why do i feel worthless woman in sunshine

Why you feel so damn worthless sometimes, and how to stop it for good

Most of us were told what special, unique snowflakes we were growing up. So how did many of us end up feeling so damn worthless?

And why is it that even if someone did tell you the same thing now, as a grown ass adult, it wouldn’t matter? Either you’d feel like they were patronizing you (possible) or the compliment, like a piece of candy, would melt away in a matter of minutes (likely). You’re right back to wondering “why do I feel worthless” and your self esteem is no better off for the compliment.

I’ll tell you, but you might not like it. (Mainly because I am a human and still struggle with this very thing myself and so have no sure-fire solution to give you.)

You’re outsourcing your self worth.

What does that even mean, and why do I feel worthless?

This isn’t quite searching for external validation, although it’s similar. External validation can make you feel proud or liked. Some people need it to see their feelings and opinions as valid and worthwhile. But your feelings, thoughts, and opinions are not your worth.

We’re complex creatures. And we tell stories about ourselves to ourselves. The trick is figuring out what your actions are saying about your beliefs, and whether you’re OK owning those as your values.

If you’re outsourcing your worth, you’re relying on something outside of yourself (and your control) to determine that you have value.

Stop and read that again.

You’re letting someone or something, other than yourself, decide whether you have value. And, just for the record, your value was never (nor should ever be) in question.

You have inherent worth and value.

But it doesn’t matter if I say it. Or your parents. Or your significant other. Because any of these people can retract their approval, or leave, or — I know, I know, I’m a major downer — die, taking your value with them.

The only way your self worth — and likely, by extension, self esteem — will be stable is if you determine it yourself. (And it certainly doesn’t hurt if you really like yourself, too.)

Here’s who you’re probably letting determine your self worth

Actually it wouldn’t be too terrible if you were letting your friends and family determine your self worth. Most people have families who, despite occasional drama, really love and value each other. And hopefully you’re choosing friends who do the same. (If you’ve got some toxic clingers, you need to learn the grey rock method, stat.)

But that’s not usually the case.

For some reason, many of us let total fucking strangers determine our value. (I have been completely guilty of this and throw absolutely no stones if you are, too.)

How many times has a withering glare from a random woman on the street made you question your outfit and even your body? It’s just one tiny, high heel-clad step from there to deciding she’s more valuable because you think she’s prettier than you.

And, really, since when was your value about the symmetry of your face? But you let yourself think that way.

Because society cannot judge you — it has no unified voice to question you, no eyes to roll about your outfit — you do it to yourself instead. Click To Tweet

In reality that person is either: squinting into the sun, having a terrible day, or miserable because deep down they actually hate themselves. At best, you let a misunderstanding (their squint) call your value into question. At worst, you gave a miserable person exactly what they wanted: someone to whom they could feel superior.

And you know what? If they were determining your worth based on what you look like, it speaks to their character not yours. (And they’re not someone you should care about, anyway.)

The judge you know

But sometimes we also outsource to acquaintances. You might, for example, decide you’re not talented because your boss doesn’t give you a raise.

But wait, a salary is a business’ assessment of what you’re worth, right? Wrong. It’s an assessment of the market value of your experience. And that doesn’t mean it’s correct, either. First and foremost your boss or company might be underestimating your talents — or simply not paying enough attention to evaluate them accurately.

And then there’s the issue of the market as a whole underappreciating your specific set of skills. (Hello, basically all creative jobs.) And then you need to factor in that your market value is also about how many other people *claim* to be able to do your job. (Whether they actually can or not is another debate.)

Or maybe you have a toxic friend whose opinion you’re still taking. You know, the one who subtly (or not so subtly) picks on your clothes or weight or sense of humor or interests.

If you’ve ever spent extra time getting ready for brunch just to avoid some pointed comments, you know one of these people. Maybe you value looking perfectly polished in the same style as this person. Or maybe they make you feel inadequate so you’re adopting and conforming to their system of evaluating worth.

Maybe, just maybe, the answer to “why do I feel worthless” is that these people control your sense of self worth, the idea of your own value.

outsouring your self worth gorgeous woman outside looking at the camera
If your friend doesn’t appreciate what makes you gorgeously, beautifully, uniquely you, then they’re no friend, and someone you should consider moving beyond.

You might not even know you’re outsourcing your self worth

But this isn’t as simple as not letting other people in your life determine your self worth. If only it were. The hardest part is that you might be acting as a double agent — passing judgement on yourself while simultaneously outsourcing your value and confidence.

Wait, what?

Let me be clear. Some of what you think, some opinions you have, you probably only have because it seems like the rest of society thinks and believes the same thing.

Because “society” cannot judge you — it has no unified voice to question you, no eyes to roll about your outfit — you do it to yourself instead.

You’ve adopted beliefs that aren’t necessarily your own. So it’s no wonder that you fall short when you measure yourself against them.

That’s why part of putting a stop to external validation and outsourcing your worth is figuring out what you actually believe. What do you believe gives someone value and worth? Maybe you believe that’s as simple as being a living person. Maybe for you that leads into a heated debate about whether evil people have value. We’re not going to touch that here.

Putting an end to asking why do I feel worthless

So how do you stop outsourcing your self worth? It’s going to take a while. You’re going to have to be gentle with yourself when you mess up. And I’d be lying if I said there weren’t going to be bad days before you achieve your goal. But it can be done.

Think of it this way: you don’t need other people to tell you that your friends have value. You identified and remember their worth all on your own. Why should your value be any different?

Here’s how I suggest going about taking back your own self worth.

  • Figure out what you believe gives people value
  • Stop making exceptions, good or bad, for yourself
  • Work on delaying assumptions
  • Find coping mechanisms for bad days
  • Live according to your standards

There’s a lot to tease apart here, so I’ll just launch right in to the first step.

Figure out what you believe gives people value

Sounds pretty easy right? Ehhhh well, not so much.

This is going to require taking a long, hard look at ideas you’ve adopted from society. And sometimes what you act like you believe isn’t going to line up with how you’d like to think you believe.

Maybe that’s saying you don’t think money’s important. But then you’re constantly chasing a raise at work, not a satisfying work environment. Or you claim you’re looking to date a truly nice person. But you’re choosing the rich person to date over the less-well-off but sweeter alternative.

We’re complex creatures. And we tell stories about ourselves to ourselves. The trick is figuring out what your actions are saying about your beliefs, and whether you’re OK owning those as your values.

Since it’s harder to look directly at ourselves, and significant others get complicated with feelings of security, try looking at your friendships.

What do you value in your friends?

Are those things shaped by society? Or are they characteristics that just make some a true and loyal friend, someone you can trust?

How would it feel to exemplify those characteristics yourself? Would you look over your list of attributes and consider yourself a worthy person?

Stop making exceptions, good or bad, for yourself

I’m going to use myself as an example because, girl, I was so guilty of this one.

Like I said, I’m still a work in progress. But I have way more good days than bad now. I’ve identified some really harmful habits in my thinking that were holding me back.

I used to think, for example, that I couldn’t be beautiful if I wasn’t a size 0, 2, or 4.

I was talking to a past therapist about this, and she was asking me about my friends. All of my friends are gorgeous. That’s not my opinion, that’s fact. But not many of them fit the very narrow, fashion-driven definition that society holds up as beauty.

Still, there’s never been a doubt in my mind that they’re all gorgeous. And yet I couldn’t be, in my mind, unless I hit those coveted pant sizes.

After verifying the belief that my friends could be beautiful but I could not, my therapist said something I will always be grateful for: “Well that sounds really fucking unfair.”

And it was.

So are the exceptions you make for yourself.

But it cuts both ways. If you value friends who don’t flake but you’re constantly sending, “Sorry, something came up” texts an hour before a planned get-together, that needs to end, too.

why do i feel worthless beautiful woman looking to the side and smiling
Do you truly believe you need to fit society’s narrow definition of beauty to be valuable? Or is it a belief you adopted simply because so many other people hold it?

Work on delaying assumptions

We have an expression about how foolish it is to assume anything, and yet we all still do it. All the fucking time.

And maybe at this point, it’s not a habit that can be broken.

After all, assumptions are just your brain using previous information to fill in gaps. If all your exes made you feel worthless by cheating on you, your brain is essentially wired to assume the current one will, too.

That’s why I tried to focus on delaying assumptions instead of stopping them.

If I could create a gap of say, 2 minutes, then I could logic my way through an issue. And maybe walking through things step by step would help counter the assumption before it even came.

You might decide that your beliefs don’t line up with the things society pushes on us as valuable. Like being rich, or thin, or “beautiful” by a very narrow set of standards.

Let’s go back to that raise you weren’t given.

Manage to put a pause in your “my boss doesn’t think I’m talented, so I must not be talented” thinking for a minute and you might realize something. Maybe it’s that your boss has been really checked out and therefore has no idea what you’ve accomplished. (Which is why you should manage your manager going forward, by the way.) Or perhaps your boss was getting ready for a board meeting the other day — maybe the entire company isn’t doing too hot, so there are no raises to go around this year.

It could be any number of things. You probably have some information you need to figure it out already, but you need to give yourself time to tap into it.

And you know what? Maybe your boss does think you’re not talented. But you also assumed their opinion was right. You should know how talented you are, and use that minute to remind yourself.

Find coping mechanisms for bad days

But even if you apply all of this, there will be some terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days.

And not even I can help you with that because your triggers are specific to you. And you’ll need to know your own limits. Some days you’ll be able to use the tools above, and other days you won’t. You know the difference better than anyone.

My trigger is mirrors. Some days my body dysmorphia kicks up. On those days, it’s very hard not to connect the size of my body to my value as a human.

And I know the difference from the second I wake up. Some days I’m fine until something happens (hello, bloated tummy after a big lunch), in which case I’ll work through my assumptions. If, from the moment I open my eyes, I feel puffy and uncomfortable in my own skin, I don’t push things.

Instead, I simply avoid mirrors.

I’ll use a small stand mirror that’s only large enough for my face for makeup. I choose an outfit I know goes together so I don’t need a full-length mirror. And I simply look down when washing my hands at work in the bathroom.

And you know what? It works.

I stop being so focused on my body because I’m not seeing it. That allows me to get in touch with the other things about myself that I know give me value — like my dorky sense of humor, or my curiosity that can pop up out of anywhere during the day.

Live according to your standards

You already decided what gives you worth, what determines your value. Measured by your own priorities and beliefs, your value is entirely in your control.

That means never again asking “why do I feel worthless” is as simple as living according to those beliefs.

It might take some time to completely stop outsourcing your self worth. But if you keep working, feeling valuable and worthy is truly this simple.

Notice that I said simple, not easy.

Because you might decide that your beliefs don’t line up with the things society pushes on us as valuable. Like being rich, or thin, or “beautiful” by a very narrow set of standards.

But just because you’ve figured out your priorities doesn’t mean the world will change (although you can certainly help change it). TV, movies, and ads will still feature people who fit the same limited definition of beauty (even if that’s slowly changing). There will still be pressure to make more money and lose more weight and carry the right purse.

You might even find you get some pushback from friends and family members who still hold tight to society’s standards.

There will be a pull to release your self worth back out into the world.

Resist it. Realize that everyone needs to go on their own journey. Some people still don’t know what their own beliefs and priorities are. You do, and you’ll need to hold fast to them until they’re second nature. (This is also the key to how to be happy with yourself.)

And even though you’re the only one who can decide you’re worthy, you can email me for a reminder.