As I look at my aspirations for the coming year, I must stop and examine my sense of worth. Is my sense of worth the key to my future manifestations? Are my lofty goals at the mercy of my beliefs about what I deserve? I am starting to believe that the only thing standing in the way of my dreams is me. If I believe I am not worthy of my goals, they will never happen. And as an adult, I have the ability to adjust my own feelings of worthiness, so that I can reach my full potential. I have the ability to say “yes” to my dreams.

But there’s a problem. My sense of worth is marred down by years of messages about my unworthiness. I certainly wasn’t born this way. I see that in my own children. They think they should be able to do anything. They think they should have anything they want. They think they could be anything. It is only the adults (specifically the parents at first) who tell them otherwise.

And I don’t mean those conversations where we tell our children they can be anything they want. We all have those. I am talking about the subtle messages. “You can’t do that. It is too hard. Let me do it for you. You aren’t very good at that. I wasn’t either so it makes sense. You are always giving up so easily. You should be more patient.” And on and on and on.

In my childhood, the messages of unworthiness were reinforced with physical, emotional and sexual abuse, leading me to believe that my only purpose was as a punching bag or sexual object for grown-ups. I was told many times I was only good for those things. And I learned that was true through years and years of abuse.

But as I continue my recovery, I have learned what happens when an abused child turns their attention from their parents to their friends in the teenage years. They do what every other child does. They recreate the relationships they formed with their parents. If they have a respectful relationship with their parents, they will build respectful relationships with their friends, knowing when to say no to peer pressure, knowing how to be vulnerable when they are hurting. If they have controlling parents, they might become a bully or the target of bullies. And if they were abused by their parents, they will inevitably be abused by their friends and partners.

So as I uncover the ways that I was abused by my “friends”, I uncover yet another layer of unworthiness that was piled on my parents’ foundation. My middle and high school friends let me know that I was not pretty enough, rich enough, smart enough, talented enough and cool enough. They took all of their own internalized messages of hate and insecurity and placed them squarely on me. Of course, this happens to all teenagers, but I was different. I was primed to internalize it all. Not only did I believe every word of it, I was not able to process it on a cognitive level because of my own dissociation. It became stored in a way that my adult brain could not access.

So as I continue to process these memories of abuse, I find countless experiences where I was, once again, left to feel unworthy. And these experiences were instigated by other children and teenagers who were in their own pain. Yet, I carried them around as truths to live by. Imagine, a traumatized fifteen-year-old saying something that would be considered a truth to live by. Granted, my parents were no better than most fifteen-year-olds (or five-year-olds) in their distorted view of the world.

And so, my own inner obstacles continue to unfold before me. As I ask what is holding me back from my life’s purpose, I am answered again and again with new examples of the abuses I experienced. Over the past several years, I have discovered an inner self-hatred that is so severe, it is hard to stay present in my body. I have discovered a false inner belief of a hierarchy which places me below many others, and unfortunately, places me above others as well.

Who am I worthy to interact with and who is worthy of interacting with me? How do I make that decision? What qualifications must they have to be better than me? What qualifications are they missing if they are not deserving of my company? It is a deeply disturbing sense-making strategy that an abused teenager employed so that sanity would remain in reach. And as I unravel it, I must be kind to myself while letting go of the ridiculous abuses from those teenagers who didn’t know what they were talking about.

And so I reject those statements of unworthiness.

And I reject the idea that there is something in this world that I cannot attain.

And I reject the social hierarchy I invented to make sense of a horrible abusive world.

I reject all these things, so I can stop rejecting me.