Unworthy? Who? Me?
I remember once in the ashram in Pune I saw the signs promoting the Unworthiness group that was about to happen. No way! I’m not gonna do that. God, it will be a room full of dorks, of people whose lives are just sooo hangdog!! While the group was on I would see the participants wandering round, and it occurred to me that they seemed OK, but who would be so shameless as to admit to having feelings of unworthiness?
So that was it for my delving into the realms of anything that connected me to unworthiness, that space of looking at those places where I felt myself to be not good enough. Existence though, can be a pain in the ass, and soon I was thrust into looking at very little else for quite some time. Later, I found myself in a personal, ‘love’ relationship which was pushing those unworthiness buttons daily, and somehow I just slotted right in there. I didn’t feel seen, I spent half my time begging for some crumbs of attention, ignoring everything my friends were telling me, what my guts were telling me, but there was something that I just had to see through.
What I was faced with was that all my ideas of who I was, desires of who I could be, were being sabotaged by some belief that I was unworthy of al the goodies I wanted and this was, so I thought, preventing me from moving on. And this was showing up in all my relationships, all my friendships, where there was always a place where I would give myself over in order to gain the love and nurturing I needed.
Of course this is what we all do. All of us have some stories of being in a relationship with a lover, friend, parent, where we felt walked on, where we waited for that phone call, for that email, where life was on hold until the other person (in effect) told us who we were. It is painful to watch others in it, and you feel like shaking them and telling them to drop it, move on, leave this guy/woman, it’s no good ….
Most of us don’t recognise that we have sold ourself because it seems so normal. We rationalise it with ‘life ain’t always a bed of roses’, or ‘soon it will be better when they realise how much they love me’, or ‘they’re gonna miss me when I’m gone’ that drives so many suicides. It is a basic unworthiness that we have taken on that rationalises that ‘this is all I can expect from my life’, that ‘I am not a dreamer’, ‘I’m practical’, ‘I know I can’t change things in my life, only the lucky ones can do that, ones with those genes, those parents, that background.’
This sense of unworthiness becomes such a part of how we live our lives that we don’t even imagine it is there. And yet so many of our dramas are based on it. We don’t want to know about it, which in part is why so few people relatively go and sit at the feet of a master, as he magnifies it. We make him a god and we worship him/her.
The master shows us what idiots we are. In theory the master helps us reconnect with our own essence, plugs us into the divine, and how we deal with that is also a reflection of our (un)worthiness. His role is to convince us that we are just fine as we are, that along with all the demons that we carry around, god can also be there.
We all know what it’s like to be surprised when someone keeps on loving us even as we have been total shitheads to them. It makes it difficult to receive from some people, cause we don’t feel worthy of being given something, love, a gift, always suspicious of what the price will eventually turn out to be. I’ve had people put their lives on hold indefinitely so as to be available for me, and that brought up masses of unworthiness.
I created all kinds of mental structures so I wouldn’t have to confront the enormity of the gift. I tried to negate the value of the gift so I didn’t have to feel unworthy. The same basic unworthiness. “How can anyone possibly love me like I am?” we ask.
In a way to go to a master is an admission of unworthiness, an admission that ‘I don’t feel completely at home in the world’, that actually, while in the deepest part of me I know that I am OK just the way I am, that existence has gone to a lot of trouble to bring me here, I have the belief that ‘there is something wrong, incomplete with how and who I am’.
All a master, and life, can do is to help us rediscover our own worthiness. To dignify our intent, the earnestness that makes us ask the question, to face not knowing the answer while knowing our lives depend on it. And in that sense anyone can be a master. I know I have learnt heaps from lovers, from friends, none of whom I saw as enlightened.
There are many workshops related to taking charge of your life, of connecting with the ‘magical being you were born to be’, so many teachers pointing to the moon. Why are so few of us living like that? Because underneath it all, we still feel we are unworthy. We have to drown out the feelings of unworthiness by getting other people to tell us how wonderful we are, we don’t go out when we are feeling down because we know we are unlovable. If we someone gives us a compliment, if we can receive it, we feel good because the unworthiness is gone for a moment.
The society that we live in generally reinforces the message that ‘we as we are’ are not good enough. We should be smarter, stronger, sexier, prettier, funnier; our humungous nose makes it impossible for anyone to love us and if they say they do then they are either stupid and so who cares what they think anyway, or they want something from us so we can’t trust them. We laugh when we see kids doing it, or on TV, but never when we see it in ourselves. Now there’s an option.
Published in the Here & Now magazine, September 2001
By Mark O'Brien