliciting self-sabotage behaviors that sap our self-esteem and thwart our goals and dreams. Circumstances that often induce distorted beliefs include traumatic events such as abuse, neglect, loss of a loved one to death or abandonment, domestic violence, war, terrorism, and natural catastrophes. We may have adopted negative believes from someone with influence in our lives telling us we were not worthy, or perhaps we have made choices causing harm to others, and we are struggling to forgive ourselves. We also formulate beliefs of unworthiness through our own innocent assumptions. For example, as a growing child, we may have mistakenly assumed we were not worthy of positive outcomes when our parents took away privileges as a consequence of breaking family rules. Our parent’s intention may have simply been to teach us accountability and responsibility, but we formulated a generalized belief, as children often do, that we are only worthy of the good in life if we are perfect. People raised in religious families may especially struggle with feelings of unworthiness as a result of beliefs they created around following doctrinal tenets. They may feel unworthy of engaging in religious practices, feel estranged from their higher power, or feel judged as unworthy by those in their religious community due to failure to perfectly perform prescribed guidelines.
Q: What’s the cure?
A: The complicated aspect of suffering from I’m Not Worthy Syndrome is we often fail to recognize we have it! Believing we are unworthy may be so painful and difficult to admit to ourselves, we bury it deep within our unconscious. However, with courage and assistance we can uncover and release this belief by taking an inventory of our lives and identifying areas that are out of balance or brimming with lack. This will lend clues to how beliefs of unworthiness apply to our individual circumstances. Once we gain awareness of our unworthy-itis, we can formulate new beliefs to carry us forward and initiate positive choices that foster a state of receptiveness to rather than rejection of life’s gifts. The fundamental new belief we must implement is an unshakable certainty of our unlimited worth based on our intrinsic value rather than our behaviors and performance. We must determine our worth based on being rather than doing. It is our being that is of primary worth from which all capacity to do or perform stems. This may seem counterintuitive because, unfortunately, we live in a culture that programs us to believe that our worth and subsequent worthiness is based on our choices and the perceived failures or successes those choices engender. This is JUST NOT TRUE. Through active and conscious choice, we can cultivate a sense of worthiness even if our actions fall short of our intentions. Our developing belief in our worthiness will build momentum that assists us to align our choices with the outcomes we desire, whereas feelings of unworthiness will feed poor self-esteem and the re-creation of negative behaviors. Choose today to know you are worthy simply because YOU ARE, and from that knowing allow your life to unfold with conscious beliefs and choices that magnetize the beautiful gifts that await you.
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