Worthlessness is an uncomfortable, distressing emotion that can take a huge toll on wellbeing. Through therapy, worthlessness can be converted to self-worth, a powerful concept that recognizes not only a person’s strengths but their worthiness of comfort, joy, and happiness.
What is worthlessness?
Worthlessness describes a feeling that one is not enough and undeserving of positive emotions, relationships, and situations. People who feel worthless may be unhappy with who they are or have low self-esteem. At the workplace, they might shy away from recognition because they feel like they don’t deserve the credit for their own work. In relationships, they may have difficulty accepting other people’s love for them, which can lead to insecurities and even conflict with their partner or partners.
Self-worth, on the other hand, is when someone believes that they are deserving of good things because of who they are, what they do, and how they live their lives. It incorporates acceptance of the self and recognition of personal strengths, including resilience. While some people may naturally have high self-esteem or confidence, self-worth mainly comes from introspection and intentionally reflecting on your experiences. When someone doesn’t have high self-worth, they may find themselves feeling sad, lonely, frustrated, resentful, or anxious. These emotions can lead to the development of exacerbation of mental health conditions.
Origin of worthlessness
Worthlessness develops for a number of different reasons and differs person-to-person. Many people who have high feelings of worthlessness grew up in environments that were not affirming of who they were or what they did. They may have had insecure attachments with caregivers that were distant, punitive, or hostile, which taught them that they had low value – and when they grew up, they kept this internalization.
Worthlessness can also be the result of a traumatic experience that changes a person’s perception of themselves. Abusive or toxic relationships can be disorienting in that the people involved in them might lose sight of their authentic selves. This can create dissonance between how a person lives and how they want to live, leaving them with a sense of worthlessness. These relationships can also teach an individual that they aren’t worthy of love, which can have devastating consequences for their mental health.
Feelings of worthlessness commonly originate through negative thought patterns. When someone repeatedly and routinely engages in negative self-talk, they put themselves down and convince themselves that they are undeserving. Cognitive distortions, or false assumptions, can also cause feelings of worthlessness through a misattribution of outcomes or events.
Symptoms of worthlessness
People who feel unworthy may experience hopelessness, especially when considering who they are. They might disengage from social interactions out of fear that they aren’t enough or that the other person or people will be disappointed in them. Worthlessness negatively impacts self-esteem and confidence, leaving people to feel uncomfortable in social settings, anxious when trying new things, or overwhelmingly unhappy with themselves.
Worthlessness, when chronic, can become a serious issue. In serious cases, it can develop into mental health conditions like anxiety or depression. People who feel a high level of worthlessness may resort to self-harm, which is why it’s important to seek the help of a licensed therapist when your worthlessness becomes overwhelming.
Therapy for worthlessness
Therapists who treat worthlessness have experience in showing clients that they are strong, resilient individuals who are deserving of happiness, love, and fulfillment. They teach clients how to identify instances of worthlessness and reflect on the origins of this intense emotion. Clients also learn how to break free of the harmful thought patterns that often lead to worthlessness and replace them with healthier alternatives.
In therapy, clients will practice self-compassion practices. They’ll learn how to express gratitude for themselves and to recognize what makes them strong, unique individuals. Therapists aim to empower clients to love themselves and to take care of themselves so that they can lead meaningful, comfortable lives.