I believe in worthiness. Each human being is inherently worthy. You are worthy. I am worthy. We are born worthy. It is only the voices of our fathers or mothers, lovers, teachers, siblings, so called friends, institutions, media, society that can take our worthiness away. Or it is us. Our own voice inside our head telling us that we are not good enough, we are damned to hell, we are rotten to the core. Through my work, I essentially try to convince or show 15 court-ordered teenage girls that they are worthy. I am fighting against years of abuse or neglect, unhealthy addictions, bad role modeling, failed hope, lost love, fear, pain and anger. I stand in the classroom looking into the eyes of these girls-becoming-women, as I try to show them what I see: this kernel, or seed, of worthiness, buried deep beneath the mire of self-judgment, court-orders, low self-esteem, drug and alcohol hangovers, doubt of their place in this world, even doubt that they can stay alive in this world. I see the spark of passionate, concerned, alive worthiness in them. Do they?
I remember just some weeks ago when my husband and I sat around the dinner table, talking, as we often do. We came to a major realization: He grew up believing he was not worthy and had to work all his life to try to be worthy; I grew up believing I was inherently worthy. I have many people to thank for that, but mostly my Mom. Every day after school, she would reverse the voices inside my head that said you’re too shy, you’re dumb, you’re not popular, you’re ugly. She would, through her actions and words, put those judgmental voices to rest and reassure me that I was beautiful, I was smart, I was fun, and I just hadn’t let it out yet for the world to see, which, of course, was very me. As a baby and starting to walk, I would practice in my crib while no one was watching. I’d pull myself up on the rails, toodle around a bit, and the instant someone walked in, I would sit down as if I had been watching the ceiling doing nothing. When I finally did reveal my walking, I was ready and must have known I was worthy, because I did it well and with gusto.
Now what to do with someone who grew up thinking they’re not worthy, like my husband? You tell them time and time and time again that “you are worthy.” Until they cry and you cry, and you hug in appreciation of each other. Like that scene in “Good Will Hunting,” sometimes you have to keep telling it until it becomes real. You are worthy. You are worthy. You are worthy. You may not believe me because of years, even decades, of training, beliefs, abuse or neglect – which so many of us have suffered – but you are. I know it. You are worthy. This I believe.
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