We’re born intrinsically worthy. Every person on the planet – every single baby – is born deserving of love. When we gaze upon the miracle of a newborn, we don’t say, “I’ll only love you if you’re the smartest, most popular person in your school and you attend Harvard one day and become a doctor and marry another doctor and live in a fancy house and drive fancy cars.” No, we love a baby because she exists. We pour love into the perfection of a baby because he’s here. I love you because I love you. And the baby feels loved for no reason at all.
But somewhere along the way, the baby learns that the loving is conditional. Perhaps it’s when he sees his mother’s eyes brighten when he reads his first words at age three. Or perhaps it’s when she hears her father bragging to his friends that his daughter walked at nine months old. Or perhaps it’s in school when she hears her teacher praising her friend’s drawing and overlooking her own. Or perhaps it’s in religious school when he’s introduced to duality – the concepts of right and wrong, good and bad – and wonders where he’s right or wrong, good or bad.
Our culture is predicated on competition and comparisons. It’s not parents’ or teachers’ or religious leaders’ fault that they’re perpetuating the damage caused by a culture of praise; they’re merely products of the same culture and likely judge themselves by these same standards. We are a culture that judges based on externals – achievements, looks, clothes, body, paycheck, degrees – and these externals become the basis by which we determine worthiness. Children learn early to seek this praise and avoid criticism. They become addicted to the praise, in fact, and learn to run from failure like the plague. The messages are everywhere and unavoidable, and it’s almost impossible to emerge from childhood unscathed by the equation that worthiness is defined by externals and achievements.
An offshoot of this equation is learning to place one’s authority and sense of Self in others’ hands, learning early that everyone – parents, teachers, friends, therapists, and doctors – must know better than you do. At this point, you realize that you have successfully handed over your self-trust, and without self-trust, you’ve lost the rudder by which you know yourself and love yourself. Life now feels confusing and overwhelming, and it’s easy to become stuck and lost.
The key is in recognizing that the common consequences of damaged self-trust – caring what others think, comparing yourself to others, difficulty making decisions, the fear of failure, addiction to approval and perfectionism – all result from one cause: externalizing your sense of self. When you learn to fill your inner well of Self instead of futilely holding a bottomless bucket in front of you and hoping that something or someone “out there” will fill it, you begin to regain and repair the intrinsically derived self-worth with which you were born.
Everyone can learn to undo these damaging messages and restore self-trust. Like all healing work, it requires time, patience, and commitment, as well as the support of a compassionate community all struggling with the same issues, but from what I see there is no endeavor more worthy of your time than retrieving your lost Self. Without that sense of Self, life is confusing and meaningless. But once you overturn the cultural lies and reclaim what is rightfully yours, the possibilities unfold before you like a vast and limitless ocean.
You are worthy and capable. You deserve to live the life you were meant to live. Inside of you dwells the luminous crystal of your self-trust, the compass by which you can navigate your life. Are you ready to find it?
To learn how to repair self-trust, click here to learn more about Trust Yourself: A 30-day program to help you overcome your fear of failure, caring what others think, perfectionism, addiction to approval, difficulty making decisions, and self-doubt