How to Disobey “Worthless” Thoughts

How to Disobey “Worthless” Thoughts

If you believe you are “worthless,” it can bring on crushing feelings of depression and shame. But worthlessness doesn’t only impact how you feel. It also profoundly impacts what you do next. When you believe you are “worthless,” you might:

  • Not ask for help
  • Silence your voice
  • Say ‘yes’ when you’d prefer to say ‘no’ (or vice versa)
  • Deny your own needs
  • Stick it out in a toxic workplace or relationship
  • Stop trying
  • Quit things that matter most to you
  • Isolate from friends or family
  • Spend money on others but not yourself
  • Behave recklessly
  • Cover up, conceal, or hide
 
The trouble is, the more you behave as if you are worthless, the more shame you feel, the more you believe you are worthless. This perpetuates more of the same stuck behavior. It’s a vicious circle.

 

DISCLAIMER: Before we dive in too deep, as detailed in my post “Why I Think ‘Worthless’ Isn’t a Feeling AND Why that Matters,” I see “worthless” as a judgment NOT a feeling. Worthlessness is a malleable belief system that can be changed as you alter thinking, change behavior (the focus of this article), and heal from past hurts or traumas.

 

CHALLENGE: Imagine for a moment that a miracle took place while you were sleeping and you wake up in the morning fully believing that you are a person of infinite worth. Really stick with the image for a few minutes even if it’s difficult. Grab a piece of paper and jot down your ideas about how you interact with your day differently if you were to see yourself as WHOLE and WORTHY.

 

Depending on how deeply the belief of worthlessness has taken hold, perhaps behaving as if you are a person of worth starts with taking care of basic tasks of living, such as:

  • Rolling out of bed (maybe rolling on to the floor if that’s what gets you started)
  • Getting dressed in clean clothes
  • Taking a shower
  • Brushing your teeth
  • Checking the mail
  • Scheduling that doctor’s appointment or dentist appointment you’ve delayed
  • Getting in to see a counselor or psychiatric medication prescriber

 

If your beliefs about worthlessness have impacted your relationships, behaving as if you were a person of worth might look like:

  • Reaching out to friends or family you find trustworthy
  • Practicing vulnerability (again, with those you find trustworthy)
  • Accepting an invitation (or declining an invitation if your experience of worthlessness involves co-dependent people-pleasing)
  • Putting yourself out there to make a new connection
  • Raising your standards for friendship or dating
  • Setting boundaries with someone causing you harm
  • Speaking up about something you’re needing

 

If beliefs about worthlessness have impacted you at work or school, behaving as if you are worthy might involve:

  • Requesting accommodations
  • Applying for that promotion or job change you’ve been too scared to try, even if it doesn’t work out; as a student, perhaps trying out for the school play or a position on a team (regardless of outcome)
  • Going back to school later in life
  • Asking for help or more training
  • Giving yourself a break to prevent burnout
  • Making a change to your schedule to accommodate what you’re really needing
  • Living like Teddy Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena”(however that translates for you)

 

If body image struggles have been a source of worthless thoughts, perhaps behaving as if you are fully worthy involves:

  • Buying clothes that fit your body comfortably at its current size
  • Nourishing yourself with consistent food intake throughout the day
  • Moving your body in ways that feel joyful but not self-punishing
  • Not letting your body hold you back from living your life (ex. Going swimming, traveling, dating)
  • Asking your doctor not to weigh you unless it’s (truly) needed medically
  • Respecting your body with your thoughts (get your inner bully in check)
  • Reading the book “Body Respect” by Lindo Bacon for even more ideas

 

These are all only examples. You will customize your behavioral REBELLION against worthless beliefs based on how worthlessness impacts you.

ASK: What action does worthlessness want you to do? You can either obey or disobey. Real change happens when you begin to DISOBEY.

In Dialectical-Behavioral Therapy (DBT), there is a skill called “Opposite Action” that helps shift negative beliefs with different (opposite) behavior. Here’s a video where you can learn more: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wkxOICjG2is

 

The big idea is this– If acted as if you are a person of worth EVEN BEFORE YOU BELIEVE IT’S TRUE– you can impact how you feel about yourself positively. Sometimes Action comes before Belief. Sometimes Action comes before you Feel any differently.

 

As mentioned above, many folks that experience worthless beliefs have trauma experiences that have contributed to low self-worth. If you’re curious about the impact of past experiences on worthless beliefs, ask yourself..

 

  • When did you first start to believe you are  “worthless?” Did someone in your life send you this message– directly or indirectly?
  • Did you have experiences of emotional neglect that taught you that your feelings or needs weren’t valuable?
  • Did you experience physical, sexual, verbal, or emotional abuse at anytime in childhood or adulthood?
  • Did you experience other Adverse Childhood Experiences(ACES)?

 

Let’s not pretend that any of this work is easy, especially if you are feeling depressed! That’s why many people get support from a professional therapist when doing this work. Don’t hesitate to reach out for support. You’re worth it!

 

7 Skills to Try When You Feel “Overwhelmed”

7 Skills to Try When You Feel “Overwhelmed”

Have you ever felt completely overcome by an intense emotions? Have feelings at times felt challenging to manage and overcome? The experience of being “overwhelmed” is uncomfortable and impactful in your life at work, home, or school.

 

Defining “Overwhelm”

Emotional overwhelm entails more than being stressed. You can feel submerged life’s current problems, to the point where you lack efficacy and feel frozen or paralyzed.

Compare the feeling of being overwhelmed to being submerged in a rough wave. It’s a scary experience! You may not know which way is up or what way to swim. You may feel stunned and unable to react. You may be unable to think or act rationally or functionally.

 

Whether brought on by events in the world (ahem, global pandemic) or events in your work or family life, emotional overwhelm can occur for a short burst of time or over a much longer period.

 

Sometimes, like many are experiencing in 2020, a series of hardships and challenges occurring in rapid succession can trigger someone to feel overwhelmed. Common experiences that may have lead to emotional overwhelm this year include:

 

  • Suddenly homeschooling your children
  • Experiences of racism or discrimination
  • Worry about systemic or political matters
  • Quarantining and isolating from friends
  • Cancellation of social hobbies and sports
  • Physical illnessor worry about COVID-19
  • Traumatic events
  • Relationship crises
  • Increased workload
  • Serving as a front-line worker
  • Newly working from home
  • Getting laid off or furloughed
  • Financial distress and insecurity
  • Deadlines and time constraints
  • Death of a loved one
  • Wildfires or other natural disaster
  • (And can we also add Murder Hornets?)

 

Managing Emotional Overwhelm

Here are some strategies that can help mitigate feelings of overwhelm:

 


  1. Embrace Anxiety

Fighting against high anxiety doesn’t help. In fact, it can add on a “secondary anxiety” that makes you feel anxious about your anxiety. Instead, try to remember that anxiety is an expected response to being out of your comfort zone. It is a “normal” human emotion.  The feeling is uncomfortable but not dangerous.

Acceptance means allowing for uncertainty and discomfort, mindfully acknowledging it, and keeping on with what you can do instead of dwelling on what you can’t. Sometimes “acceptance” means non-judgmentally sitting with the feeling in your body, assuring it that it’s “welcome,” and allowing yourself to experience it with curiosity.

If you’d like to learn more about this skill, check out “The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and start Living” by Russ Harris.

 


  1. Challenge Negative Thought

Distorted, negative thoughts build up as anxiety grows and can amplify your feelings of overwhelm. In his book “Feeling Good,” Dr. David Burns lists 10 common cognitive distortions that often fuel feelings of distress. By noticing negative thought patterns, stopping them in their tracks, and re-writing them with more balanced, neutral, and accurate thoughts, you should notice a reduction in distress.


  1. Practice Mindful Grounding

If your feelings of overwhelm are future-oriented “what if” thoughts, try out 5-senses grounding skills to bring you back into the present. The Calm meditation app is a great resource for guided meditation and practicing being present.


  1. Prioritize and Let Go of the Rest

Ruthlessly cut out extraneous and optional activities that don’t fully align with your top priorities and core needs. There aren’t as many “shoulds” and “have-to’s” in this life as sometimes our culture makes it seem. What are the true “essentials” in your life?  Is there anything you can let go of for now?


  1. Center on Core Values 

If you are feeling powerless over world events and broken systems, center on your core values. Give your values a specific name (ex. Acceptance; Equality; Freedom). Imagine that your value is speaking to you right now. What does it whisper? Feel it encourage, uplift, and ground you. Imagine yourself feeling rooted in them.


  1. Get Organized

Write down your to-do list and track activities on you schedule. When life becomes too busy, holding these things in your head is too much. Your thoughts can spin with all of your to-do’s so you don’t forget. Let a piece of paper (or your smart phone) hold on to the to-do’s for you. If you struggle with staying organized, you might try out Microsoft To Do, an app for organizing lists and tasks.


  1. Start Therapy

There are times in everyone’s life when it’s time to ask for help. A therapist is able to help you identify triggers for your feelings of overwhelm and craft a coping plan specifically for you. Help is available! You don’t have to do this by yourself.

 

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7 Skills to Try When You Feel “Overwhelmed”

7 Skills to Try When You Feel “Overwhelmed”

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Coping with Scarcity and Scarcity Mentality

Coping with Scarcity and Scarcity Mentality

Are you among the millions of people that have lost work since a state of emergency was declared last month? Employment numbers keep rising across the country. And those numbers don’t account for those whose applications for unemployment remain in limbo. There is an...

Coping with Scarcity and Scarcity Mentality

Coping with Scarcity and Scarcity Mentality

Are you among the millions of people that have lost work since a state of emergency was declared last month? Employment numbers keep rising across the country. And those numbers don’t account for those whose applications for unemployment remain in limbo.

There is an understandable financial strain; the impact of which is palpable. Calls to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) increased 891% compared to this same time last year.

 

But what is it about this experience of scarcity that triggers so much stress?

Abraham Maslow theorized these basic physiological needs for human survival:

  • The need for health
  • The need for food and water
  • The need for shelter
  • The need for sleep
  • The need for clothing

Maslow teaches that BEFORE you have a chance of feeling “safe” and “secure,” your physical needs MUST be met. This is why we cope with ACTUAL scarcity by prioritizing basic needs.

With that in mind, here are a list of local resources that can help with basic needs during this crisis:

 

 

Emergency Food Assistance:

Housing & Utility Assistance

If changes to your personal pocketbook aren’t enough, news reports trickle in day by day, hour by hour, reminding us of the faltering state of our economy.

 

ABOUT SCARCITY MENTALITY

What happens if your financial situation is indeed secure, but you don’t feel secure? Maybe you begin to take precautions as if you were under financial threat. Maybe you hoard food, ration the toilet paper, and cut back on expenses. Perhaps you bolster your savings. Or maybe you just feel anxious when spending money, as if that fear will prevent you from overdoing it.

 

Scarcity mentality is defined by a sense that there is never enough. It impacts our thought life, our feelings of fear and caution, and drives us to action.

 

Impact of Childhood Experiences

Many of those that experience scarcity mentality (but are otherwise financially secure in the present) have had past experiences of insufficiency.

 

  • Past experiences with homelessness, hunger, or poverty
  • Difficulties affording basic needs
  • Sense that there’s “not enough” to cover the “wants” of life (For Example: the cost of engaging in sports or music lessons)
  • Sometimes subtle messages that there isn’t enough to go around (“clean your plate so nothing goes to waste” or “we need that to last all week”).

 

Those past experiences fuel a belief system that predicts future instability in order to protect against a similar lack of resources.

 

If you are experiencing scarcity mentality, a counselor can help by:

 

  1. Helping you process past experiences feeding your current distress (which may be stored in your brain as a ‘trauma’ memory)
  2. Using Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to help you shift out of negative thought patterns
  3. Teaching you skills (such as thought defusion) that help you ‘let go’ of unhelpful intrusive worries.
  4. Coaching you on how to use (and take a break from) ruminating thoughts.
  5. Giving you a toolbox of other skills for lowering overall anxiety, including:
  • Mindfulness
  • Meditation
  • Grounding
  • Thought-stopping
  • And many other skills, depending on the theoretical orientation of the therapist

Having Difficulties Affording Therapy?

At Star Meadow Counseling, we know there are people who may be unable to pay for therapy as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. This is why our graduate student counselor is currently offering pro bono services to those impacted by the crisis. She has immediate openings for telehealth and is ready to help!

 

 

Why I Think “Worthless” Isn’t a Feeling AND Why that Matters

Why I Think “Worthless” Isn’t a Feeling AND Why that Matters

Have you ever been so dejected or depressed that you began to question your worth as a person? What triggered that moment for you? Was it:

  • A rejection, break-up, or abandonment?
  • A harsh word or critique that hit like an arrow in the heart?
  • A failure to live up to your own expectations?
  • Feeling in over your head, burned out, or unable to perform?
  • Something else?

As counselors, we often hear clients describe their feeling during these moments as “worthless.” It’s as if some lack of performing, achieving, belonging, or approval could strip away a person’s value as a human, leaving them with a sense of emptiness.

Do you have a sense of self-worth that goes up and down? A conditional self-worth that is dependant on being liked or on your achievements? As you’ve perhaps experienced, having a conditional self-worth can be risky:

  • Perhaps you overwork, overachieve, and compulsively climb ladders trying to prove yourself. Do ever really reach the finish line or are you stuck on a hamster wheel constantly striving? Does that cost you time with your family or friends? If a setback occurs, do you name yourself “failure” and pay a cost with anxiety, depression, or a suicidal urge?
  • Perhaps you base self-worth on the condition of others’ approval (which can go up or down). Do you have a good or bad day depending on if someone else’s reactions to you? Does that ever lead you to over-committing or people-pleasing? Do you hold back, minimizing your voice in relationships? If a subtle rejection occurs, do you notice yourself having a big emotional response?

Perfectionism is the embodiment of achievement-oriented or approval-oriented self worth. Brene Brown describes perfectionism and its cost best:

“Perfectionism is not the same thing has striving to be your best. Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth. Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfet, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame. It’s a shield. Perfectionism is a twenty-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from taking flight.”

-Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

It’s time to change how we think about WORTH. What if you could experience a form of self-worth that did not ebb and flow with your achievement or approval? Would you step off of the “conditional self-worth” rollercoaster? Wouldn’t it be amazing to experience security in your self-worth despite successes or failures!

I want to suggest two key strategies for revolutionizing your experience of self-worth.

  1. Clarify what you really feel when you say you feel “WORTHLESS.”

I want to suggest that “WORTHLESS” is a judgment NOT a feeling. It’s a proclamation of subjective self-assessment. It is more thought than it is emotion. These judgments are similarly not feelings:

  • Bad
  • Failure
  • Fat
  • Ugly
  • Stupid
  • Crazy

But, you might argue, “I DO feel strongly when I have those thoughts!” YES! A distorted negative self-evaluation would certainly evoke a strong feeling! Let’s see if we can clarify what you are really feeling in those moments. Perhaps one of these feeling words would more accurately describe the emotion that goes with that thought:

  • Disappointment
  • Shame
  • Sadness
  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Worry
  • Guilt

This perspective shifting skill is essential: Instead of going along with the “I’m worthless” judgment, NAME WHAT YOU’RE FEELING and WHY.

For example: “I’m feeling ashamed because I yelled at my kids.” “I am feeling afraid because I lost my job.” “I am feeling sad because she broke up with me.”

2. REDEFINE WORTH.

The striking reality is that there is no standard measurement of WORTH. There is not a test you can take, a medal you can earn, or a status you must reach. The concept of what defines self-worth is unscientific, self-determined, and deeply personal. YOU HAVE THE POWER to change your self-assessment.

What if you were to intentionally choose to believe WORTH is a birthright, something inherent in your humanness? I think that’s what the founders of our country believed when they wrote these words in the Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

WORTH does not have to be conditional. You can found your self-worth on the powerful certainty that you have sustaining value that can not be earned nor lost.


HYPOCRICY CHECK: Do you apply unconditional worth to other people better than to yourself?  For example, if you’re a parent, your child might make choices that make you lose their trust, but could they ever lose worth in your eyes? Never! You might already believe in unconditional self-worth, as it applies to others. Are you applying the same concept to yourself? If not, now’s the time. Take the leap of faith. It’s worth it!

Now, if we combine the name-your-feelings skill with the concept of unconditional self-worth, you can see how it’s possible to make mistakes, have setbacks, and receive rejection without it meaning anything at all about your worth as a human.

If you’d like help building a secure sense of self-worth (or overcoming your achievement- or approval-oriented perfectionism), a therapist at Star Meadow Counseling may be available to help.

Also check out behavioral strategies for shifting out of worthless thoughts in our latest blog: “How to Disobey ‘Worthless’ Thoughts.” 

 

 

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What Is An Extroverted-Introvert – And Are YOU One?

What Is An Extroverted-Introvert – And Are YOU One?

Are you one of those people who has never quite felt like an introvert but are definitely not an extrovert? Have you read descriptions of either personality and thought, “Mmmm, close, but not quite?” If so, you might be what is called an extroverted introvert (EI).

Extroverted introverts, also called “outgoing introverts”, “ambiverts,” or “social introverts” have qualities of both personalities. They are not entirely loners but don’t necessarily enjoy spending time with large groups of people.

Most people are, in fact, somewhere in the middle of the extrovert/introvert spectrum, sharing qualities of both introversion and extroversion. Let’s take a look at some of the characteristics of an extroverted introvert.

You are Sensitive to Your Surroundings

How you feel can be directly linked to your environment. What kind of music is playing, how many people are there, and the overall noise level can affect you greatly. If you’re an EI, you will either feel energized or drained depending on your surroundings.

You Have a Love/Hate Relationship with People in General

There is a part of you that truly enjoys meeting new people and hearing their personal stories. Then there is the other part of you that loathes the idea of spending every second of the day with other people. You like people, but you can only take them in small doses.

You’re Both Outgoing and Introspective

You’ve been known to hold your own in witty small talk and can make a room full of people chuckle. But when alone, you are generally thinking about the meaning of life and other huge topics. You like to have fun, but if you’re honest, you prefer to be left alone to think things through.

You take A While to Warm Up Around Others

You’re more like a cat than a dog. While you can be outgoing and find other’s company enjoyable on occasion, you’re not going to feel comfortable around strangers right off the bat. It takes you awhile to warm up to new people and situations before you are truly comfortable enough to let loose and be yourself.

No One Believes You’re an Introvert

Whenever the topic comes up and you tell your friends and relatives that you’re actually an introvert, no one believes you.

If this sounds like you, welcome to the club. Many artists, writers and other creative types often identify as extroverted introverts so you are in good company!