Gary Zukav
Photo: Azgar Donmaz/E+/Getty Images
What is unworthiness? It's the experience of having parts of your personality say, "I'm not worthy." For example, they might say, "I am unworthy of the love that I have in my life, or the wealth that I have." More commonly, they might say, "I am unworthy of the happiness that I feel." Thoughts such as "It's too good to be true," and "This can't last forever because it is too good" are experiences of unworthiness. You feel unworthy of what the universe has given you, you feel that you do not deserve it, that the other shoe will fall, and it is only a matter of time before you will get what you really deserve, which will be painful.

Unworthiness is the inmost frightening thought that you do not belong, no matter how much you want to belong, that you are an outsider and will always be an outsider. It is the idea that you are flawed and cannot be fixed. It is wanting to be loved and feeling unlovable, or wanting to love and feeling that you are not capable of loving. It is the feeling that no matter what you do, it is not enough and that you are incurably inadequate, intrinsically and permanently flawed. It is the fear of people seeing you as you really are and the belief that if they did, they would not want anything to do with you.

Beneath all of this is the experience of powerlessness—of feeling powerless to be a real part of life, to love, to be loved, to affect the world, to be heard, to be worth hearing or to have something worth saying. It is self-loathing, self-hatred. The pain of powerlessness is excruciating. It is the most painful experience in the earth school, and everyone shares it.

Until recently, the pain of powerlessness has driven our evolution. It has caused us to reach outward continually, relentlessly, to change the world around us. Pursuing external power—the ability to manipulate and control—has been our way of avoiding the pain of powerlessness. Anything that we do to make ourselves feel worthy and safe is a flight from the pain of powerlessness. Every pursuit of external power—every attempt to change the world or a person in order to make yourself feel valuable and safe—is a distraction from the pain of powerlessness. All the distractions in the world cannot uproot the pain of powerlessness inside you.

Our history is a chronicle of the ways that we have attempted to escape from the pain of powerlessness, or said another way, the ways that we have pursued external power. Tribes fight tribes, siblings fight siblings, nations invade nations, individuals strive to become stronger than one another, or more seductive, educated, wealthy or famous. The list is as long as it is familiar.

The pursuit of external power surrounds us everywhere. We are continually attempting to mask the pain of powerlessness from ourselves, and others are continually doing the same. Driving every avaricious banker, sexual predator, workaholic, perfectionist and all attempts to exploit anything or anyone is fear of the pain of powerlessness and the need to escape it.

Our perception is now expanding beyond the five senses. We are becoming able to see the pursuit of external power for what it is and the futility of trying to escape the pain of powerlessness by changing the world. When we look inward, not outward, we can dismantle the parts of our personalities that have controlled us for so long—such as anger, jealousy, vindictiveness, superiority, inferiority. We realize we need to change ourselves instead of the world in order to liberate ourselves once and for always from the tormenting experiences of unworthiness.

Next: Choosing to act with patience

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