4 Ways to be Worthy

I’ve been pondering “worthiness” lately, as I’m becoming more aware of it and making conscious decisions based on what is valuable and important to me. In our society, worth matters. We all perceive it somewhat differently, but I’ve noticed some obvious similarities; we default to monetary, social, appearance-based, merit-based, and skill-based measurements. Worthiness is defined as: “having adequate or great merit, character, or value… or of commendable excellence or merit; deserving.” But who gets to determine the exact measurement that equals worth? Is there one?

In working on and discovering my own worthiness, I’ve been wondering how to measure it in others, or really, if I even should be measuring (even my own) at all. It seems we all come up against this issue at some point. For instance, with any person-to-person interaction (i.e. a party, work, or family gathering) these quick, sometimes unconscious questions pop up and we answer them (perhaps intentionally or unintentionally) with our responses. Kind of like a social networking thing, but in all interactions: Who should I talk to? Is this person worth my time (will it be fun, or boring? Helpful to them or me, or make things worse)? How much should I tell this person? Why should I talk to this person? Why am I even here? What can I get out of this conversation? Or maybe you have a test. Can this person increase my worth? Will talking or associating with them increase my (job, education, social) status?

I feel like those are all question of worth and value, and it’s all so very individualistic. Can you prove someone’s worthiness? Do you have a criteria? Do you deem someone “worthy” based on your experiences with them, their relation to you, their accolades, their celebrity, or perhaps on gossip you’ve heard about them? Or do you just not think on it or acknowledge it at all?

The question of worthiness has been an unresolved nuisance on my mind, so I googled “How to determine someone else’s worthiness,” and didn’t get much respite there. Most of the sites listed were for credit score worthiness. Fun. But what I did find in my quick, internet-y research, was that there were a ton of helpful resources for working on your own self-worth.

It made me wonder if the underlying issue when measuring others, is that in order to do just that, we have to use the same stick to measure ourselves. What is our own worthiness? How do I measure up next to this person? If I decide they measure greater, *cue feelings of insecurity* what will they think of me? What will they get out of talking to me? How can I get them to think highly of my worthiness, too? Do they even want to talk to me? Me, me, me. The question is then, not who is worthy, but am I worthy?

In my Googling, I came across an article about worthiness that I really enjoyed. It postulates that worthiness is learned early in our lives. Summarizing quite a bit, Nanice Ellis states in the article I found, Worthiness — A Key to Emotional Healing, that we learn right from wrong and what is deserving and underserving in elementary school. We then go on to use those metrics to determine worthiness and strive to prove it for the rest of our lives:

If we do what we are told and we fit in with the group dynamic, we receive rewards and our emotional needs are met. However, if we think for ourselves, and we do not fit in, no rewards come; leaving us feeling emotionally punished by disapproval, disappointment and the withholding of love by those in authority. In other words, we are deemed unworthy.
Society teaches us that worthiness is directly connected to our future and ongoing success in the world. Therefore, we must possess worthiness in order to have purpose, make money, and attract a life partner; just as being poor, having no partner, or no direction in life directly relates to unworthiness.

Okay, so assuming we learned early in our lives that we are unworthy, how do we go about correcting that belief so we can enjoy our lives a bit more? I discovered a few helpful ideas:

1. Turn off the worthiness program. Eliis gives this advice:

In order to turn off the worthiness program, you must stop acting like your worth is conditional — and you must stop believing that you need to improve or change in any way, in order to gain worth. Looking to the outside world of people or things for your worth keeps you trapped in a vicious cycle with no way out… It takes courage to find yourself unconditionally worthy but you are the only one who can do it.
If you have difficulty claiming your worth, at the very least stop pursuing it. In fact, instead of spending the rest of your life trying to prove your worth, what if it was okay to be unworthy? What if you just gave in to unworthiness? This may sound like a silly thing to say but if you have the courage to give in to unworthiness by giving up the search for worth, the illusion of conditional worth will shatter, and you will likely discover that you are already worthy.

2. Stop chasing (or clamoring or scratching for) what you think will make you worthy. Chela Davison says in her article How Do You Measure Your Worth:

…We have unique ways of trying to measure or reinforce our worth. But by the very nature of this being an immeasurable thing, our unique ways of measuring our worth actually become our own personal compass for reinforcing our experience of unworthiness.
As we pay closer and closer attention to the moves we make in order to be worthy, we can begin to really feel that the very thing we chase that we believe will bolster our self-worth, is the very thing that reinforces our fears of worthlessness. If we can see it and stay with it and even share it with others in a trusted space, we can start to see this way of assessing how we’re doing or what we’re worth as not only inaccurate, but simply as a mechanism to our humanity that needn’t hold the hook it currently holds. From there, our behaviors can be an expression of joy, freedom, love or whatever actually fuels us and others, rather than a clamoring and scratching for our acceptable place in the world.

3. Try accepting or acknowledging a belief that your worth is actually a gift, given to you by a higher power. The article What does the Bible Say About Self-Worth? says:

The Bible actually has many passages that tell us what God has to say about our worth and our value in His eyes. Genesis 1:26–27 says we are made in His image, the very image of God. Psalm 139:13–16 says we are fearfully and wonderfully made, and all the days of our lives were written in God’s book before we were ever born, confirming God’s prior knowledge and plan for our lives. Ephesians 1:4 says God chose His children before the foundations of the earth were ever formed, and in Ephesians 1:13–14 we’re told we are God’s own possession, chosen for the praise of His glory, and that we have an inheritance in heaven with Him as His children.But notice the wording in each of the above phrases: “are made,” “are fearfully and wonderfully made,” “were written,” “God chose His children,” “we are God’s own possession,” and “we have an inheritance.”
These phrases all have one thing in common: they are things done to us or for us by God. These are not things we have done for ourselves, nor have we earned or deserved them. We are, in fact, merely the recipients of “all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). Therefore, we can conclude that our worth is not really of the “self” at all; rather, it is worth given to us by God. We are of inestimable value to Him because of the price He paid to make us worthy — the death of His Son on the cross.

4. Recognize that “there are no prerequisites for worthiness”. This Huffington Post article shares Dr. Brené Brown’s thoughts on worthiness and where it comes from as she talks with Oprah:

If you’ve ever felt unworthy — because of your weight, your job, your relationship or any other fill-in-the-blank reason — shame and vulnerability researcher Dr. Brené Brown has a message she wants you to hear loud and clear: There are no prerequisites for worthiness.
“Most of us think, ‘I’m pretty worthy of love and belonging — but I’d be super worthy of love and belonging if I could lose 15 pounds,’” Brown says…”’[Or] I made partner. Or my wife doesn’t leave. Or I stay sober’ –- or whatever our thing is.”
In reality, none of that matters. “Worthiness is an as-is, here and now proposition,” she says. “And to me, that’s the definition of wholeheartedness. Wholeheartedness is about engaging with the world from a place of worthiness.”

I’m at the early stage of figuring out what worthiness is, being aware of it, and figuring out what it means to me. I’m not sure where I stand with it yet, but I’m looking forward to doing some more exploring and experimenting.

“You are imperfect, you are wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.” - Dr. Brene Brown.