Warning: This essay explores issues of self worth
Do you ever feel like you just can’t do anything right? Sometimes I feel like everyone in my life is having a worse time because I exist. When those feelings come up, I start to feel like all the bad things happening in the world are my fault.
I am a mistake. A spill. A mess. An error.
I came from a bottle of ink intended to make inspiring art. The other ink I was with got to go on to make art,
but I spilled out of the bottle and onto the table, never to be used for art.
I could have just been mopped up onto a paper towel and put in the garbage, but I didn’t. I became me instead. Sometimes I feel so worthless that I wish I just got cleaned up to begin with.
The thoughts gets worse and life starts to feel sadder and sadder
And darker and darker.
And lonelier and lonelier
How I started feeling like I matter
After Corbit, Milton, and Yancey wrote their pieces, I read them all and I thought they were excellent. I was very proud of all of them, but it also made me have low self esteem. I started to think that nobody would want to read mine, and even if they did, they wouldn’t care or think it was any good. I started to feel like it doesn’t matter what I do because nothing I do will ever matter.
Feeling like I matter is an ongoing process that I will practice indefinitely. There are a few things I start doing when I feel the wave of worthlessness come along.
Pay Attention to Your Stressors
Everybody has certain specific things that can precipitate feelings like this. They are not things you should avoid. Although it can be arduous to find out what these things are, it is important to go through that process. It can be really powerful to feel like you have the experience to get through certain situations so you have the confidence to get through similar ones in the future.
You can predict when certain seasons will happen, and be prepared. Winter blues, tax season, the end of the school year, or even the holiday season can bring up feelings like this, and these things happen on a schedule. Try to get ahead of these seasons of the year.
Reframe Your Self Talk
When I feel like I will never be anything special, I start to tell myself that over and over. I have learned to recognize how I’m feeling and that helps me to know I should make sure I start saying nicer things to myself. I identify the negative self talk, I analyze why it is flawed or distorted, and I do my best to replace it with something more positive.
It is really easy to get stuck on something you are missing out on. It is much more practiced in our culture, but focusing on lack is not as fun as focusing on abundance. Thinking about everything you have is way more fun.
When I start to feel bad about not becoming a work of art, I think about the things that I already have that I would have missed out on if I had become art. If I hadn’t become an inkblot, I would have never met my friends and figured out what I love for myself or what my boundaries are, and I would have not gotten to experience all of the experiences that are specific to me and my beautiful life.
Try Not To Ruminate
Try not to focus on things that could have never been. When I’m stressed, it can be easy for my brain to start trying to solve my problems. If I let my brain do that, it usually tries to take the “easy way out.” I try to not put in any work or take any time to improve on things. That easy way out is usually false.
Sometimes it’s easy for me to think – if only I didn’t fall out of the ink bottle, I could have turned into a great art piece and then everyone would know I’m worth a lot. It can be easy for my brain to go back there and repeat that thought over and over, because it seems like an easy fix for my complex problem. It’s not real, though, because I did fall out of the ink bottle.
Here are some examples of rumination so you can start to identify them in yourself.
- If only I stayed at that job I hated, I would have more money now
- If I spent the last 4 years in school, I could have a different career
- Look at so and so. They are younger than me and doing really well
- If I never dated that person, my life would be better
- If I had dated that person, my life would be better
- If people in my youth treated me better, I would be able to deal with this
Some of these things might be very true for you, but focusing on them is not helpful.
Write the happy ending of your story
The pattern in rumination is that these thoughts focus on what didn’t happen. It is easy to tell ourselves we should have done something different with our lives. When we tell ourselves a narrative other than the one we are living, we get to make it up. We get to write the ending of that story. Because the life we are living is the real one, it is much more difficult to see what that ending is.
Use story telling to your advantage
We are only in the present moment. We only know what has happened so far. As much as we plan for the future, we don’t really know what will happen. When you feel worthless and hopeless and doomed, you are telling yourself a story about how badly things will turn out. Even if things are very difficult, that doesn’t mean they always will be. You should at least give credence to the possibility that things can turn out good. If you spend time on the negative possibilities, let yourself spend time on the positive, too.
Figure Out the Core of Why You Want What You Want
I’ve been in the position where, no matter what, my brain is insistent on focusing on the lack. Even with a lot of practice with focusing on abundance, it is bound to happen. So it is good to know what to know when you can’t stop those thoughts.
When I start having thoughts about something I want, but don’t have and can’t get for whatever reason, I think about what is at the core of that want. If I start to feel horrible about myself because I am not an intricate work of art, I think about why I even want that.
I have to carefully think about each core want, to figure out if 1. it is something I actually want, 2. it is something I already have or 3. it is something I can achieve through another means. Here are some examples of what I analyzed:
- “I want to be famous” – this is not really true – I like my privacy and freedom of a simple schedule. So this is not something I actually want, but rather it is something I think I’m supposed to want.
- “I want to be important” – I am already important to my friends, and I have made an impact on others, too.
- “I want to be praised” – I can be praised by doing something other than becoming a work of art, and I can think of something that is actually possible on the narrative timeline I am on.
The process of finding out the core wants of goals is not an easy one. Everyone walks around like there is this agreed upon master list of things you are supposed to want out of life. Because of this, people are not taught how to figure out what they want for themselves. Be kind to yourself as you take the time to figure out how to do this.
Do Small Things Each Day
You have to make your own rituals. Rituals may bring up feelings of anxiety or even bad feelings about following rituals you don’t believe in. If you focus on rituals that make you feel good and you find importance in your daily habits, even little things like brushing your teeth, coloring, watching Jeopardy or taking a walk can feel extremely uplifting.
The rituals of every day can help you start to feel more worthwhile. You are the only one performing your own unique and personal set of rituals.
Ikigai has been misconstrued
Ikigai is a Japanese word that is roughly translated as a “reason to live” or “reason for being.” It is a reminder that your life and your being is worthwhile. The activities of daily life that promote a feeling of ikigai are intuitive and intrinsic.
Ikigai is Japanese. That means that it is a subject of the Japanese language, but also the Japanese culture and way of life. Even if there were an exact translation into an English word, it would never fully translate into Western Culture. Mieko Kamiya, a Japanese psychiatrist wrote a book roughly translated as On The Meaning Of Life in 1966 that explores the concept of Ikigai. This book has never been translated to English. (I will spare you my rant on how criminally few books are translated into English, but books originally written in English are easily translated to other languages.)
Other books get more popular in the west. The book Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life is written in English by two people born in Spain, and is a New York Times Bestseller.
This has led to the concept of Ikigai being Westernized. Ted Talks, blogs, diagrams, and bite-sized viral pieces of information have taken the term Ikigai to mean something more akin to “finding your purpose.” This is further westernized by making ikigai about how to make money and entrepreneurship.
Your purpose is a huge thing, and it is outside of yourself. When you are struggling to find your self-worth, this is too much to handle. Ikigai is within you, and is much more about enjoying the little things in life, finding harmony with your actions, being present, and practice.
Side note: I don’t have a problem with the The Zuzunaga Venn Diagram of Purpose. It is just not the same as Ikigai. I am not an expert – I also don’t know Japanese, I didn’t grow up in Japan, and I haven’t read Mieko Kamiya’s book. But I’m not using the word Ikigai incorrectly, then basically just saying “oops!” when my wrong interpretation goes viral. When things gets incorrectly translated and interpreted, people get misunderstood, and it can lead to very bad things. Don’t let yourself get swept up in the lies, and try not to share falsely translated bits of information.
Do Nothing Every Day
Doing Nothing is not just for Sundays. You should be doing nothing every single day. It is not at all a waste of time. In fact, it might be the most useful part of your day.
Doing nothing doesn’t really mean just sitting there without thinking, although that can be beneficial, too. It can be doing something relaxing just because you feel like it. Or even doing something strenuous because you feel like it. But the main thing is to turn off the urge to be doing something productive at all times.
Hygge And How It Actually Embraces Doing Nothing
I have seen people equate the idea of hygge to some sort of Scandanavian meditation, as if it were being silent in front of a fire with a cup of hot chocolate. This can be part of it, but not the whole picture.
Hygge is a Danish word related to feeling like every moment is special, and a feeling of contentedness. It has been tied to the feeling of coziness, happiness and togetherness. Recently, the term has been hijacked as a “lifestyle” – maybe even an aspirational lifestyle. It has been used to sell home goods such as candles and blankets, or clothing like sweaters and socks.
But hygge is not something you can buy. Again, it is something intrinsic – it doesn’t cost money. But it might take time in figuring out what it means to you, or it might make you uncomfortable because it is in opposition of your false conditions. People love to spend money and make money, but they don’t love to spend time, and they definitely don’t like to feel uncomfortable.
But that’s just the thing – your false ideas of what should be happening in your life, and things you should be working for is what make being “comfortable” so complicated. Hygge, at its core, is being effortlessly comfortable. It is about finding the coziness, safety, and happiness in your soul, so it is with you no matter what. You can do nothing and it is already there.
Think About Your Friends And Family
When I am feeling really low, it can be easy for me to start thinking that the world would be better off without me. Instead of letting that hurtful thought circle around in my head over and over again, I start to imagine what it would really be like for my friends and family without me. Just like before, I can use storytelling to my advantage. This isn’t a real scenario, so I should spend as much time thinking about how the world would be worse without me in it.
Forget everyone else for a second
Remember Yourself. Remember who you were as a little kid – 5 or 10 or 40 years ago. You lived in the moment and cared about what was happening right then. You smiled and played and ate candy. If you felt like doing a cartwheel, you did one. You had an imagination. That kid was pretty cool. And you are that kid. You are a worthwhile person because you are that kid.
You are also who you will be in your older age. You are a worthwhile person because you are an extension of that person – you are learning the lessons that that person will have used to do good.
Don’t judge your morality on someone else’s yardstick
You get to exist as yourself, and nobody else ever does or ever will. Simply existing is extremely worthwhile.
You are here, exactly as you are, for a reason. There is no higher decree on how to live. No higher power said that ink used for art is good and ink that fell on the table is bad. No matter what your beliefs are, you can at least be open to the idea that you are uniquely you, and that it is not a mistake. You exist and you have a life, and it is your job alone to take care of it. You should never try to lead someone else’s life, and you should not let other people lead yours.
Believe as a baseline that everyone is worthwhile because they are on their own personal journey and they are taking care of their life and existence. This will make it easier for you to believe in your own self worth.