Worthiness, Shoulds and Universal Truths
Updated: Jan 17, 2019
Worthiness, Shoulds and Universal Truths
What an amazing (and fucking challenging) time to be alive! So many people are beautifully waking up to their truths. Many of us, after generations of layers of shame and blame, are shucking off societal constraints to boldly move toward what feels true for us. I love this movement! It fires me up. I wholeheartedly believe that when we feel free to be our dynamically authentic self, we are more loving toward ourselves, one another, and the ecosystems we inhabit. Mmmm. All of that sounds delicious. And, as I watch myself and others moving in this direction, I like to celebrate these victories while remaining honest with myself about when I’m really doing the same shit with new clothes on. Why? Because that sneaky “same shit” is the stuff that I trap myself with . . . the stuff that holds me back from the freedom I long for. My favorite cue word for catching myself in such a trap is “should.” However, in order to explain such a thing, I have to share a bit about my experience with worthiness.
The thing is . . . for me . . . this ongoing process of becoming my authentic self has been both joyous and earth-shatteringly painful. I’ve had to let go of so many layers of false selves. But I put all those layers there to protect myself sooooo they served a useful purpose at the time of their construction. And some of them have been woven in so close to my core that I haven’t been sure who I would be without them, or sometimes even if I would even exist at all after letting them go. All of these parts validated my worth in some way. As I have not been able to feel innately worthy, these false selves fed me the worthiness that I needed to stay alive. Of course, they were all conditional kinds of worthiness . . . but not so out of reach that I couldn’t use them to feel good about myself at least part of the time. And they were all the kinds of worthiness that some part of my environment would also validate;
if you are good at school, you are worthy . . .
if you are independent, you are worthy . . .
if you are like a man, you are worthy
if you get attention from men, you are worthy . . .
if you are successful at work, you are worthy . . .
if you are skinny, you are worthy . . .
if you are popular, you are worthy . . .
if you sacrifice for others, you are worthy . . .
if people never see you struggle, you are worthy . . .
etc . . . etc . . . et fucking cetera.
I’ve never known how to feel simply worthy . . . the kind of worthiness that comes from a deep knowing of my own sacredness, the sacredness of life itself, and everything contained within life. I am learning about this kind of unconditional worthiness as I am simultaneously unlearning all the other conditional kinds. After many years in this process, feeling simply worthy still doesn’t come naturally to me. And! . . . I’ve noticed that every time I let go of a major source of conditional worthiness, that small tender part of me freaks the fuck out. If I can no longer validate my worth with the old thing that I’m letting go of, then I have to find some new thing to validate my worth. Now entering the arena . . . the sneaky switcheroo phase of this wonky growth spiral! (I’ve heard some refer to this tactic as “spiritual materialism.”) Now, instead of exchanging a successful career for worthiness, I exchange “sounding wise” or “environmentally conscious” or “doing soul-aligned work” or even something as sacred sounding as “honoring the feminine.” Really, I can insert any fucking thing into that if/then worthiness equation. And that part of me that is freaking out and terrified as I’m letting go of these old selves seems to be quite vocal, sneaky, and intelligent . . . it can take that sweet pride in myself for genuine milestones in my evolution . . . and morph it into some sort of self righteousness that allows me to feel safe within my black and white world of worthiness. I suppose it feels safe because it creates a world of certainty, a rest from chaos. Living within this paradigm of absolutes . . . this dualism of right versus wrong . . . I would prefer to be right, of course. But, within this kind of thinking, how can I define myself as “right” when there isn’t a “wrong” to compare it to? I can’t. So creation of these rules helps me create simple guidelines for validating my own worthiness. I just have to do this list of things (that is ever being updated based on my changing values), and then I can view myself as worthy and continue to live.
The problem, of course, is that it is impossible for me to complete this list all the time, so I’m left never feeling completely worthy. The other problem is that I can’t help but measure other people by this list. I actually don’t believe that it is possible to have conditional worthiness of the self without applying at least some conditions onto others. Lately, these conditions can be sneaky and are often paired with deep healings of past conditions and wounds. For example, I have had the privilege of releasing some aspects of my shame around menstruating. These releases have been potent and reach down into some core shame I have been carrying for being born a woman. This shit is deep! I mean, imagine walking around carrying such a deep shame about who you are for something you absolutely cannot help. I know you don’t have to imagine it because I know you have your own version of this kind of shame. I haven’t met a person yet who doesn’t carry shame for shit that is ridiculously innate to who they are . . . I mean most of us are ashamed of our own shit . . . literally our poop . . . but we all fucking do it daily! Ugh, don’t get me started. Anyways, these healings around my menstruation (which are ongoing) came through me learning to treat my blood time sacred. I started this process by taking the three days of my heavy bleeding completely off. This wasn’t a challenging stretch for me because my cramps have been debilitatingly painful since my first period and often take me onto my back . . . at times causing me to vomit from the intensity of the pain but more often leading to me wordlessly writhing around holding my womb and gritting my teeth. During this time of holding my bleeding as sacred, I discovered mystical truths about my moon time. I discovered that this blood heals me . . . that it connects me to Nature . . . that it gives me the courage to speak suppressed truths . . . that it helps me release things that I have collected that do not serve me . . . that it connects me to my animal self that grunts and groans/ and moans and yells/ and shits and bleeds/ and knows exactly what it needs to be free . . . that it is basically a monthly truth bringer . . . offering natural support for my journey toward seeing and living my true self. It’s hard to really sum up in words just how meaningful these learnings and unlearnings were to me. My period had always been the bane of my existence and now it was transforming into this quite special . . . quite precious . . . and yes, sacred, time. These experiences allowed me to begin to release the prerequisite of “being like a man” in order to be worthy. Here was this aspect of my life . . . unique to my having a woman’s body . . . that was potent, powerful, and undeniably worthy of being honored.
Needless to say, I was pumped by this realization. And, innocently, I wanted to share it with every bleeding human who ever felt ashamed of their blood. Sneakily though, I unconsciously put “taking my moontime off” on my worthiness list. I started to stress out if some event would come up that might prevent me from having those days completely off. And then, I also projected this belief onto others. As this belief was still fighting the good fight against my not fully released “be like a man” belief, it looked for backup. As I met other women who shared this belief, I allowed myself to start thinking that all women should take their bleeding days off. There’s that word that, when used the way I use it, has conditionality allll over and inside of it . . . that can only ever exist within a right versus wrong paradigm . . . that offers all the foundation that shame and blame need to exist. Soooo I went from love to shame in only a few moves. And I’ve seen so many others do the exact same thing. Seemingly, it’s really easy to take some epiphany that has been very personally meaningful and translate it to some sort of universal truth whereby we entitle ourselves to police ourselves and others around the purported outcome of said epiphany. During a time when so many of us are having these kinds of epiphanies, this subtle policing around nouveaux values is pretty freakin’ rampant. I’ve seen it happen around very tender topics like menstruation, sexuality, and relationship, as well as more outward topics like the environment, medicine, and politics. I’ve participated in and seen it happen on personal levels, at retreats, on social media . . . from both participants and facilitators/teachers alike. And of course, it’s all completely understandable. For me, it happens along my innocent journey that seeks to reach toward unconditional worthiness, but still has quite a bit of conditional worthiness to wade through. What can I say . . . I was conditioned to be conditional . . . hehe.
It has been helpful for me, along said journey, to recognize both when I’m doing it and when it’s being done to me. I’ve watched myself, from this scared little self that is terrified of being unworthy, dictate to other people how shit should be in general, how they should be, and under the guise of an epiphany that does in fact carry some true wisdom, subtly shame someone for not living from my new truth. And, I’ve felt in turn, subtly shamed for not living from someone else’s genuinely wise epiphany. What a fucking spin we can all live in if we’re trying to live up to all these conditions!
I find my peace again in my belly when I remind myself of the beautiful and highly unique experience of life that each of us are having . . . when I remind myself that my truth and experiences don’t invalidate yours, even if they are paradoxically contradictory. And maybe, just maybe, the more I notice when this shame and blame drama is coming from me or toward me, the more I can bring some damn compassion to those tender parts of myself that play that game, to remember just how terrified I am when I play. Then perhaps, I won’t put “shaming others/allowing myself to be shamed” on my list of conditions.
The thing is, I’m realizing as I’m writing, that in order for me to have true and lasting compassion for the shame/blame game, whether subtle or not, I really need to acquaint myself better with that part of me that is so desperate for constructed worthiness. I believe we need worthiness to live as much as we need food or air. I think that’s why we all are so adept at constructing reasons to find ourselves worthy when we lack the knowledge of our innate worthiness. This necessity could be part of the reason why some of us kill ourselves when we feel no longer able to generate such worthiness . . . and why it can feel as scary as death when we are facing and releasing stories that have served to validate our worthiness. So, really, when I see shaming and blaming in myself or others, I am really seeing the result of a vulnerable fear of worthlessness, one that so many of us share, and express in such colorfully variable ways. Those of us who share it do because we haven’t felt our inherent, unconditional, and sacred worthiness in a lasting and wholly permeating way. Some of us don’t even believe in sacredness. I used to be in that category and still struggle with owning my new beliefs in certain circles. Some of us learned that sacredness comes with conditions. Such is the human condition at this time, perhaps? Then you are all my siblings on this wild path. How brave we all are to simply exist in such a collective climate where the worthiness of our very existence is uncertain! It is this bravery that I will nod to next time I meet shame in the shadows.
(Side note: I won’t deny that there may be some universal truths . . . some aspects of Life that are uniformly applicable to all humans. I have no idea what they might be . . . perhaps something to do with Love. But I don’t believe that these truths will be heard or received if they’re served up via the vehicle of shame. I do believe that if I or anyone ever come to truly know and understand such a truth to its depths, it will be impossible to serve up via anything but some delicious life-affirming, self-affirming, compassionate, even if fierce, fucking Love.)