When we feel unworthy, we abuse ourselves. It is not just that we work to the point of exhaustion because we feel unworthy of our jobs, or that we care for others to the point that we are unable to care for ourselves because we feel unworthy of that person’s presence in our lives. At the heart of these behaviors lies the fact that we believe we deserve to suffer. Our feelings of unworthiness justify our self-abuse, mistreatment, and the pain we put ourselves through.
On this topic, Anne Wilson Schaef writes:
“Our feelings of unworthiness take many forms, and one of the most obvious is self-abuse. Many women are beginning to see that their addiction to self-abuse is their most basic addiction.
It is abusive to the self to work too much. It is abusive to the self to keep so busy that we have no time for ourselves. It is abusive to the self to be so busy taking care of others that we have no awareness of our needs. It is abusive to the self to be so externally referented that we have lost a sense of self.
When we abuse ourselves, it is inevitable that we will also abuse others. Both forms of abuse are destructive.”
We may have become accustomed to our abuse, but that does not mean we have to live this way. It is not right. All addictions are harmful, but self-abuse is especially toxic, because it seems so innocuous. Many forms are commended in society today. Care for your ailing parents at the expense of your health and personal life? You’re a saint. Drop everything to help a friend in need despite the fact that you haven’t gotten a moment alone in weeks? You’re a lifesaver. Kill yourself for your job putting in late nights and long weekends even though you have a family at home? You are motivated and driven. We must be honest about these behaviors and call them out for what they are: self-harm.
Unworthiness is a lie that excuses our worst treatment of ourselves. If we’re willing to treat ourselves this badly, how can we possibly expect to treat others well? We must recognize this is not right. We are worthy. We are worthy of love, time, and care—not just from others, but from ourselves, too.