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  • John Thomas Dodson

Unlearning unworthiness

Updated: Feb 18, 2019

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
This is a sign you can believe in.

The person we want most to love us is ourself. But when we attempt to bring love to ourself, ..., we discover that we sometimes think we don't deserve it.


We have somehow come to think that it's not appropriate to love ourselves -- that we're not worthy of self-love -- because we have lost our natural love of ourselves, our natural self-respect.


We let go of our sense of unworthiness not by submitting it to the ax or trying to control or suppress it, but by giving it enough room to see its own workings.


We are worthy of letting go of our unworthiness. If we did nothing but practice letting go of unworthiness, much of the stuff we're working so hard to clear away would have no support system.


The work which will awaken us is that of becoming keenly aware of unworthiness without judging it. Gently, with patience and a lot of love, we acknowledge the being we really are.

Stephen Levine: A Gradual Awakening


In selecting the extracts from Stephen Levine's chapter on The Sense of Unworthiness that can be found in his extraordinary book, my interest was in focusing on something that seems to be common among those of us who take this path. Because there is an impulse to "improve" ourselves, we may have bought into the idea that there is something "wrong" with us; something that has to be changed before we can really get anywhere. If this were true, the basis of the practice would be a well intentioned form of self-attack. But this path is based on non-violence, and non-violence begins at home. Non-violence grows outward from the interior seed of self-love.

Reading the passages you might notice the skillful technique of addressing this tendency toward the sense of unworthiness: Letting go.

What are we letting of of?

The lie. We are letting go of something that was never true.

We are relinquishing the concepts of self that we have unconsciously taken to be true without examination. We are letting go of the sense of self as being someone who is fundamentally flawed. We are releasing the ego's need to be soothed by getting mired in feeling unworthy so that someone else can bestow the antidote of being found worthy. Ultimately we are letting go of the ego/personality belief that keeps us stuck in this need for self-pity by holding ourselves pitiable. We are letting go of unworthiness itself, and, in doing so, we are acknowledging that everyone, every being, is worthy of self-respect, worthy of self-love.


Including us.

We are reclaiming something that we may have thought we had lost along the way. We are realizing that we are actually worthy of our own love in this very moment.

A few words in the final sentence reveal the way out: "We acknowledge the being we really are." It's the present tense that we should notice here. We are not talking about the being we will become but the being that is here right NOW.

In other words we are worthy of this love as we are. There isn't something we have to fix before we can be worthy. There's nothing missing that has to be supplied by someone or something else before we can become worthy.

We are here in this world -- with all our humanity -- worthy of self-love while we are in these conditions.

We are worthy of our own love while we are exactly LIKE THIS.

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