Central to the story of every struggle that someone has shared with me is the underlying notion that if only they were more worthy and deserving, they would have got what they needed and wanted, or they could be who they truly are. Believing that we are sufficiently good, interesting, valuable, worthwhile is central to any notions we have of self-worth. When we treat and regard ourselves like a worthwhile and valuable person, our confidence rises in accordance because of that. It’s why I say that self-esteem is the sum of the thoughts we feed us and the way that we treat us.

But while worth is an undoubtedly, ahem, worthy subject, and we do need to live and breathe the fact that we are always worth more than crumbs, I’ve realised that there is something fundamental that we are not grasping as humans. It’s this:

Our needs and wants have nothing whatsoever to do with how worthy and deserving we are. No-thing.

It hit me when someone told me that they don’t feel worthy of meeting their needs. This same person though, like so many of us, runs around meeting other people’s needs and wants. But when I think about how I interact with loved ones like my daughters, husband and even the dog, what I do or don’t do is never on the basis of me going, OK, so you want/need such-and-such. Let me just check my receipts list to see if you’re worthy and deserving. I don’t decide if I should feed them, let them sleep, be kind to them, have boundaries or anything else based on a notion of worthiness and deservedness. No. And they don’t do it either.

We’re just humans (and a dog) being and doing. So, how the hell have I managed to go almost forty-three frickin’ years grappling with feelings of unworthiness and deservedness, albeit at lesser and lesser levels than ever before? My self-concept that drove me to people-pleasing, perfectionism, overthinking and being in unavailable and shady relationships was based on worthiness and deservedness. It stemmed from the idea that if only I had been more this and less that, and basically worthy and deserving, my parents would have met my needs and wants. Bad things wouldn’t have happened to me. People would respect my boundaries. Hell, I would respect my boundaries. This is all completely untrue.

The whole ‘I am worthy and deserving (or not) of my needs and wants’ is about our inner narrative. It drives our interactions and sets us up for a fall.

If we go into a relationship from a place of believing that our needs and wants, as well as what happens in the world, who this person will or won’t be, and how this relationship will turn out are all based on our worthiness and deservedness, we are already on the back foot. Here’s how it works:

  • To assume that something is about worth is to assume that our worth is already in question. Otherwise, we’d just crack on and show up. We would show up as an equal instead of like an auditionee.
  • Because our worth is in doubt though, whether it’s to prove our worth or to try and control the outcome, we consciously and unconsciously adjust ourselves. Like with people-pleasing.
  • If we’re making things about our worthiness and deservedness, this anoints anyone connected to something we need or want as more ‘powerful’. This means that can engage with a total stranger on Tinder and end up feeling disappointed and wounded if they don’t turn into who we want.
  • But how can worthiness even be assessed? It can’t. We’re just making it up. We’re making up our own unworthiness and also blowing smoke up other people’s bottoms by making out like ‘something about us’ made them be and do as they did.
  • Assuming that everything is about being worthy and deserving makes everything super personal. It means that we are always ‘efforting’ to influence and control other people’s feelings and behaviour so that we can feel worthy enough to get what we need and want.
  • But all this does is make us feel even more unworthy.

Life isn’t about worthiness and deservedness. It doesn’t work on brownie points or a gold-star system. The only person who is coming in with any reference point on our worthiness and deservedness is us.

Bad things happen to good people, good things happen to bad people, and people can and will disappoint no matter how lovely we are. People can and will also fail to live up to our expectations even if we haven’t done anything ‘wrong’ and have bust a gut to be The Most Perfect Person On Earth TM. 

No matter how much people-pleasing and efforting we engage in, it will not make us any more worthy and deserving of a different person or a different outcome.

Good people do and don’t have what they need and want. And not-so-great people do and don’t have what they need and want. It’s got shag-all to do with worthy and deservedness. If it did, we would not live in the world we do right now.

Our needs and wants just are. They exist, and they aren’t based on a merit system. We are already worthy and deserving, but also, our needs and wants have nothing to do with these anyway.

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