Beyond “Not Good Enough”: Breaking the Cycle of Unworthiness and Embracing Your Deservingness

For ten years, I spent 1,000 yuan on wholesale markets and bought several bags of clothes. I couldn’t wear any of them out on the street, but I just couldn’t change them… The scariest thing is that I didn’t want to buy anything that was even slightly more expensive. “Aren’t they all the same?” “You must be a vain person if you love brands so much.” In fact, it’s because I can’t bear to part with it, it’s too expensive, and another subconscious feeling is that I shouldn’t, how can I use such a good thing? ? It will fall off, get damaged, cause trouble…

I always feel uneasy and uneasy when facing any good things. I always feel that such things are a waste of money in the hands of a rough person like me. And the strange thing is that good things usually end up bad when I get them. It fell off or disappeared. Later, my psychiatrist analyzed that it is because you subconsciously feel that you are not worthy of good things…

We hope for good things to happen, but sometimes, when good things happen to us, we dare not have them. It can be as small as a beautiful piece of clothing, as large as an ideal partner, or a coveted life opportunity.

If you are always like this, timid in front of the things you really want, read this article today.


People who believe they are not good enough will also have a rejection reaction to praise.

There is a concept in psychology: deservingness, which is a person’s belief in what he or she deserves. It affects our psychological experience and behavior in every aspect.

Psychological counselor @ Cui Qinglong once mentioned such a psychology on his Weibo: after being praised, he feels uncomfortable all over, and even feels that the other person is not sincere. His explanation is that the experience of being praised goes beyond a person’s experience and self-perception, so that people cannot believe that it is sincere:

“The injured shameful self from experience has become emotionally convinced that I am a bad and unlovable person.”

People have an inner obsession with “who do I think they are”. Sometimes in order to maintain the inner self-belief, some good content will be rejected. Even if that self-belief is untrue.

I once saw a question on Zhihu: Why don’t I dare to succeed? The girl who asked the question said that at many turning points in life, she could obviously reach a higher level through hard work, but she was screwed up by herself:

◍ There was a period of time in high school when my hard work in studying attracted the attention of the teacher, and I began to panic: because I felt that being a top student should not be my identity label.
◍ Later, I started to lose weight and lost 10 pounds. When I was about to enter the slimming stage, I suddenly felt that there was no way I could have such a goddess figure, so I gave up.
◍ Later, I received an offer from a very good company, and this pattern began to repeat itself, because my inner understanding of myself was that of an ordinary clerk.

Such examples are everywhere in life. I have a friend who went on a date with a very good boy some time ago. The boy was also very good to her, but when she described the relationship to me, she repeatedly emphasized that she would not expect too much from it and felt that she was not worthy of it: “People who introduced him to me must think highly of me.” “Such an outstanding person must be Neptune. He must be so kind to all girls.”

You see, sometimes we are like this, clinging to our own inherent beliefs and not daring to try or get anything beyond this belief.


Deserve Psychology: Why do we feel “unworthy”?

Many studies on the sense of deservingness have found that this feeling of unworthiness often comes from a negative cycle of “I’m not good – I don’t deserve it – I can’t get it.”

“I’m not good”

“I’m not good” refers to some negative self-beliefs. “I’m not a lovable person”, “I can only be an ordinary person”, “I don’t deserve to be loved”, these inner beliefs are often related to some bad experiences in our past.

For example, the experience of being discriminated against, being rejected, and being isolated. Another example is when we expressed our needs in our early years, we did not receive a response from our parents, and we were even punished and criticized.

These bad things not only cause harm to us, but also make us feel uncontrollable. In order to resist this uncontrollability, we often rationalize these experiences. A common way is to self-attribute:

It’s because I’m not good that I’m going through something like this.

Psychologists point out that self-attribution is an adaptive function: by blaming yourself for problems, belittling and hurting yourself, you can inject meaning into a completely random event and make it controllable again.

When this self-attribution is repeatedly reinforced, the self-belief “I am not good” is formed.

“I do not deserve”

This negative self-belief will in turn affect our self-esteem level, and then affect our sense of deservingness: Because I am not good, I don’t deserve good things (good mood/partners and friends/work/living environment).

Several studies on self-esteem levels and feelings of deservingness have found that the belief “I’m not good” affects a person’s sense of deservingness in all aspects:

Subjects with low self-esteem will be more willing to immerse themselves in sad emotions and lack the motivation to be happy, because they feel that they should not feel better, and sadness is their own emotion.

When they do something, they tend to predict less favorable outcomes.

It is easier for them to screen and identify with others’ negative evaluations of themselves than to appreciate and praise them.

can’t get

A person who believes that he is not worthy of good things will find ways to verify his belief, such as rejecting a boy who treats him well/a good job opportunity, procrastinating, being late before important interviews/exams, giving up directly, and using various methods to test his belief. Reasons to stay in a draining relationship/job.

And this further solidifies the self-belief: You see, I just don’t deserve it. A new cycle begins again.


Realizing that “bad experiences ≠ I am not good” is the beginning of gaining a sense of deservingness.

To break this cycle, the first thing to realize is that those bad experiences in the past were not because you were bad.

We just said that after bad things happen, we tend to self-attribute to explain the event and make it meaningful: I am experiencing this because I am bad.

But this is often untrue. If we look at it objectively, the responsibility for these incidents that have caused harm to us does not actually lie with us, and it has nothing to do with what we have done or who we are.

Psychologists point out that the reason why we do this is to gain a sense of control in the face of harm: everyone has a basic understanding of “what the world is like and what I am like”. When this understanding When we are consistent with the external world, we will feel that the world is orderly and controllable, and everyone can get what they deserve. (Hafer & Bègue, 2005; Lerner, 1980).

When bad things happen, we find it disturbing that how others treat us is completely out of our control. In order to resist this strong insecurity, we attribute the cause to ourselves to regain a sense of control. Even if it’s not our fault at all.

And this effort to gain a sense of control will burden us with responsibilities that do not belong to us. When explaining this coping mechanism, researchers once mentioned the phenomenon that some victims of sexual assault will give meaning to the incident of sexual assault by belittling and finding fault with themselves.

But this comes at a high cost: for the rest of life, people will devalue themselves to maintain this negative self-belief, even if it is not true.

When talking about a sense of deservingness, the most common explanation is “low self-esteem.” But today’s article does not want to tell you what to do about low self-esteem. Because “low self-esteem” is not your inherent label, it is just a way of coping with the uncertain choices you face from the outside world.

What I want to tell you is:

Those bad experiences are really not your fault, and they don’t explain at all what kind of person you are. You don’t need to shoulder the responsibilities of others on yourself.

Many times, change occurs at the moment of “understanding.” When the belief that “I am not good” begins to loosen, some changes will naturally occur.

May one day you can have those things that you “deserve” with peace of mind.

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