Are you familiar with this nagging feeling that you’re not doing enough? I’m not talking about the times that you’re procrastinating, but about having this feeling hanging like a dark cloud above your life. I actually thought I had moved past this feeling, but during the lockdowns in 2020 I found out that it wasn’t over yet…When the lockdowns started I was a waitress and therefore couldn’t work for an extended period of time. Even though I initially was very grateful for all this extra time of soul searching, reading, meditating etc., I soon realized that I frequently started to wonder whether I was spending my days productively. Was I doing enough things which were worthy of my time? I always had a big list of things I wanted to accomplish - but did not have to accomplish - at the beginning of the day, only to go to bed disappointed that I didn’t manage to tick off everything from the list. I increasingly started to feel like a loser and became ashamed of my empty existence.
But when I reflected back on my day, I realized that my days were maybe not super productive, but they were nice. I often gave myself time to just go with the flow. The things I did were neither on my to-do-list nor could I impress anyone with it - such as learning a new skill, broadening my intellect or working on my fitness- but nevertheless many of the activities made me happy in that very moment. I would end up getting stuck in a nice (but pointless) conversation, spend way too much time cooking a delicious meal (which I would devour within ten minutes) or just lay on the couch for hours on end cuddling with my cats.
Obviously, I did these things even before the lockdown, but for some reason they didn’t make me feel like a loser. After some time of introspection, I realised that the big difference was that I’d normally work next to my “moments of being useless” which gave me the impression of having the right to “do nothing”. It felt as if I first had to “earn” my space in this world by doing something useful, before I could indulge in just doing nothing.
Interestingly, I had actually started working less a couple of months before the lockdown, so I could spend more time on myself and start to be more and do less. But when I suddenly had the opportunity to just be for several months in a row, I started to feel uncomfortable. There was a little voice in my head which told that I wasn’t worthy of just being, unless I had something to offer to the world (my workforce, my intelligence, my care) or at least would appear to be a worthy person by looking pretty and reaching high personal goals. That voice got louder as the weeks passed by.
After graduating from university (nearly seven years ago)I had deliberately chosen to not take part in the rat-race of our society by not pursuing an academic job and instead continue waitressing. But now I found myself in a rat-race with myself. How ironic… I realized that even though I wanted to break free from this urge to constantly have to prove myself by being productive and reaching a high social status, I was still trapped in this deep ingrained false belief that I’m not good enough just the way I am. Just like everyone else, I still felt the need to offer some sort of result. Not only in the sense of achievements, but also in my interpersonal relationships I felt the urge to be of some added value, to do things for others and to make myself indispensable.
I fooled myself into thinking that I wasn’t stuck in the hands of our results oriented society, simply because I had different goals. In the days that I was waitressing I was not busy fighting deadlines or climbing the corporate ladder, but I worked very hard and felt overly responsible. Furthermore, I didn’t have the need to prove anyone how smart and intellectual I was, instead I was busy working on my personality and fine tuning my attentiveness, responsiveness, sensibility, creativity etc. Only because I didn’t pursue the conventional goals didn’t mean that I wasn’t also suffering from an inherent low self-esteem which pushed me to prove myself.
Almost everyone tries to “earn” their way on this world, as if just being our lovely selves wouldn’t be enough. Ever wondered why so many people are stressed out these days? And worst of all - why people are actually proud of being busy? We’re frantically trying to prove everyone, including ourselves, that we’re worthy of being which from an evolutionary perspective makes sense. In order to survive we need to be well respected members of society, therefore we need to prove our worthiness. But we don’t realize that the more we try to do worthy things (instead of feeling worthy), the less we can actually be of worth. All our attention and intention is geared towards earning that space and not to the actual activity. On an energetic level these inauthentic efforts will turn out to have little sustainable impact. The energy behind our actions are of fear and control and aren’t coming from the depths of our hearts.
In fact, the problem is not the action itself - we can still aim to achieve amazing goals and establish meaningful connections with others - but we need to be aware of the energy behind our actions. If you feel that your motivation for graduating with honours is linked to boosting your level of worthiness, you might rather work on your inner level of unworthiness and not on your grades. Soon everyone, including you, will forget about the grades, but this empty feeling inside will still be there.
Paradoxically, we need to learn how to be “empty”, how to be “nobody”, in order to live fulfilled lives and to be someone. Only when we can allow ourselves to just be without having to prove anything to anyone, can we start to actually do things of significance. Doing becomes increasingly effortless and becomes more a state of being. We can stop overthinking our actions and polishing our personality and simply follow the path of being our radiant selves.
I remember the days when I tried to eat healthy in order to lose weight. Even though I would succeed for short periods of time, I would sooner or later relapse. My motivation was not in accordance with my inner being and therefore couldn’t yield sustainable results. I was driven by the hate I felt towards my body and the fear of not being accepted with such a body. Once my self love increased and I simply didn’t want to burden my precious body and mind with harmful food, eating healthy suddenly became easy and fun! Eating healthy was not something I had to force myself to, it happened effortlessly, just like eating generally comes naturally. On top of that, I really enjoy making healthy meals and indulging in high quality food infused with love :) But I first needed to be the person who really wanted to do this, instead of doing this in order to be a specific person.
And the key is, obviously, our inherent feeling of worthiness. Once we feel that we’re worth of achieving a specific goal, our way of attaining it will come effortlessly. Our lack of self worth doesn’t only make it hard for ourselves to achieve our goals, but it also reduces our impact on others. We’re unaware that feeling unworthy actually makes us overly self-absorbed, because all we’re interested in are our own egocentric needs and how we can look best to the outside world. Without our hidden agendas, we can actually start focusing on our actions and not anymore on the goal behind them. We start to do things because we really want to do them and not because we think we have to do them. Self actualisation and compassion become the driving force instead of anxiety and fear.
Recognizing our own worthiness not only frees us from the bondage of self-absorption, but also allows us to really connect to the people around us. We can’t realize our own true nature without realizing the nature of all beings. By acknowledging our own worthiness, we will also be able to acknowledge the innate worthiness of every other soul. We will get to the understanding that it’s merely the hurt parts within ourselves which keep us from radiating our inner beauty to the outside. We know that this beauty resides in every single of us and can only be seen when we love ourselves enough to simply be. This insight will make it easier to unconditionally accept others by focusing who they are and not what they do. We all need to find this love within ourselves, but having someone around who already accepts you just the way you are, can be of huge benefit.
Before you run off in search for your self worth and your true Self, be it through meditation and mindfulness, inner child work or self-love practices, I want you to keep one thing in mind: The path is the goal. Don’t fall back into old patterns, wanting to achieve a goal, just so you can look better to the outside world. Maybe it helps if I tell you there is no goal. The path to our soul is endless, it requires our constant attention and affection. And the only way to reap the benefits is to stay present and to witness the unfolding of yourself, with its ups and downs, achievements and lessons, hope and despair. Consider the evolution of your soul to be the development of your child. You wouldn’t want your child to grow up within a week, wouldn’t you? Enjoy the development of your true Self with the same dedication, love and enthusiasm and start to value all the facets of your being, regardless of your doing.
“The more you know yourself, the more clarity there is. Self-knowledge has no end - you don’t come to an achievement, you don’t come to a conclusion. It’s an endless river.”
- Jiddu Krishnamurti