Who Made You Feel Unworthy?

If you've been acquainted with me for some time, you might have noticed a recurring pattern: I begin projects with a burst of enthusiasm, I'm somewhat consistent for six months to a year, and then, suddenly, I disappear.

Who Made You Feel Unworthy?
Micheal Sinclair, esquire. Worthiness defense attorney.

The Wound

If you've been acquainted with me for some time, you might have noticed a recurring pattern: I begin projects with a burst of enthusiasm, I'm somewhat consistent for six months to a year, and then, suddenly, I disappear. I used to blame a lack of talent for not realizing my projects, but deep down, I knew the truth was more complex. It was self-sabotage β€” a bad habit of not fully committing, holding back my efforts, & then taking the projects' failure as validation that I was correct to not give it my all.

The sad truth is, I've probably never tried my best at anything I've ever worked on out of fear that my best might not be good enough. I recognized that this habit of self-sabotage would prevent me from being able to create anything truly meaningful in the world so towards the end of 2023, I became very interested in understanding why I did this to myself. I became determined to get to the bottom of the issue so that I could release it and start to produce the work that I know I'm called to do. Through a journey of self-inquiry & mirror work with some close & not so close friends, I got to the bottom of it. And what I found at the bottom of it was a long-neglected, deep-seated wound of unworthiness.

Moment of Reflection

Have you ever noticed how your deepest fears can sabotage your best efforts?

The Trigger

I was riding in the car with my ex-partner when her uncle, Otha, called. Otha & I had just met for the first time a few weeks prior & since she'd put him on speakerphone, I overheard him say that he really enjoyed speaking to me & that he found me very insightful. I felt the same way about him. He's a 82 year old retired psychologist. A black 82 year old retired psychologist, at that, so it's safe to say that I was pretty enamored while listening to him talk about his experiences in his practice. It was easy to talk to him for a couple hours when we met as we shared a mutual love & appreciation of studying human nature. So, hearing Otha's praise of me, you would expect his words to have made me feel proud, appreciated, or admired, especially coming from someone I held in such high regard. But I didn't feel any of those positive things at all. What I felt was disbelief. I distinctly remember hearing the words "I don't believe you" echo in my mind when I first heard what he said about me.

Now, it's important to note that Otha didn't know that I could hear him – so it wasn't like he was just saying something nice for the sake of saying something nice. Also, I don't know if you've met many elderly black men in your life but in my experience they're generally not the type to lie about how they feel. When I realized that both of those things were true it became very apparent to me that I didn't believe his kind words, not because he had any reason to be deceptive, but because I didn't believe them about myself. I did not feel worthy of them.

This experience transported me back to many other instances in my life when someone would compliment me & on the surface I'd show gratitude, mostly to not offend who complimented me, but deep down there was always this part of me that felt like what they were saying wasn't true or that they didn't really mean it. Struggling to accept compliments has been a consistent expression of my feelings of unworthiness throughout much of my life. And typically I would attribute it to my belief that people lie about how they feel about me but after this experience with Otha, I had to face the fact that it wasn't others who couldn't see my worthiness at the present moment - it was me.

Moment of Reflection

Can you recall a time when someone's praise felt more like a spotlight on your insecurities?

The Epiphany

The unworthiness I unearthed was accompanied by a lot of guilt, as if I were at fault for feeling the way I did. And that took me back to another time in my life where I felt guilty. When the boy in the featured picture first began to feel guilty of being soft. Guilty of being weird. Guilty of being black. Guilty of being poor. I realized that these aspects of my identity, which I had felt guilty about since childhood, were the very roots of my current feelings of unworthiness. It became clear to me that what I felt guilty about then had laid the foundation for my sense of unworthiness now.

And then it dawned on me: I did not come into this world feeling unworthy, nor feeling different for being soft, black, poor, or perceived as weird. These identities I had come to accept as defining me, must have been imposed from external sources.

That realization brought me to a crucial question, one that promised a path to finally releasing these feelings of unworthiness once & for all.

And the question that emerged, simple yet profound, was:

"Who made you feel unworthy?"

Spoiler Alert: It wasn't me!

Initially, I directed my blame towards society at large, reasoning that the coldness of the world & its ignorant people must be responsible for how I felt. But as I honestly reflected, I had to acknowledge that my interactions with 'the world' have been predominantly positive throughout my life. That's not to say I wasn't occasionally treated poorly by strangers but these instances are dwarfed by the numerous positive encounters, akin to my experience with Otha, where almost strangers spoke life into & uplifted me.

Having ruled out both myself & society at large as the culprits of my ingrained feelings of unworthiness, I was left with only one other possibility:

My family.

It became so obvious - the unworthiness that I've been burdened with my whole life originated from the people who had the most access to me during my formative years. The people who were most present in the early stages of my identity development, who had significant sway over my self-perception and the beliefs I held about myself. These were the individuals who presumably knew me best, yet their inability to accept me how I was had inadvertently caused a core wound of unworthiness.

It was my mother & her inability to affirm me. It was her always having criticism or punishment ready when I fell short but rarely ever praise, words of admiration, or support when I excelled. It was her constant reminders that we were poor - subtly ingraining the belief that because we had less, I deserve less from others & from life itself.

It was my father & his decision to effectively abandon me. His first born son who looked just like him, idolized him, & wanted nothing more than to be just like him. It was his indifference to my existence & my desire for him. Like, how could I not feel unworthy when my hero lived 5 minutes away from me & yet I'd go weeks, months, & years without seeing him or hearing from him.

It was my brother & older cousins constantly challenging my manhood. It was being made to feel like being sensitive made me less of a man. It was having to fight physically, mentally, and emotionally for the right to exist on what seemed like a daily basis.

These repeated lessons, taught through words, actions, and inactions, deeply ingrained the belief that I was unworthy of acceptance in my authentic state. It led me to think that to succeed in this world, I needed to change who I was. And that's why, even though I had accepted myself fully now as an adult, I still doubted whether others could.

Moment of Reflection

How has your family’s history shaped your views on love, acceptance, and worthiness?

The Absolution

It's complicated. While there is a deep, underlying love among my family, expressing this love positively has always been a challenge. Our struggle to manifest this love in affirmative ways isn't due to its absence. Rather, it stems from a legacy of trauma that has, over generations, constrained our hearts and limited our expressions.

I know that the reason why my mother couldn't affirm me is because she didn't feel affirmed herself.

I know that the reason why my father couldn't show up for me is because he felt that his parents didn't show up for him.

I know that the reason why my brother & cousins were so rough with me is because they grew up in environments where men were expected to be rough. And if you weren't rough, you were destined to be a victim. So regardless to how much it hurt me, their attempts to toughen me up came from a place of wanting me to survive.

I know that ultimately my family is not to blame for my feelings of unworthiness because they are victims themselves. We are entangled in what I see as an 'unworthiness conspiracy' – a generational curse that has been perpetuating itself within our family, and maybe within yours, for far too long.

It's essential to identify the individuals who made us feel unworthy, not to cast blame or shame upon them, but to liberate ourselves of the guilt that feeling unworthy brings with it. This recognition allows us to understand that what we once considered indisputable facts about our unworthiness were, in reality, projections of others' pain. By acknowledging this, we can let go of the unfounded judgments of others that we've held onto for far too long and fully embark on the journey towards developing a healed sense of worthiness based on what we know about ourselves instead of what others told us about ourselves.

The featured picture really struck me as I began to do this work because I feel like I look like a little lawyer who is making an objection & it was around this age that I started to feel like my worthiness was put on trial. Back in those days, I was unequipped to challenge the unwarranted judgments placed upon me. Without the words, knowledge, or evidence, I internalized the false narrative of my unworthiness. This belief, deeply ingrained, led to a hidden self-loathing that shadowed much of my life.

But now, standing on the other side of those challenging years, I've gathered what that younger version of myself needed the most. I've found my words – words of self-compassion, understanding, & acceptance. I've gained the knowledge – the knowledge that others' attempts to make me feel unworthy in the past were projections of their own pain & not because there was something actually wrong with me. And most importantly, I've discovered the evidence – evidence that has affirmed that I am valued by my community as my authentic self. That there are people who think highly of me and value what I have to offer.

Unfortunately for the introverts among us, I've found that the worthiness wound isn't a wound that can be healed in isolation. But even with that being true, the first step to healing the wound is identifying why you feel unworthy, who made you feel unworthy, and then doing your best to release the blockages you've created between how you show up and how you want to show up deep down. By doing this you'll naturally attract people into your life who will make you feel worthy as you are. And then you, like I, will have everything you need to successfully defend your worthiness. But the most beautiful part about it all is that when that time comes, I'm willing to bet you'll no longer feel the need to.

Growth Challenge

This week's challenge is an invitation to embark on a journey of self-discovery, similar to what I shared in this newsletter. Here’s how you can participate:

  1. Find a Childhood Photo: Select a photo from your childhood, ideally from an age when your self-perception was just starting to form.
  2. Reflect Deeply: Spend time with this photo. Meditate or find some other way to get quiet. Try to immerse yourself in the feelings and experiences of your younger self.
  3. Ask the Key Question: When you feel connected to that childhood moment, gently ask yourself, "Who made me feel unworthy?"
  4. Journal Your Insights: If you feel inclined, write down your thoughts and feelings. This practice can unveil insights from your inner child – insights about patterns and cycles in your adult life that may no longer serve you.
  5. Proceed with Care: Remember, this exercise might surface deep emotions. Treat yourself with kindness and seek support if these feelings become overwhelming.

Our inner child has so much it wants to share with us. It knows many of the reasons why we find ourselves stuck in cycles that aren't serving us as adults. By channeling our inner child with the intention of healing, we bring light to the shadows of our past - illuminating a new path forward.

Weird & Worthy Merch!

Weird & Worthy t-shirts (and mugs!) are now available for purchase and you can follow the link below to get yours!

Grow with Micheal Sinclair Merch
Various items to celebrate your growth & evolution!

If you missed out on the origin of the "Weird & Worthy" gear, check out this post where I talk more in depth about it.

Weird & Worthy
As a sensitive child, I felt very weird. I was often told that boys are not supposed to be sensitive. I navigated the world through feelings & this often led to me being misunderstood, ridiculed, & excluded by those I wanted acceptance from the most.

Thank you!

I want to send a special thank you to everyone who has already subscribed to 'Grow with Micheal Sinclair'! You all helped blow my initial subscriber goal out of the water & I'm incredibly grateful. I'm really excited about what we're building here and the work we'll be doing together.

Next week's newsletter:

What to do when the person you love the most discards you.

Thanks for joining me this week. I hope you found this newsletter helpful or that it served you in some way. I'd love it if you left a comment to let me know which parts resonated with you. Please subscribe below if you haven't already and if you found this newsletter valuable, please share it with someone who you think will also value it. Until next week πŸ’œ