Are you creating hell out Heaven with unworthiness? If you have a pulse, you have probably had the experience of thinking or hearing something good about you and the thought that next runs through your mind is, “No, you’re not.” For me, this unworthiness came in the deep seated belief that “I’m not good enough.” No matter what I did, no matter how high I jumped, it was never enough.
I would get an “A” on a graduate school paper and think, “They obviously didn’t read it.” I’d get an “A” on a grad school exam and think “That was too easy.” I discounted whatever I did to the point that I would quit. After all, why should I bother, I would never measure up anyway. This unworthiness was undermining all that was good about me and validating my negative thoughts.
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We each have our own stories, our myths about ourselves, about our lives, about the people and the world around us. One Sunday morning, as I was carrying our suitcases to the car in Vancouver, British Columbia, I saw a bumper sticker that read, “Don’t believe everything you think.” That says it all. We hold our myths, our truths, to be sacred, yet all too often these truths are fairy tales—perhaps, even horror stories that we have made up—and then we live our life according to these fables.
When I was 8 years old, my dad sold his 160 acre farm—all the cows, pigs, chickens, lambs and my horse. We left the big farm house and the wide open spaces of southern Minnesota for a small apartment above a motel that he bought in Iowa. I did not want to move. It was explained to me that my brother, who was 17 years old, did not want to farm and was moving to San Diego after graduation. And since I couldn’t do the work he did, and my dad didn’t want to do all the work himself, the farm had to be sold.
But what I heard was: I’m not good enough, I’m not capable and it was my fault we had to sell the farm. For many years, not good enough ran my life. For far too many years I lived my life with this perception. I accepted evidence that I was not good enough and added it as proof to support my perception.
One day many years later at a family reunion, one of my uncles asked my dad why he sold the farm. He replied that my brother didn’t want to farm and that I was only 8 years old at the time. An 8-year-old could not do the work of a 17-year-old and that at the age of 45, my dad didn’t want to do all the hard work himself.
My jaw hit the floor. Oh my god I thought—all these years I believed it was because I wasn’t good enough, and it was really about the fact that an 8-year-old cannot do the work of a 17-year-old. In that moment, my perception, the myth that I had been living was shattered.
I really do believe that we are born to be happy and that our lives are meant to be abundant. I believe that each of us has all the tools and resources that we need for this lifetime and that our job is to learn how to use them. I believe that we are here to love and be loved.
And yet as much as I believe in the power of the mind, I don’t believe in ferry dust. I don’t believe that you can magically shut off this old negative thought process of unworthiness and live life in a wonderland of positive thoughts. You are human and if you are reading this, you still have a pulse; you will have negative thoughts and experience emotions of hurt, fear and sadness. It is OK that you have thoughts of unworthiness. Acknowledge and accept your negative thoughts as a part of being human. Acknowledging and accepting the existence of thoughts and beliefs of unworthiness doesn’t mean that they have to run your life!
Fortunately there are tools for working with negative thoughts: Bring to mind your negative chatter. (“I’m not good enough.” “I’m not important.” Or, whatever your unworthy thinking may be.) Listen to it. Is it your voice or someone else’s? Now take this chatter and turn it into a cartoon character like Daffy Duck, Teletubby, Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig or Olive Oil. What happens to the power of that chatter? It becomes comical, doesn’t it?
Now bring it back again in its original voice, get it running in your head and then imagine it emanating from your big toe. Again, the power diminishes. Finally, bring it back one more time in its original voice, get it running and then shrink it down to the size of a postage stamp. If you are right-handed, place it in the far left hand corner of the room on the floor. (Left-handed people place it in the far right hand corner of the room on the floor). What happened? It’s gone, isn’t it?
All three of these techniques are Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) techniques. They are powerful interrupters to get you out of the negative trance of that chatter. And yes, when you are in that chatter, you are in a trance.
Is your alarm clock a pleasant sound? Mine isn’t! How about the smoke detectors in your home? Mine are loud and obnoxious. Alarm clocks and smoke detectors are wakeup calls, attention getters. You need to break that trance just as an alarm clock shatters your sleep. You need to create a call to a different action.
To this day, there is not a day that goes by that I do not hear “Not good enough, Roger.” But where it used to be an anchor, it’s now a friend—it’s my wakeup call, a call to action. The message now is “Stop coasting, Roger, be your best. Be enough.”
What is the opposite or positive statement that can be created from your thoughts of unworthiness? For example, if you typically tell yourself: “I can’t win…every time I try something new I fail,” then the next time you start to run that tape, replace it with a positive counter statement. Such as: “I am a winner…I have wonderful ideas that produce great results.” Or, if you say to yourself: “Why bother with dieting…I always regain the pounds I’ve lost,” think instead: “I now have the tools and ability to permanently release my excess weight.”
The key is to learn to monitor your thoughts, to be mindful, so you catch these insidious negative thoughts of unworthiness before they become further ingrained in your subconscious. Your mind can generate health, wealth and happiness as easily as illness, poverty and despair. Are you creating hell out of Heaven or heaven out of Hell? Are you healthy, wealthy and happy all the time?
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First Published October 29, 2012