Feeling un-worthy is debilitating and aggravating, and it affects everything we do.
Like all of us, I got tired of feeling un-worthy; of feeling that I just wasn’t good enough. All the failures got to me: all the times I said, “But I used to be able too do that!”
What could I do about that “un-worthy” feeling?
There are many things we experience after a traumatic brain injury that are the direct result of the insult we suffer to our brain. Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy and Speech are three of the therapies we might go through to try and resolve the issues brought on directly by TBI. Doctors might write in our medical records that we can’t walk well, talk clearly, remember, have a good judgment, are depressed or have pain. These are some of the direct consequences that might come from a traumatic brain injury.
Other things, however, the indirect consequences of what happened to us, are every bit as real and debilitating to us, and the harsh truth is that some of them might be in our mind. An example of an indirect consequence is feeling unworthy: how our self-esteem is affected by our situation. Self-esteem, or sense of worth, is created by your thoughts, relationships and experiences, all of which are dramatically influenced by a TBI.
Feeling un-worthy then, is not caused by the direct insult to our brain, but rather, is the result of how we react to what has happened to us. Feeling un-worthy is a by-product of what our TBI has “done to us.”
There is really no way to directly treat the lack of self esteem we suffer following a TBI: we can’t take a pill or seek HBOT and have it directly addressed. Doctors indirectly treat our lack of self-esteem by hoping that restoring our skills and abilities will magically bring back our self-esteem and our feelings of self worth .
Feeling un-worthy has far-reaching and extremely damaging effects, because even as we work to regain some semblance of what we used to be, we are constantly influenced by nagging self-doubt, second guessing, and a lack of self-worth. More often than not, our predictions that we “can’t do this” or “can’t do that” come true, as our self-doubt turns us into our own worst enemy; continually beating ourselves up for what we can’t do anymore becomes common.
How can we deal with these feelings of un-worthiness that seem to sink their sharp claws into us, making us think we are incapable of success and not deserving of a better fate? There are a few adjustments we can make to our lives that may help us to regain our sense of worth and importance.
Joining a support group, while not necessarily a cure in itself, will get you to a place where there are like-minded individuals, struggling with the same issues. Realizing you are not alone in these matters is one of the greatest things that a support group can do for you. Talking about common issues can bring you face to face with how insidious brain injury is, and give you strength as you realize you’re not crazy in thinking these thoughts. Understanding that there are others with the same issues will give your thoughts and feelings validation, and give you ammunition in the fight to gain your self-worth.
Accomplishment, however small, is a great way to build your self-worth. There is no accomplishment too small that it won’t make a difference in how you feel about yourself. A simple to do list, written in the morning, and marked off during the day as things are done, gives you organization, focus, and a framework for you to succeed. Crossing things off your to do list can be a great source of pleasure. I even put things on my to do list that had already done, just so I could cross them out.
One of the most effective steps you can take in restoring your confidence and feelings of worthiness is to take the time to look at your role as a human being in the world. This means focusing less on accomplishments or things you “do”, and more on your “spirit” or what you “are”. Sometimes we get so caught up in what has changed because of TBI that we neglect what hasn’t changed. What hasn’t change is a fundamental Spirit or energy that you bring to life, and that spirit you bring to life is bigger than any physical thing you can or can’t do.
Refining and reworking your expectations, as well as the way you define yourself, levels out the playing field, giving you a chance to succeed on your own terms. Being realistic and accepting when it comes to your circumstances, in addition to being forgiving of yourself when things don’t go right, are crucial to feeling good about yourself. Remember, you want to feel good about yourself and what you do: do things for the right reasons and give yourself a foundation of goodness.
Self esteem and self-worth are not built overnight, and you usually can’t just turn off the “un-worthy faucet” overnight and feel better about yourself. It takes time and a concerted effort to, once again, tell yourself that you are a reliable, can-do person, but you have to start somewhere.
Learning about yourself and your new capabilities is an important step to take so you aren’t making the same mistakes over and over again. Building a positive foundation you can grow from comes from learning about yourself and then putting that knowledge into action by defining yourself based on your new reality.