Feeling Worthless And What To Do About It
Updated February 25, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Chante’ Gamby, LCSW
Positive self-worth is necessary for overall happiness in life. While people with high self-esteem feel good about themselves, those with low self-esteem often struggle with shame and feelings of worthlessness. Childhood trauma, abusive relationships, loss as an adult, and the trials and tribulations of life can leave one feeling as if they don't have any value. Over time, feelings of insignificance can creep in and cause a person to feel worthless and not know what to do about it.
Fortunately, our brains are flexible, and these feelings of self-doubt don't have to last forever. We can gradually stop feeling worthless by getting rid of all the negativity other people have imposed on our minds, and develop skills to prevent it from happening again. Our worth is within us; it's just covered with the dust and grime of years of criticisms and put-downs received from others and ourselves. It's never too late to change things and live a happier and healthier life.
Talking through the reasons you feel worthless with a trained therapist, and what you can do about it, is the first crucial step in regaining your sense of self-worth. A trained therapist can provide you with unconditional acceptance, listen to you, and won't judge you; it's unlikely that friends and family can offer the same objectivity. In fact, they may be the very people who made you feel worthless in the first place.
Feeling worthless can lead to eating disorders, self-harming behavior, addiction, and other complex issues that are difficult to overcome without the help of a trained therapist. Betterhelp online counseling is a great option because it can take place in the comfort of your home. Also, the fee for online therapy is much cheaper than traditional counseling, especially for those who are on a budget or don't have health insurance that covers counseling.
While going through the therapy process, there are other small steps that you can take to help yourself overcome your feelings of inadequacy.
The next step is to set realistic goals for yourself. You may feel worthless because your expectations for yourself are too high. It's unlikely that you could lose 20 pounds in a month or get a top executive job within a year of leaving college. Set realistic, achievable goals and don't strive for perfection. Every unrealistic goal you don't meet will increase your feelings of worthlessness, and every realistic goal you meet will decrease your feelings of worthlessness. Make a list of achievable goals that you can work on today and start accomplishing them one by one.
Do Something For Someone Else
Nothing makes us feel more useful and worthwhile than helping someone in need. Volunteer at the local homeless shelter or a nursing home. Be generous with your compliments and empathy, show them that you genuinely care. These people, like you, are feeling worthless. It's one of those rare win-win situations: the homeless and aged will feel that they are worth something after all, and so will you. If you are looking for ways to help, check out organizations in your community or get matched online.
Stop Telling Lies About Yourself
If you feel worthless, you're also probably desperate for acceptance, and to achieve acceptance, you lie about yourself.
Do you pretend to know nothing about art, even though you're an expert, for fear of being called a know-it-all or a nerd? Do you pretend to know everything about quantum physics, even though you don't, for fear of being thought stupid? After all, your science teacher said you would never amount to anything because you couldn't understand how a potato creates electricity.
Feeling worthless leads you into being dishonest about what you know and what you don't, and lying about yourself to get acceptance from others will leave you feeling worthless. It's a vicious cycle.
Break the cycle by taking small steps towards telling the truth about yourself. Remind yourself that no matter what you do, there will be some people who will not give you acceptance, so why bother to lie? Every time you lie about yourself your feelings of worthlessness increase. Tell the truth about yourself, and you will be accepted by people who have the same interests as you do, and you will regain your sense of worth.
Don't Make Comparisons
It's not unusual for parents to compare their children with others. The neighbor's child got straight A's, and you didn't, your second cousin is obedient, and you aren't, and so on. As a child, you take this in like a sponge, and it doesn't take long for you to decide that one way or another, everybody is better than you.
And it's not only parents that make these comparisons; you may have a partner who points out who is better looking than you, or a better provider, or a better lover. This can become a pattern and leave you feeling worthless as you start to continue the comparisons yourself.
You are uniquely you for a reason. Be courageous and tell your family and partner this every time they compare you with someone else. As you begin to accept yourself, your feelings of worthlessness will start to dissipate.
Rid Yourself Of Toxic Relationships
The very relationships that you cherish may be the reason why you are feeling worthless in the first place. Your family may be in the habit of criticizing whatever you do and making you feel worthless, and your friends and colleagues may have their self-esteem issues and feel better about themselves when they make others feel small. You may be in an abusive relationship. Whatever the motive for the cruel joke, the unkind comment, the cutting criticism, your first step is to confront the person who is undermining your sense of self-worth.
Tell them that what they said made you feel bad about yourself and ask them why they said it. Have the courage to disagree with them. If you're feeling comfortable that they're listening to you and are empathetic, have an open discussion about how your sense of self-worth has been eroded over the years because of the constant bombardment of criticism.
The people that you confront this way are likely to have one of two reactions; they will either be horrified that they have caused you pain by making you feel worthless, or they will try to further undermine your sense of self-worth by calling you over-sensitive or lacking a sense of humor.
Embrace those that were thoughtlessly unkind and forgive them, and keep your mind open to the possibility of walking away from the others. It may take you a few minutes to decide to leave your partner or walk away from a family member, or it may take years. Trust yourself to know when the time is right, especially if the situations leave you feeling worthless over and over again.
Watch Your Words
I feel worthless. You're probably repeating this mantra to yourself many times a day. This isn't to say that the words are being spoken out loud though. Keep a written list of how many times "I feel worthless" pops into your head during one day, or that you say it out loud, and write down what caused you to think or say it. Study the list at the end of the day and investigate what evidence there is to prove your worthlessness. Did you forget to buy the milk, cheat on your diet, spend time chatting with a friend instead of doing the chores? The chances are that you're beating yourself up over the normal small bumbles of daily life and deserve forgiveness from yourself instead of criticism.
The next time "I feel worthless" pops into your head, or you say it loud, ask yourself if what you did or didn't do warrants the harsh self-criticism. Probably not.
Every time you catch yourself thinking or saying "I feel worthless," follow it up with an emphatic positive affirmation like "I am worthy!"
Surround yourself with other positive affirmations and inspirational quotes. Paste them to your bathroom mirror, the refrigerator, and the back of the toilet door. Say them out loud whenever you see them. Write "I am worthy!" on Post-It notes and stick them on your steering wheel and computer. Say them out loud whenever you see them.
Here are a few inspirational quotes to start off with:
"You are not worthless. Even if you've been called that your entire life." Kevin Walker
"The only person worth being in your life is a person that will never make you feel worthless." Shannon L. Adler
"You were never created to live depressed, defeated, guilty, condemned, ashamed or unworthy. We were created to be victorious." Joel Osteen
Google and find inspirational quotes that have meaning for you. The fact there are hundreds proves that you are not alone.
If none of the tips below help you stop feeling worthless, contact BetterHelp and start your journey to overcome your feelings of worthlessness and uncover the worth inside you.