“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.

photo (9)

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.

i thouht it was just me Brene Brown


7 thoughts on “Brave

  1. Hi Caroline,

    Good post! I’m reading it in patong, Phuket and it suddenly occurred to me that I should let you know how I shall be teaching on narcissism and compassion in Brisbane on march 1-3 for Sophia college’s Buddhist psychotherapy. Counsellors can attend as p.d. Or prt of a diploma in buddhist psychotherapy. I think you might enjoy it as it is a mix of experiential and academic, but a bit like a retreat in a small group. Spiritual but not religious or didactic. And, of. Course, psychotherapeutic.

    Anyway, I look forward to talking with you on 4th march.

    Warmest wishes,


    Sent from my iPad

    • Hello Jacqui! Good to hear from you.. & Thank you!! It did not flow but I have enjoyed the process and the reflections.
      I would be very interested to attend. However We will be on holiday going down NSW for a week. I realize now that we have scheduled our session for the 4th!! re-schedule to the 11th?

    • Thank you Anne.. Sujet souvent douloureux n’est-ce pas? Un apprentissage lent mais qui vaut la peine!
      Tes mots m’encouragent comme toujours.. Merci Cherie!

  2. Thank you Caro. Your post really resonated with me. I am aware that we often do things and say things that go straight to the identity of those we are closest to, sometimes without realising it. I know this because I still struggle with my reaction to things, exactly like you talked about in your post. By reading your post I was reminded of a seminar I attended many years ago (when I was in my teens and really struggling with my identity and lack of worth). I heard a story by the presenter, Craig Hill, about his son, Joshua, and a hamburger. I couldn’t remember the details but I found the story on the internet. I love it and I think you will really appreciate the message – how our words, attitudes, and actions have the ability to empower or disable.
    Craig was in a restaurant with his family. His four-year-old son, Joshua, ordered a hamburger. The hamburger was far too big for Joshua to eat without it being cut, so Craig simply reached over and cut the hamburger in half. Joshua looked at his father with a look of anguish, shock and disbelief. With tears starting to roll down his face, he said, “You ruined it! I’m not going to eat it. Fix it, Daddy.” Craig said, “I can’t fix it, Josh. What do you want me to do? Get some super glue and glue it back together?”
    Craig tried for several minutes to convince Joshua that the hamburger would taste the same whether it was cut or not. He even offered to get a new hamburger to no avail. Nothing would work to stop Joshua crying. Eventually Craig prayed, “How can I get Joshua to eat his hamburger?”
    The answer that came back was, “Repent and ask your son’s forgiveness”. Craig’s response was something along the lines of, “Why should I repent? I am right. I can’t repent, if I’m the one who’s right. He should eat his hamburger, and I was right to cut it, because it was too big for him to handle.”
    However Craig eventually began to realise that the hamburger wasn’t the issue. When his son said, ‘You ruined it,’ he wasn’t talking about the hamburger, he was talking about his value as a son, and the value that his father had placed on him. At that time his identity was crushed and his value as a person and as a son was ruined, not the hamburger.
    Craig realised that when he reached over and cut the food on Joshua’s plate, he didn’t extend him the courtesy of communicating with him his intentions and when Joshua reacted like he did, he continued to treat him as if he were the one with the problem and didn’t acknowledge his feeling on the matter.
    Craig did eventually listen to his heart and turned to his son and asked, “Joshua, have I made you feel as though you’re not very important to me?” The answer was, “Yes.” “Did you feel that Daddy got in your space without asking first?” Again, the answer was “Yes”. Then Craig said, “Joshua, I’m sorry. I can now see that I was very wrong to treat you that way. I should have talked to you before I cut your food. Will you forgive me?” He replied, “Yes, Daddy.” And at that Joshua was happy to eat the cut hamburger.
    What I find incredible is that we can all relate to both the father and the son in this story!
    I really want to thank you for your post and for your honesty. Thank you that I have now been reminded about what I learnt all those years ago about identity and speaking to the heart of a person’s worth – and especially thank you that I will be more aware of this (not only when someone cuts my hamburger but when I do the cutting!). Keep your stunning insightfulness coming xx

    • Thank you so much Kirsty for sharing this story! I feel encouraged by your words, but most by your sharing and experience with others this week. Beautiful syncronicity!

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