This may not be news to you, but I’m going to say it anyway, because it’s worth repeating: you are worthy. Basically Worthy. Now let me repeat that and put it in bold, because I’m not sure you got it: YOU ARE BASICALLY WORTHY.
Now let me break it down for you.
Basic as in fundamental or “relating to the essential nature of something”
Worthy as in valuable or “deserving respect, admiration, or support”
This means that you don’t have to earn your basic worthiness. You can’t do anything to lose it. You were worthy from the beginning and you will be to the end. It’s your nature baby.
So why the heck do we all walk around feeling so bad about ourselves, like we’ve committed some big sin by just being born or that we owe the world a giant apology just for existing? And how do we keep our fundamental belief in our worthiness from becoming another way to boost our ego and become more solid, which is another trap? Most importantly, how do we integrate our belief in our basic worthiness into our lives, relationships, and dreams?
In Buddhist thought, we want to be free from the two extremes of nihilism and eternalism. In this case, nihilism would be thinking we are worthless, that we don’t matter, so nothing matters. Even if we won’t admit that we subscribe to this belief, we see it demonstrated in our society all the time by the way people treat themselves and each other. We eat junk food as if we don’t matter, we waste time on activities and entertainment that have the underlying subtext of “who cares?, it doesn’t matter”. Many of us carry around this subtle and deeply engrained belief that we don’t matter from early childhood when we didn’t get the attention we needed and turned this into the false belief that we are invisible and don’t matter.
The other extreme of eternalism is that we matter so much we have to make ourselves big and important and real. The endless posting of photos, “look at me, I’m so beautiful” and buying of products that make our lives seem clean and good and real is a demonstration of this false belief that we are solid and real and important. The media industry is built around this idea, that you need stuff to make you feel like you matter, as well as health and wellness marketing-the message is that you and your body are the most important thing in the whole universe.
But isn’t believing that we’re beautiful, or downplaying our beauty a demonstration of basic worthiness? Isn’t taking care of our health and beauty a way of showing how much we care about ourselves and therefore we believe in our basic worthiness?
Well… yes and no. This is where we get trapped. As usual, the middle way is where the answer is hidden in plain sight. Both downplaying our existence (I don’t matter) and building up our existence (I am SO important) both come from the fundamental erroneous belief that we are not worthy, that there is something wrong with us and that we better get busy proving (or disproving) to the world our basic belief about ourselves. It’s built on the idea that there is something wrong with us from the beginning and that our lives are about fixing ourselves. We do this unconsciously and it (of course) stems from false beliefs we took on at an early age that we are unworthy.
In fact, I dare say, this erroneous fundamental belief about ourselves, that we are unworthy, is built into the very fabric of our society (think, orignial sin). Even if you had the most loving parents and didn’t grow up with a religion that gave you the idea you were born a sinner, it’s woven into our whole culture-this notion that we were born wrong and our whole lives have to be one long journey of gaining back what was our birthright in the first place: our unshakeable, fundamental worthiness.
Well, you might say, I already believe that I’m worthy, I don’t have this problem. OK, good. But check it out for yourself. Your subconscious belief in your worth might come out in different ways, for some of us it’s more obvious like treating our bodies like crap and getting into abusive relationships. For others it might show itself in what Gay Hendricks calls ‘the upper limit problem’ where we self-sabotoge our ability to live into our full potential to keep ourselves in our comfort zone.
What I’m saying is that all these problems we have, all these negative patterns, have at their core one false belief-that we are unworthy. And if we can learn to flip that on its head-well, our behaviors and our lives will change.
Usually the most profound truths are the most simple. And this is also what makes them the most difficult to change. That’s why it takes practice, a lifetime of practice. You’ve spent your life up until now with the false negative belief that you are unworthy and so it’s going to take some time to turn it around. Time and practice, those are refreshing words because it means there’s something we can do. The good news is that the more we practice believing (not just thinking) we are worthy, the more our lives begin to change for the better and the negative patterns that keep us stuck begin to dissolve.
So here’s a practice you can do to change this core belief:
1- notice how the false fundamental belief in your unworthiness shows up in your life. It could be negative thoughts, destructive habitual patterns, or-even more tricky- a drive to build yourself up and prove yourself to the world. Just notice, don’t judge or criticize yourself, just notice. Use a gentle touch, like a feather popping a balloon to pop negative thoughts.
2- Take a couple minutes everyday to imagine being a mom staring down at her perfect newborn. That newborn is you. And you are the mom. Change your thought patterns by finding the place in yourself that truly believes in your fundamental worthiness. Feel that in your body. Repeat the mantra to yourself throughout the day: “I am basically worthy”. Write it on your mirror.
We aren’t going to change overnight but at the same time, we are one thought away from changing the course of our lives. Believing in our core, fundamental worthiness is one of the most radical ways we can shift the tides of self-destructive behavior for ourselves and our world.