“Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a young poet
I love Rilke’s Letters to a young poet for many reasons. It resonates very deeply and always re-ignites some old fire that I thought dead. Today I chose this quote to create a scene to my post. Self-worth.
This is an interesting topic.. It has its roots within our birth and our parents’ birth; it continues during our childhood and gets entangled with multiple layers of family history and dynamics, old wounding, social pressure and so on.. it’s endless. And it’s universal. Anyone will experience a sense of unworthiness at some stage.
What I have observed about self-worth is that we act out, out of fear, desperately wanting recognition, seeking validation and love. We desperately want to feel and hear that we are ok. And when we are not getting this message, our defenses come up very fast. This can be powerful, nasty and quite destructive. And so painful.
I know I can be vulnerable around that area. One minute I feel powerful, centered and in harmony with myself and the world. The next, my strength is crumbled and I feel I am under attack. A word, a tone of voice, an absence of reaction, a dismissed comment. Anything..and my sense of worth is triggered. This is quite perverse and well wired in my brain.
I see it happens to all of us all the time, in various ways. It’s like a bad habits that we can’t get rid of. We keep this quiet, rather wanting to forget about such negative and archaic feeling or behaviour, ashamed. No, I’m not like that. I used to do this, but not anymore!
This is like a perverse creature that lives next to us, like a faithful dog seating near his adored master. But this is not a loving dog. This an old dragon, ready to jump on our shoulder to whisper its filthy method and burn everything around us…
This is so well integrated that it is often quite difficult to discern what is happening within us. It happens so rapidly. We feel under attack. In one instant, we have to defend ourselves. And the core issue becomes disappeared by a mis-led judgment, a nasty comment or an argument.
So what do we do with this now..
Awareness is a good start. Being aware of our behaviours and why we act like we do. Being aware of our triggers and their sources. The trap by which we get caught so easily..
Being brave helps. Showing our vulnerability instead of falling into an argument or a bitter silence. This does not have to be a battle field. This is an opportunity to grow.
And a bit of practice…
What I noticed is that when we feel threatened and our defenses are risen, we lose our sense of security. Gone the strength, the warrior woman becomes a cauliflower or something.. and with the strength goes the brain…our sense of reality has disappeared in one instant.
And because this is a well used path, it is often difficult to break the cycle, the rythm. When I enter this tricky space where I feel unsafe, instead of putting my armour, I try to connect with my heart. If I manage that, I will be in touch with my vulnerability and will be able to connect in a different way. I have failed many times.
When we decide to change a bad habit, it takes time, repetition, patience, tenacity… It is the same for building our resilience to unworthiness.. It will take time and our patience and tenacity will be eroded… But this is worth it. Let’s try again. And again. Isn’t that our aim anyway? to grow?
Feeling worthy gives us freedom and power. A gift.
I have mentioned Brené Brown’s research and books in a previous post. Her book I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t) has brought some great light on shame and vulnerability, and the impact on our identity development, and on cultural and social norms. Shame is like having some kind of lid over our head or our heart, which deny our rights to grow. Strongly connected to self-worth.