For many, feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness distort the lens through which we perceive ourselves. A haunting echo persists, an inner voice, a pervasive feeling that we're inherently flawed. This internal narrative is particularly magnified for those of us with an anxious attachment style, intensifying our anxieties about our connections, especially when tied to a romantic partner or someone with whom we seek a deep, intimate bond.

This emotional wound, with its critical inner voice incessantly conveying that we are neither worthy nor deserving of love, resides deep within many of us. Instead of experiencing an intrinsic sense of goodness and our undeniable right to love and be loved, we experience the world through a filter of thought, imagery, feeling and bodily sensations that perpetually tell us, “I'm not okay. There's something inherently defective about me.”

Consequently, we feel compelled to invest an inordinate amount of our time, energy, and effort in a desperate attempt to secure love and validation from others. We experience a void of self-love and appreciation, and, unlike some who seemingly effortlessly draw love, attention, and care into their lives, such good fortune seems elusive to us.

Understanding the Origin of Our Sense of Unworthiness

Feelings of unworthiness, inadequacy, and a sense of being defective don't spontaneously emerge without cause. These emotional wounds can have complex origins, influenced by various factors, including early relational dynamics with parents, hurtful interactions with others, societal pressures, and personal experiences. Although, in many instances, they largely stem from hurtful words and actions directed at us, as well as the attitudes our parents exhibited towards us.

How Past Pain Perpetuates Our Self-Doubts

When we hold on to the imprints of painful past experiences—whether they stem from childhood abuses, hurtful actions or words from current or past partners, rejections, breakups, or being ghosted—it can reinforce our beliefs and feelings of being unworthy, defective, inadequate, or unlovable. We often perceive ourselves, others, the world, and our life experiences through this lens. That creates a self-perpetuating dynamic, making it challenging for us to recognize and embrace people who could truly love us and the kinds of experiences that could nurture for us.

People pick up on the vibes we emit, consciously or subconsciously. Consequently, they often respond in ways that validate our feelings of unworthiness or unlovability. Carrying such vibes diminishes our inner light and the warm, magnetic qualities that would make us more attractive.

Denying Parts of Ourselves in an Attempt to Be More Acceptable

When family, friends and intimate partners turn away from us or say hurtful things, or reject us in any way, it can evoke profound feelings of inadequacy. We start to question our worth and feel broken, unlovable, and perpetually insufficient. This fear of rejection and abandonment leads many of us to deny parts of ourselves in an attempt to be more appealing or acceptable to others. In doing so, we aren't being honest or true to our essence.

By sidelining our genuine feelings and experiences, we are not presenting our authentic selves in relationships. We're operating under the belief that if we genuinely express ourselves, we risk being rejected, with the other person possibly turning their back on us.

In other words, our fear-driven facade means we're not genuinely relating to our partner but are instead acting out of our anxieties and fears of abandonment. These relational dynamics prevent us from being honest about who we truly are, thereby obstructing the other person's ability to truly see, understand, and relate to our genuine selves.

This dishonesty perpetuates our underlying feelings of unworthiness and raises doubts about our lovability, especially when we remain in relationships that force us into these inauthentic molds. The underlying sentiment becomes: “I cannot be truly honest; I cannot truly be myself, or this person will inevitably leave me.” This mindset denies both you and the people who play a part in your life the chance to connect authentically.

The Dichotomy Between Our True and False Self

From early on, many of us are conditioned to segregate our feelings and emotions. We're taught to suppress or “split off” aspects of ourselves that may have been deemed unacceptable by our caregivers. This isn't just limited to highly charged emotions such as anger, but extends to a wide spectrum of our internal experiences, especially those related to interpersonal dynamics. By constantly having to push these feelings aside, we compromise our ability to recognize and understand the intricate internal processes happening within ourselves and other people. This can lead us to operate based on the faulty assumptions we make about how others think and feel.

This act of compartmentalizing our emotions and experiences creates a dichotomy between our ‘false self' and our ‘true self.' Over time, many of us become so identified with this facade that we lose touch with our genuine self. We become entrenched in this masquerade, often without even realizing that we are wearing a mask. It's only when we embark on the journey of healing and introspection that we begin to reconcile with our authentic selves, shedding light on the ways we've unwittingly strayed from our innate essence.

Fears of Abandonment

Feelings of unworthiness, defectiveness, and being unlovable are closely linked to the abandonment wound. We struggle with the idea that people will leave us. Some of us mistakenly believe that healing means no one will ever leave us again. We yearn for secure relationships where no one ever leaves, hoping that our deeply wounded parts, which fear being left behind, will finally heal. However, as much as we wish for unending connections, life's unpredictability makes that an unrealistic expectation. Regardless of our efforts to control our surroundings, people do leave. They might choose to end the relationship, ghost us, or even fall in love with someone else. Friends too can drift away when they find a significant other, relocate, or face life's inevitable end. Some might distance themselves only to re-enter our lives later. It's also common for two individuals to simply grow apart over time.

Experiencing such losses can be profoundly challenging for those of us with abandonment wounds. Even if someone is merely taking a vacation, our subconscious might interpret it as a permanent departure, leaving us feeling anxious and overwhelmed. In anticipation of the pain, we might instigate a conflict before they leave. The fear of future heartache might even deter us from forming close bonds with others.

Bringing More of Ourselves into the Present Moment

We often contract in response to experiences that make us feel fearful, anxious, or those that have hurt and traumatized us. Many of us remain in this contracted state, shrinking in response to the traumas and other hurtful and distressing life experiences. To heal, we need to face these issues we've been avoiding. By doing so, we're bringing more of ourselves into the present moment, occupying more space and truly embodying our authentic selves.

For so long, we've hidden from these truths. We must face our issues head on and allow ourselves to experience the full range and depth of our authentic emotional responses. We need to be open to exploring whatever comes our way, truly seeing and feeling what we previously denied ourselves the chance to experience.

The Damaging Repercussions of Seeing Through Distorted Cognitive Frames

Our interpretations of others' actions can easily become distorted by our feelings of unworthiness, unlovability, and perceived defects. When our cognitive frame is clouded by emotional wounds, we tend to jump to conclusions, often assuming the worst about ourselves.

The real challenge for many of us lies in the fact that when our internal turmoil becomes all-consuming, it leaves little room for us to consider other perspectives. It's crucial for us to recognize and reframe these interpretations and understand how they shape our emotional experiences.

Understanding and Awareness of Our Cognitive and Emotional Processes

The ability to understand and interpret our own and others' feelings, thought processes, needs, desires and motivations plays a crucial role in our perception of ourselves and our interpersonal interactions. To break free from our distorted and limiting cognitive — emotional frames, we must first dive deep into our internal processes. By understanding and acknowledging our internal processes, we create space to entertain other potential realities by adopting a more open and empathetic stance. For instance, when we find ourselves becoming upset, frustrated, angry or stressed out by another person's words or actions, we might recognize the multitude of reasons that could be at play. Rather than making assumptions, we could reach out, opening a channel for dialogue.

Reaching out helps us to develop greater relational skills. Instead of getting ourselves tangled up in our distorted cognitive — emotional filters, we learn to bridge the gap between our inner world and the external environment. This involves not just understanding our emotions, but also actively communicating and effectively navigating the complexities of human relationships.

Ultimately, as we invest time in healing and understanding ourselves, our reactions to situations change. Over time, we find ourselves less prone to making assumptions about others' feelings or actions. Instead, we become better equipped to handle these situations with grace, understanding, and a genuine desire for connection.

Challenges that Test Our Resilience and Determination

Healing is an ongoing journey that unfolds in stages, much like the chapters of a book. As individuals, we all have dreams and ambitions that motivate us to pursue our education, careers, or an ideal life partner. Yet, as we chase these dreams, we inevitably face both internal and external resistance, challenges that test our resilience and determination. This resistance, though often daunting, is a natural part of the healing process. It not only reveals deeper wounds within us but also provides us with valuable opportunities for us to get in touch with and heal these wounded parts of ourselves. Pursuing our desires, therefore, becomes a dual journey: one of achieving our goals and one of recognizing and healing the aspects of ourselves that need attention and care.

Moving Beyond Your Zone of Familiarity

Like countless others, you might be working at a job solely out of economic necessity rather than genuine passion. The thought of stepping out on your own and pursuing what you truly desire feels daunting. You're held back by the fear that perhaps you're not smart enough, not sufficiently skilled, or lacking the necessary resources to make it.

Even if you're making a significant contribution, you may find it difficult to recognize the value you bring to the table. At some level, you may feel you merit better compensation, and yet there's a lingering apprehension that holds you back, preventing you from asking for a much deserved and long overdue raise.

It's important for you to strive for what you're wanting out of life. Since you're going to be stepping outside of your zone of familiarity, just assume that you're going to be feeling uncomfortable at times. Pace yourself if you have to, consistently taking steps that move you forward. Breathe into any feelings of anxiety and fear, the sense of being deeply flawed or unlovable as they arise.

As you continue to put one foot in front of the other, your internal and external resistance will gradually soften and dissolve. As you continue to develop additional skill sets, you're going to be moving closer to achieving your desired results. Many of the tasks that you initially resisted or found difficult will become easier. As you grow more confident in your capabilities, you'll be expanding your range of motion.

Having made significant progress, it's easy to assume that all the inner work you've done will be mirrored back to you. While this healing process is crucial, it's also essential to be continually developing and refining your skills and taking constructive real-world actions to attain your goals. As you successfully navigate life's challenges and attain your desires, your sense of efficacy will naturally increase.

Pushing Boundaries and Pursuing Our Passions

Relationships often come with their share of hurt – be it from breakups, being ghosted, and as a result of the hurtful words and actions of others. In response, we might construct walls around ourselves, vowing never to endure such pain again. However, our lives and sense of self-worth are closely intertwined. Truly living means allowing ourselves to feel our emotions fully and deeply.

It's through our relationships with other people that our emotional wounds are mirrored back to us. These individuals inadvertently reveal the hidden, injured parts of our psyche. The aim is to embrace the full range of our emotional responses, to fully immerse our awareness in these feelings and sensations while breathing softly and deeply.

As much as we would like, our feelings of inadequacy, unworthiness, or defectiveness are not going to magically disappear forever. While it's essential for us to be cautious, we also need to be reaching out, pursuing our desires, while keeping ourselves open to forming meaningful connections. Learning to be fully present, even amid feelings of inadequacy, allows us to deeply process our experiences and emotions so that we can continue to heal and evolve.

Each time we push our boundaries, challenge our norms, pursue our passions, or open our hearts to someone, we're making ourselves vulnerable in a way that puts us in touch with our own lingering feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness. It's in these moments of our lives when we show up more fully present to life that we feel most alive.

Emotional Barriers to Love and Connection

The potential for love surrounds us, yet many of us have emotionally walled ourselves off, creating barriers that prevent us from letting anyone in. Some of us have developed patterns of forming attachments to individuals who are disinterested or unavailable.

The residue of past deeply wounding experiences, along with the highly charged feelings of hurt, rejection, and other painful emotions that remain trapped within our bodies, leaves us numb and disconnected, creating a sort of blindness or perceptual gap that renders us oblivious to our actions. It can also lead us to attract similar individuals and reenact the wounding events of the past that brought us immense suffering.

Even when the potential for love and meaningful connections exists, recognizing and being receptive to it becomes challenging. This difficulty arises because we perceive the world through a filter shaped by a painful past and the unprocessed, highly charged emotions attached to them. As we internalize this suffering, we invariably attract more of the same.

Being In Relationship is Essential to Accessing and Healing Our Emotional Wounds

Being in relationships is intrinsic to our healing journey, as it's through our interactions with others that we address and mend these emotional wounds. However, it's crucial to recognize that not all relationships contribute to our healing. While navigating and breaking free from the confines of the closed loop system can be challenging, it's by no means insurmountable. With understanding and effort, we can gradually move away from the limiting perspectives of the wounded parts of us that have existed in a state of contraction and open ourselves up to genuine connections and healing.

Embracing Our Losses and Authentic Emotional Responses

Affirmations can help to instill a more positive mindset, but on their own, they are little more than a band-aid. They might offer some relief, but they're not going to facilitate the healing of the deep emotional wounds. Having a loving and supportive partner in your life can be healing and provide a much-needed sense of validation.

Our partner can tell us how wonderful they think we are or how much they love us, yet their love, affection, kindness, and words of validation fall short as they do not facilitate the deep-level processing of the traumas and emotions we hold within our bodies. We have to undertake this part ourselves.

Unless we're able to thoroughly digest the painful losses and our emotional responses to them, the wounded parts of ourselves remain unhealed. These unresolved traumas prevent us from being fully present, hindering our ability to truly love and be loved. Furthermore, we might inadvertently sabotage our relationships or reenact past relational dramas.

Breaking Out of Our Mind's Closed Loop System

Our mind often operates within what can be described as a “closed loop system.” This system, especially prominent among those of us struggling with feelings of unworthiness, frequently involves assuming or even imagining the thoughts and feelings of others. We may not always be conscious of it, but in doing so, we attempt to predict and navigate potential rejection or negative feedback. For example, those of us with perfectionistic tendencies often believe that anything short of perfection will result in rejection. This stems from a deep-seated need to maintain control over our own words and actions and to manage the perceived unpredictability of others' reactions.

The minds of others can indeed seem chaotic, particularly if we're always anticipating potential rejection or indifference from them. Our fear of abandonment is what drives us to pursue perfection or maintain control, as a defense mechanism against the imagined threat of someone turning away from us.

For those of us struggling with self-worth, openly discussing feelings or concerns may seem distant. Instead of collaboratively resolving issues, we often preemptively draw conclusions based on our assumptions. This stems from our difficulty in empathizing or imagining others' perspectives. It's vital for us to try to understand how others perceive a situation and break free from our mind's closed-loop system to connect with their mindset.

Confronting Our Self-Depreciating Narratives

When we encounter seemingly benign situations, like day-to-day interactions with acquaintances, friends, intimate companions, or even family, our minds can easily spiral into self-defeating narratives. Instead of considering the myriad of reasons for their lack of response, thoughts like, ‘They don't like me,' or ‘They're mad at me; I must've done something wrong,' can easily dominate our thinking. Instead of exploring the vast possibilities of what could be going on in someone else's mind, our minds have a tendency to default to rigid and often self-deprecating assumptions.

This rigidity of our thought processes about others mirrors the inflexibility in our self-perception, where every interaction becomes a litmus test of our worthiness. Such a mindset predisposes us to feelings of worthlessness. Our self-defeating inner voice undermines us, making it tough to maintain a positive self-image. This fragility of the self-concept might stem from not being given adequate opportunities to develop internal resilience and a wholesome sense of self in the first place. We need to recognize this pattern and challenge it, ensuring that we do not continually collapse into self-deprecating narratives.

Exploring, Understanding and Digesting Our Emotional Responses

The way we relate to ourselves is often a reflection of how parents and other influential figures in our lives have related to us. If, throughout our lives, we've been taught that certain emotions or actions are “bad” or “unacceptable,” then we are more likely to berate ourselves for those very responses. Instead of being so harsh upon ourselves, it would be beneficial if we open ourselves to the full range of our emotional responses, allowing ourselves to explore, digest, and understand them.

When someone says or does something that evokes a painful or upsetting response, our typical approach is to deny, avoid or suppress what we're feeling. We tell ourselves, “It's their mood and probably has nothing to do with me; I shouldn't be bothered.” We then proceed to disconnect emotionally, convincing ourselves that we shouldn't be feeling the way we do.

It's important for us to fully immerse our awareness in these emotions, providing a safe space to understand and express them when necessary, and ultimately metabolize these feelings. By exploring our emotions, we acknowledge our past, recognizing how our previous experiences shape our current emotional reactions.

Our emotions are indicators of a whole range of internal processes, many of which we might be unconscious of. By discussing and understanding these feelings in a supportive environment, and diving into the depths of them while breathing softly and deeply, we find that they begin to transform. Instead of suppressing emotions, by giving them the opportunity to be digested, they tend to resolve naturally.

It's essential to understand that the goal isn't to never feel unpleasant emotions like inadequacy. It's about acknowledging these feelings when they arise, rather than dismissing them. Sure, there might be times, such as when we're at work or in an important meeting, when we must press on despite our feelings. However, when we're outside of that context, it's crucial for us to process and understand these emotions. As we open up about our feelings and experiences, our circumstances and lives begin to improve.

Truly Deserving of Love, Meaningful Work and Fair Compensation

The profound feelings of unworthiness and perceived defectiveness often point to a deeply entrenched emotional wound within you that demands significant effort to mend. Yet, as you continue to progress along your healing journey, you invariably begin to experience your inherent goodness. This gradual realization reinforces the belief that you are truly deserving of love, meaningful work, fair compensation, and the many other joys of life.

As the underlying sense of being flawed or unworthy heals, many of us mistakenly assume that, by virtue of our newfound sense of worthiness, we should automatically have the loving partners, ideal relationships, and the various joys that appear to come to others so effortlessly. When we don't, we may experience resentment and a sense of disillusionment. What's often overlooked is that, even though some of our desires might come to us naturally, there's still considerable effort required to fully realize them.

Imagine you've felt defective and unlovable for much of your life. Now that you've progressed along your healing journey, you've dissolved the layers of armor you built around yourself to prevent anyone from getting close to you. You meet someone and feel a deep connection to this person. Perhaps you're consumed by overwhelming desire and believe you're meant to be together. And yet, this person does not reciprocate your desire for an intimate connection.

The fact that you've made a lot of progress doesn't mean that everyone is going to love you. It doesn't mean that every person to whom you're drawn is on a compatible wavelength, feels a strong resonance with you, shares the same values, finds you attractive, or wants the same thing out of a relationship. Sometimes, you're just not compatible.

Everyone has their own preferences. You may not possess the qualities the other person desires. Maybe they're drawn to a certain kind of personality, have a preference for other kinds of physical features. Because they're not reciprocating your love, it throws you back into those feelings of inadequacy or of not being good enough. As that happens, you may doubt that you've made any progress.

My Own Journey Out of the Abyss

My own feelings of unworthiness and defectiveness, linked to the trauma experienced during my childhood and adolescence and repeated experiences of abandonment, were deeply entrenched. This struggle persisted throughout my twenties and into my thirties, manifesting in a series of destructive relationships. Fear of abandonment drove me to cling desperately to individuals and relationships that ultimately unraveled, retraumatizing me in the process.

Initially, I resisted the painful emotions that surfaced, often trying to salvage failing relationships. It took a considerable effort to teach myself to confront and explore the depths of this pain. Through sessions with gifted healers and repeatedly going through the traditional Native American healing ritual known as the vision quest, which involves fasting alone in the mountains for four days and nights without food or water, I was able to transmute the painful emotions trapped within my body. These emotions had kept me locked in a cycle of attracting unavailable partners and enduring their hurtful words and actions.

As these wounded parts of myself began to heal and transform, I gradually felt a “lightness of being” emerge. Unhealthy attachments started to dissolve, and I found myself letting go of relationships that were not working for me. The process was arduous, but it ultimately led to a profound shift in the way I engage and form attachments. As this transformation unfolded, I started experiencing a growing sense of self-love and appreciation. With each step forward, my range of motion continued to expand, leading to an increased sense of self-efficacy.

Having gone through the journey of healing these wounds, I'm able to facilitate this same transformation in others. Reach out to me if you're struggling with a deep underlying sense of being unworthy or undeserving of love. You too can heal, transforming the wounded parts of yourself. As you do, you increase your capacity to love and be loved and to draw someone into your life with whom you can experience a truly meaningful and deeply fulfilling relationship.

©Copyright 2023 Ben Oofana. All Rights Reserved.

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