It has been put on my heart to address something I have encountered a lot in my practice recently. Whether clients originally reached out for counseling due to feelings of anxiety, depression, or struggles in a relationship, the common thread I have found is a battle with worthiness. An inability to see or accept one’s own worthiness can lead to anxiety and a lack of peace. My personal and professional exploration into the battle with worthiness began when reading Brené Brown’s book The Gifts of Imperfection. In her book, Brené addresses the importance of accepting all parts of ourselves and bringing our guilt and shortcomings to the light. Brené writes:
Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance. (2010, pp. 26)
The Worthiness Trap
As I have found with most things I address in the counseling room, I can only ask clients to be as authentic and honest as I am willing to be myself. I began questioning where I seek my worthiness, where my standards of worthiness come from, and how often my frustrations and dissatisfaction come from those unmet standards. As I began asking myself these questions, I found a few things I didn’t like. I was falling into my own traps of worthiness and ending the day frustrated when my standards were not met. Here are a few examples of the worthiness traps I found myself falling into:
- I will be worthy when my clients see change.
- I will be worthy when my family and friends are proud of me.
- I will be worthy when my colleagues admire me.
- I will be worthy when my husband notices my efforts.
My Worth Comes From God
Ouch! It’s easy to talk about other people’s struggles, but wrestling with my own is a whole different experience. It was through my own personal exploration and reading Brené’s book that I began to reset my standards of worthiness and focus more on who God created me to be and what He sees in me as worthy. One of the most meaningful realizations was that I am innately worthy because of the relationship I have with Jesus. As Jesus lives and works in and through me, I am worthy of God’s love and acceptance. This is something I have to daily remind myself of in order to maintain my focus and avoid the traps of worthiness. In my practice, I have seen clients pursue worthiness through success in work, marriage, acceptance by friends, the success of children, and physical beauty. Brené explains:
The greatest challenge for most of us is believing that we are worthy now, right this minute. Worthiness doesn’t have prerequisites. So many of us have knowingly created / unknowingly allowed / been handed down a long list of worthiness prerequisites. (2010, pp. 24)
Exploring Where Our Ideas of Worthiness Come From
When working with clients, I find it helpful to explore the rules and prerequisites of worthiness we pick up from our family of origin. Our ideas around worthiness are developed by our values that are developed through our culture and context. If it was imperative for your mother to maintain a perfectly clean and well-run household, you may wonder if you are worthy even when the house is messy. Or you may ask yourself if you are still worthy of love and affection if your children don’t need you as much anymore. We all fall into the pattern of constructing what we believe will bring us worth in life, which usually ends in disappointment and low self-esteem. In many cases, our battle for worthiness can only be understood by peeling back a few layers and having an intentional conversation. Commonly, clients will come into my office unaware of the way in which they measure their worthiness. It isn’t until we have built a trusting relationship that they are able to uncover, verbalize, and then question their unhealthy standards for themselves. Counseling can be the first step towards putting words to our beliefs around worthiness and how we have been sizing ourselves up. It has been a joy to watch clients grow in their understanding of their innate worthiness and see themselves a little bit more like the son or daughter of God that they are.
Christian Counseling Can Help You to Recognize Your True Worth
If you have been struggling with feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, pressure, and dissatisfaction in yourself or your relationships, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Christian counseling can help you to uncover your own patterns of unworthiness and to accept your true worth as a child of God . Our risk-free initial session can turn into a few sessions or several months of growth and exploration. The counseling process can cater for your specific needs and struggles. One of the biggest honors of my life is reminding people of their worth found in God.
Brown, B. (2010). The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. Center City, MN: Hazelden. * Brené has several other wonderful books and a few online presentations here: http://brenebrown.com/
Images are from freedigitalphotos.net; Big Rain Cloud Over Ocean At Dusk Stock Photo by samuiblue; Kayaks On Beach by artur84