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Self-Care, Worthiness and Shame

Is it hard for you to do for you what you do for others?

Are you great taking care of others but so hard to take care of you?

Or perhaps you think once I take care of everything and everyone and then I can relax and take care of myself!

But that time never comes, you are simply exhausted!

Why do we keep doing that even though we keep hearing how self-care is so important?

I feel like we can't talk about self-care without having a talk about worthiness and shame. When we feel unworthy we feel like we don’t deserve to spend any resources to take care of ourselves.You may ask who am I to be taken care of?

Self-love and self-care come from a place of worthiness, but if we believe that we are not worthy and deserving how can we take care of ourselves? If we are not worthy of taking time to eat, of preparing meals, to nourish ourselves, to take a break, to rest or to have fun, and it's all about the never ending to do list, and constantly doing for others and never for yourself. If we believe we are not worthy of our own time and self-care, then we risk burn out or then life becomes unbearable.

All humans are hardwired for love, connection and belonging. We long to be loved, to feel connected and accepted. But when we feel unworthy, we feel that we need to earn love and acceptance from others. We may get lost in strategies underlying the trance of unworthiness, aiming to:

  • Win love and respect to feel worthy.

  • Try to get attention by impressing others with our talent and knowledge.

  • We might drive ourselves relentlessly to make money or have power over others.

  • We might feel compelled to be helpful and of service to be someone needed by others.

We do whatever we can to avoid the raw pain of feeling unworthy, but each time our deficiencies are exposed, we feel that we must overcome our flaws by controlling our bodies, controlling our emotions, controlling our natural surroundings, controlling other people. And we must strive tirelessly- working, accruing, consuming, achieving, overcommitting and rushing- the never ending quest for proving ourselves once and for all.

We often try to satisfy our emotional needs of love and belonging, with the more immediate pleasures of food, alcohol and drugs. When they “work,” these strategies provide immediate gratification through a temporary surge of pleasant sensations. They also numb or cover over the raw pain of shame and fear. But because they don't genuinely address our needs, our suffering continues and with it our reliance on whatever provides pleasure or relief.

“Caught in the trance of unworthiness, our desires fixates on soothing, once and for all, our anxiety about imperfection. We strive to tie up all the loose ends and to avoid making mistakes, even though we know, both are impossible,” says Tara Barch in her book Radical Acceptance.

We want to feel “good enough” all the time in our work, parenting, relationships, health, appearance and life.

We spend our lives trying to get away from our painful feeling of fear and shame, disconnecting from and numbing the body, getting lost in self-judgement and obsessive thinking. But this only serves to increase our shame, as the cycle of reactivity repeats itself over and over, our identity as a wanting self--- fundamentally deprived, isolated and unworthy-- deepens. Our gnawing every day wants to prevent us from relaxing and becoming aware of our deeper yearning. "We perpetually lean into the next moment, hoping it will offer the satisfaction that the present moment does not” says Barch

The way out of this is Barch says is by "accepting absolutely everything about ourselves, our lives, by embracing with wakefulness and care our moment-to-moment experience." Ad by accepting everything she really means everything, it means becoming aware of what is happening within your body and mind at any given moment, without trying to control or judge or pull away.

Here are some reflections to recognize unworthiness:

Do I accept my body as it is?

Do I judge myself for being too heavy? Underweight? Not physically fit?

Do I accept my mind as it is?

Am I critical of myself for having obsessive thoughts? For having a repetitive, boring mind?

Do I accept my emotions and moods as they are?

Is it okay for me to cry?

Do I feel I am a bad person because of ways I behave?

Am I down on on myself for not accomplishing enough - for not standing out or being special in my work?

Barch recommends that as you go through your day, pause occasionally to ask yourself "This moment, do I accept myself as I am?" without judging yourself, simply become aware of how you are relating to your body emotions, thoughts and behaviors.

As we become aware and the trance of unworthiness becomes conscious, Barch says it begins to lose its power over our lives.

I highly recommend reading Tara Barch's book Radical Acceptance.

Give it a try to radical acceptance and let me know!

Would you like to join us for a 30 Day Self-Care


~ Diana

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