My Hidden Struggles With Self-worth
“You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”
These words are from Kathryn Stockett’s book “The Help.” The maid, Aibileen, repeats this to the little girl, Mae Mobley, to remind her of her worth. As I read this part of the book, I couldn’t help but long for someone to tell me the exact same thing. Although my exterior has always radiated confidence, happiness, and positivity, my hidden struggles lie beneath the surface. My struggles with self-worth run deep.
I have struggled immensely with feelings of worthlessness and negative thinking for so many years of my life. I silenced emotional and physical trauma for decades and convinced myself I was somehow responsible for it. I filled my mind with self-blame and wrongfully shamed myself for something I could not control. I have endured pain from countless surgeries and procedures throughout my 29 years. I have pushed physical and emotional suffering to the back of my mind and relied too heavily on coping mechanisms to distract myself from the hurt.
It felt impossible to realize my worth when I was too busy convincing myself of the opposite. It was easier to focus on what could not be done instead of putting trust in what could go right. I have remained cautiously optimistic, but sometimes, any amount of optimism is difficult to find.
In attempts to avoid disappointment, I found it easier to expect the worst. Convincing myself I failed at something always felt better than the disappointment of not achieving my best-possible. This type of thinking led me to lose trust in myself and eventually to lose trust in others. In my life, I have been let down in some of the worst ways by those who I thought loved me and cared for me. Losing trust in such a devastating way forced me to see things through a clouded lens. Overnight, I went from being filled with love and naiveté to being filled with distrust, anger, and sadness.
Loving myself and recognizing my worth is not as simple as someone telling me I am worthy. Although it certainly helps to have reminders when I am struggling, it sometimes feels like other people’s words just bounce right off me instead of being absorbed and believed. When my struggles with self-worth run as deeply as they do, I can’t continue believing I am worthless. These emotions just lead to a spiral of anxiety and depression.
Working through my traumas and processing the physical and mental pain has helped me understand that positive action starts when I am able to recognize feelings of worthlessness. This happens most often when I am disappointed and feel like my voice isn’t being heard. I have to force myself to step back and recognize if these actions are internal or external. This allows me to evaluate what exactly is within my control. It helps me decide on the steps I need to take to change.
It’s easy for people to tell me to “know my worth,” and I know they mean well. When the struggles with worthlessness cut deep, it is so difficult to do the emotional work that is needed to rewire the thoughts and patterns that have been rooted in my brain for so many years. Rewiring my thoughts is a challenge. I’m learning not only to recognize it, but to allow myself to feel it. Feeling the struggle and acknowledging it is half the battle. The other half is still a work in progress.
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