Low self-worth is the scourge of our times. So many people are in despair. Henry, for example, is one of many who came to see me desperately unhappy with himself and his life. He has a job he’s never progressed in, he and his girlfriend are unhappy – they criticize and shame each other but stay together. He feels terrified when he thinks of his money situation. He is addicted to some self-destructive activities but it’s the only way he knows to soothe himself so he isn’t managing to stop. But most of all, he has a terrible hatred of himself. He feels he’s a loser, a nothing. He’s done nothing with his life, made nothing of himself and has no worth at all.
He slumps over in the chair in my therapy room, shoulders stooped and his head bowed into his hands. He feels there is no hope.
I know that there is.
How did this happen? How did he get here? As we look back together over his life choices we can trace a clear and direct line to this moment of awful hopelessness.
Henry, like so many others, has systematically made choices and taken actions that were not what he most wanted. He has consistently overridden the truth that first urged, whispered or nudged him, then jumped up and down shouting and waving its arms at him and finally sledgehammered at him. Yet even when it sledgehammered, he didn’t follow its call. Now he feels bruised by life and doesn’t know why.
What do I mean?
Over his lifetime he has repeatedly accepted treatment from others that made him feel bad, he did things that left him with shame and guilt but continued to do them, he compromised on what he most wanted in order to keep the peace. He chose partners who made him feel bad and stayed with them even as he saw they were treating him poorly. He felt bad, he felt sad, he felt mad – but he turned away from these feelings that were screaming at him to stop doing what he was doing. Instead he continued to choose these things that felt bad to him.
And now he’s surprised that his life has turned out so unsatisfyingly.
Henry is at a T-junction. He’s come to see me now because some part of him knows that he can’t continue this way and survive.
When I tell him about listening to your Truth hope flickers in his eyes but quickly dies away when he realizes he has to be led out of the mess by a man he despises and distrusts. Himself. He hasn’t earned his own trust with the choices he’s made.
“I should have done this long ago!” he wails, “Now it’s too late. I’ve made such a mess of my life.”
“The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago”, I respond, quoting a Chinese proverb, “The next best time is now.”
“If you don’t start paying attention to how you feel and letting that guide you towards what you most want and need, how will this play out for you?” I want to know, “In other words, if you continue with more of the same, what do you predict for yourself?”
“I’ll die alone in a cold ditch somewhere.” He says with certainty.
“You have a lot of years still ahead of you”, I say, “It’s a pity to throw them away when you could actually enjoy the rest of your life.”
His homework after our emotional session is to look at the choice that faces him. There is no middle ground here. At this point he either turns left or right. He either commits to begin making choices that honor his personal preferences and thereby start creating a life that feels better and more hopeful to him, or he gives up on himself, continues to dismiss his own feelings and condemns himself to a slow and miserable death ‘in a cold ditch somewhere’.
It seems like a no-brainer but actually it’s a tough choice because it’s much more familiar to him to continue down the path he’s on. To change is always difficult because our reptilian brain protects the familiar and warns us away from the new.
There’s no way I can explain to him how good it will feel the minute he starts to take actions based on what feels better to him. He’s going to have to experience that for himself. And he’s going to have to start overcoming the self-hatred and work with himself in order to allow himself a life that feels better. This choice is not small and it’s not easy. But it’s absolutely, completely, totally possible and within his reach. He just has to choose it.
Each of us does.
Are you turning towards what you know makes you happy most of the time or do you, like Henry, make excuses for why you can’t have it? How’s that working out for you?
You can change your life from this very moment just by starting to listen to your own Truth..
If you loved yourself, what would you choose to do now?