- Feeling worthless
- Why am I feeling worthless?
- Self-help when you’re feeling worthless
- Where to get help
- What to Do When You’re Feeling Worthless
- 9 Tips to Overcome Feeling Worthless
- 1. Practice Yoga
- 2. Read About Others Who Have Overcome Challenges
- 3. Practice Self-Compassion
- 4. Meditate
- 5. Practice Mindfulness
- 6. Keep a Journal
- 7. Creative Therapies
- 8. Nature Walks
- 9. Talk to a Therapist
- Why Do I Feel Worthless?
- When Feeling Worthless May Be a Sign of Depression
- Types of Therapy to Treat Feeling Worthless
- How to Find a Therapist
- Final Thoughts on Feeling Worthless
- Understanding Worthlessness
- Find a Therapist
- Psychological Issues Associated with Worthlessness
- Therapy to Address Worthlessness
- Case Examples
- How To Conquer A Feeling Of Worthlessness
- What Use Are You?
- Worthy Of Love
- Worthy Of Prosperity
- What You Can Do Now
- Flip The Script
- Inspiration Guaranteed
- Don’t Measure Your Accomplishments Against Others
If you feel worthless, you may feel hopeless and insignificant. You may find you have feelings of guilt, or that you feel useless and ‘beyond help’. You may feel that you have nothing to offer the world.
This can make you feel that everything is wrong, and that there is nothing good in your life. It can be easy to focus on the negative aspects of your life, rather than the positive ones.
If low self-esteem (where you have a generally negative opinion of yourself) is causing you to feel worthless, then you may be very critical of yourself. You may avoid challenges or relationships for fear of being criticised, even becoming socially isolated. You may neglect your appearance or abuse alcohol or drugs. If you are experiencing any of these feelings, see your doctor for advice.
If you feel that someone’s life is in danger, including your own, call triple zero (000) or visit a hospital emergency department.
Why am I feeling worthless?
Several factors can contribute to a feeling of being worthless. It may be sparked by an event, such as a relationship breakdown, loss of a loved one, losing your job, or by an ongoing situation bullying, poor performance at school, abuse or financial pressure.
A person who was constantly criticised when young may form the negative core belief that they are worthless. A core belief is a deeply held assumption you have come to think about yourself or the world, your childhood experience. Our core beliefs drive our automatic thoughts.
If you persistently have low self-esteem, it can erode your confidence and leave you feeling insecure, unmotivated and cause you to feel worthless.
Feeling worthless can also be a symptom of depression, so make sure to get help by reaching out to your doctor and some of the organisations and helplines listed below.
Self-help when you’re feeling worthless
While arranging expert help, here are some things you can try yourself.
- Talk to someone you trust — even though you may feel withdrawing from social contact, connecting with people may help you feel better and add some perspective.
- Imagine you are helping a friend — think how you would advise a friend if they had negative thoughts about themselves. You would probably find all their good points and remind them about those, so why not try that on yourself. Challenge your negative thoughts.
- Make a list of your good points — write down your 3 best features (these might be physical characteristics — for example, that you have a nice smile — or they could be things about your character — for example, that you’re friendly). You could ask a friend or family member to help you with this. Carry the list with you and look at it whenever you feel negative to remind yourself of your good points.
- Turn negatives into positives — make a list of the main negatives in your life and work through these one by one. If you find you are blaming yourself for everything, try re-thinking each issue to see if there could be an alternative explanation. Then, try to work out what you can do to create some positive outcomes for each of your issues. You may want to ask someone you trust, a friend or family member, to help you with this.
- Remember happy times — think about times when you’ve had fun and enjoyed yourself in the past. Use these memories to help you plan a similar event for the future so you have something to look forward to.
- Get outside — getting some fresh air and sunlight can help improve mood. Interacting with nature or spending time with pets or other animals can also be a mood booster, as well as reducing stress.
- Stay active — try to get some exercise, or do some stretching. However small, any activity can lead to more energy and increase positive feelings.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs — while they may seem to help initially, in the long term, drugs and alcohol may worsen your situation and can disturb sleep patterns.
- Get enough sleep — sleep and mental health are closely linked. Developing a healthy sleep routine can help you get enough restful sleep.
- Eat a healthy diet — what you eat affects how you feel, and a poor diet can increase feelings of anxiety and depression. Eating well can improve your concentration, energy levels and sleep. Try to include fruits and vegetables, high fibre foods, fermented foods, olive oil and fish in your diet.
Where to get help
If it’s not an emergency, talking to your doctor is a good place to start. For what to do in an emergency see above.
Your doctor can help you by creating a mental health treatment plan, if necessary. Medicare rebates are available for sessions with mental health professionals. Your doctor can also prescribe medicines for depression or anxiety, if appropriate.
It can be hard to take the first step of reaching out to your doctor — here are some tips for talking to your doctor about mental health.
Remember, that all conversations with your doctor are private and they will keep your health information confidential.
If you’d to find out more or talk to someone else, here are some organisations that can help:
- MindSpot (anyone suffering from anxiety or depression) — call 1800 61 44 34.
- Beyond Blue (anyone feeling depressed or anxious) — call 1300 22 4636 or chat online.
- Black Dog Institute (people affected by depression and extreme mood swings) — online help.
- Lifeline (anyone experiencing a crisis or thinking about suicide) — call 13 11 14 or chat online.
- Suicide Call Back Service (anyone thinking about suicide) — call 1300 659 467.
- ReachOut (online mental health services for young people and their parents).
- Headspace (mental health information, group chat, and online communities).
- SANE Australia (mental health information, peer support and counselling support).
- MensLine Australia (telephone and online counselling service).
Last reviewed: September 2021
What to Do When You’re Feeling Worthless
If you feel worthless, you feel insignificant. Sometimes, these feelings can overlap with signs and symptoms of other mental health issues depression.
There are many reasons why you may feel worthless, including situational triggers, recent trauma, history of abuse or neglect, and long periods of low self-esteem.
Ways to cope include being kind to yourself, keeping a journal, and speaking with a therapist.
“It is extremely common to feel worthless—it is normal and you definitely aren’t alone,” says Charlotte Howard, Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist & Certified Group Psychotherapist. “However, it is only normal because so many people have repetitive painful experiences during childhood of not feeling good enough, or of being treated as though they don’t matter that much by their parents.”
9 Tips to Overcome Feeling Worthless
Fortunately, there are ways to support yourself and reduce these feelings of worthlessness so you can have a more compassionate inner monologue. If you feel worthless, try exercising your body and mind. Other ways to cope include being creative, getting out into nature, and talking to a therapist.
Here are nine tips to overcome feelings of worthlessness:
1. Practice Yoga
Yoga lets people express emotions through their body. In general, there are many benefits to exercising, but yoga takes it further with a goal of finding balance. When finding balance and an emotional equilibrium are at the center of your mind, it’s easier to recognize your worth.
2. Read About Others Who Have Overcome Challenges
When you internalize your feelings, it can be hard to distinguish between what’s real and what’s the result of prolonged negative feedback.
Shame makes it hard to accept your own positive attributes, but reading books about overcoming adversity, even when it’s internal, can be empowering.
When you experience stories other than your own, it’s validating. It can give you hope for something better.
3. Practice Self-Compassion
According to Dr. Howard, “To stop feeling worthless you need to develop a healthy relationship with yourself the way you would anyone else. Relate to yourself with compassion first and foremost and see if you can feel that in your heart.
You may have to imagine yourself as a child to get in touch with how innately worthy and valuable you are.
It will take work, time, and repetition to be a loving presence for yourself the way your parents and others should have growing up, but you definitely can stop feeling worthless if you are willing to do that for yourself.”
Meditation can help you slow down, process emotions differently, and react in a way that helps your own personal cause. It can also help you be more mindful and remember to speak to yourself with kindness and grace, even on the hard days.1
5. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness teaches you to embrace finding your inner voice and let it help guide you. Being mindful means being in the most conscious state of yourself. This is when you’re most self-aware and accepting.
6. Keep a Journal
Writing down your thoughts and reading them aloud can help you realize how you really feel. Journaling can help you identify negative thought patterns and explore where they come from and why.
7. Creative Therapies
Channeling emotions into art can be rewarding. Whether that art involves paint, music, or dance, it reminds you that there is beauty in all stories. It helps you see yourself through a different lens and recognize both the positive attributes and the imperfections. Creative therapies help you cultivate self-love and strength in the face of inner adversity.2
8. Nature Walks
There is a lot of research suggesting that spending time in nature helps reduce feelings of anxiety, depression, stress, and other mental health issues. Nature has a way of improving the mood. There is a strong connection between the time spent in nature and overall mental wellness.
9. Talk to a Therapist
Getting objective feedback and guidance from a professional is always going to be helpful to address any emotional distress you may be facing. Healing takes time and having someone objective on your team may be exactly what you need to change your inner critic’s voice.3
Why Do I Feel Worthless?
Many factors contribute to feelings of worthlessness. These feelings may come from the way you were raised, childhood trauma, past experiences, or underlying mental health concerns.
Common reasons people feel worthless include:
When Feeling Worthless May Be a Sign of Depression
It’s possible that long-term feelings of worthlessness are linked with underlying mental health issues depression. Common signs and symptoms of general mood disorders include withdrawal from usual activities, isolation, and feelings of hopelessness, shame, and guilt.
Types of Therapy to Treat Feeling Worthless
The best type of therapy modality for treating feelings of worthlessness depends on the individual. If you’re considering therapy, you might start by exploring narrative therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT):
- Narrative therapy helps individuals own and take control of their story by using empowering language. It helps individuals remain the leader in their life and supports self-determination.4
- In CBT, the therapist facilitates dialogue and engages you to identify negative thought patterns that impact your behavior and emotions. By getting to the root of the thought, this common form of therapy empowers you to reshape your experience.
How to Find a Therapist
One way to find a therapist is through word-of-mouth. Ask for recommendations from close friends and family members, but keep in mind, everyone is different. If, after talking to the recommended therapist, you don’t feel they’re a match, don’t get discouraged. Try using an online directory to locate someone in the right area with the appropriate expertise.
You can also ask your physician for recommendations. This sets them up to collaborate on treatment and potentially manage any medication. If you don’t have a primary care physician (PCP), locate a mental health provider from your in-network list of counselors. This information should be on the back of your insurance card. If not, call your insurance company to obtain a list.
Copays and coverage of treatment will depend on whether the provider you choose is in-network or out-of-network. It isn’t uncommon to have a copay, even with an in-network provider; however, many providers offer a sliding scale payment model. Be sure to ask!
Final Thoughts on Feeling Worthless
Remember, if you feel worthless, you’re not alone; a lot of people feel this way. There are ways to move forward and live a happy life.
If you need immediate help for suicidal ideation, call a friend or family member who you trust, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255), or 9-1-1.
If you can’t make a call, go to the nearest emergency room or inpatient psychiatric hospital.
Worthlessness can be described as a feeling of desperation and hopelessness. Individuals who feel worthless may feel insignificant, useless, or believe they have nothing valuable to offer the world.
People diagnosed with depression often report these feelings, and children who were neglected or abused may carry a sense of worthlessness into adulthood.
When worthlessness leads one to experience thoughts of suicide or causes other immediate crisis, it may be best to contact a crisis hotline or seek other help right away.
Worthlessness, a feeling that may cause an individual to feel as if they have no significance or purpose, can have a significant negative effect on emotional health.
A recent study conducted by researchers at Seoul National University found that feelings of worthlessness were significantly associated with lifetime suicide attempt in adults who reported major depression and had also experienced trauma.
The study concluded that, among symptoms of depression, worthlessness had the strongest association with lifetime suicide attempt.
Find a Therapist
Circumstances such as job loss, divorce, or financial difficulties can quickly cause someone to become overwhelmed, and those who experience one setback after another may be more ly to experience feelings of worthlessness and find themselves questioning whether their lives have any meaning.
People who experience worthlessness may find it difficult to see any aspect of life as positive and may believe there is no prospect of improvement. This perception is generally a distorted one and is often ly to result from underlying conditions such as depression, anxiety, grief, or stress.
The longer one experiences feelings of worthlessness, however, the more difficult it may be for them to overcome these feelings without help.
Feelings of worthlessness may develop into a prolonged state of negative mood, but they can also affect physical health.
A study evaluating the relationship between mortality and worthlessness in Chinese men 65 and older found worthlessness, all other symptoms of depression, was the only independent predictor of non-suicidal mortality in the approximately 2,000 individuals studied. Five years after the study, 18.
2% of the men who had reported feelings of self-worthlessness, but only 9.9% of the men who did not report feeling worthless, had died.
This may be due to a variety of reasons, such as the lihood that individuals experiencing feelings of worthlessness may be less ly to seek preventative health care or engage in health-promoting behaviors and may be more ly to smoke or engage in other behaviors shown to negatively affect health. They may also be more ly to lack social support. The study's authors suggested worthlessness should be recognized as a risk factor in mortality, especially in Chinese men older than 65.
Psychological Issues Associated with Worthlessness
In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, worthlessness is associated mainly with depression, but these feelings might also appear as symptoms of schizophrenia, anxiety, or on certain personality spectrums.
Strong feelings of worthlessness in children may be indicative of peer conflicts or neglect or abuse and should be taken seriously.
The feeling of worthlessness may also be related to other feelings, including hopelessness, guilt, persistent sadness, or loss of motivation.
Worthlessness may present in different ways. An individual might experience:
- Heavy, dull pain in the body
- Negative thoughts about oneself
- Tearfulness, despondency
- Social anxiety
- Loss of life purpose, diminished interest in life
- Thoughts of suicide
An individual who feels worthless may:
- Withdraw from relationships
- Abuse alcohol or drugs
- Have diminished emotional expression
- Continually verbalize negative thoughts
- Become lethargic
- Neglect self-care/activities of daily living, such as showering, eating, and washing one's clothes
Therapy to Address Worthlessness
When one's feelings of worthlessness go unaddressed, they may rapidly become overwhelming and interfere significantly with the ability to function. It may be difficult to cope with these feelings without professional help, and when worthlessness occurs as a symptom of depression or any mental health condition, other than immediate crisis, therapy is often beneficial.
Cognitive behavioral therapy, a type of therapy that helps individuals adjust their thoughts in order to positively influence emotions and behavior, has been shown to be effective for treating feelings of worthlessness.
Treating the condition that worthlessness occurs as a symptom of can also be a helpful method of treating feelings of worthlessness.
When an individual experiencing depression receives treatment for depression, for example, feelings of worthlessness are ly to abate.
- Feeling unlovable and insignificant: Greta, 29, sees a therapist. She reports that she feels crying all the time and that once she starts crying, she finds it difficult to stop. She feels insignificant, believing no one cares for her, and she tells the therapist she thinks she has no value as a person and no one will ever love her. Antidepressants, prescribed by a previous therapist, have helped her a little, but she says they cause her to feel anxious and lose sleep. They also have sexual side effects, and Greta believes her last relationship ended as a consequence of these side effects, which led to an increase in her feelings of worthlessness. She says she has considered suicide briefly, but not seriously, and admits to the therapist that she drinks too much and too frequently. After a few sessions, Greta reveals a sense of frustration with the path her life has taken and deep feelings of anger toward her parents, whom she describes as critical and distant. She tells the therapist that she chose her college and career in an attempt to win their approval, but her plan failed, leaving her unhappily employed at a job she does not enjoy. Therapy—and hard work in her personal life—helps Greta develop a sense of competence and increases her motivation to work toward what she truly desires for herself. This strengthens her sense of self, and she reports feeling hopeful for the future, which, she tells the therapist, she thought she would «never feel again.»
- Experiencing worthlessness while questioning sexual orientation: Derek, 14, is brought to therapy by his parents, who report that he shows little emotion, has withdrawn socially, and is suddenly performing poorly in school. His parents suspect drug use, telling the therapist that Derek's older sister showed the same signs when she was using drugs, but Derek strongly denies any drug use. The therapist meets alone with Derek and discovers he is questioning his sexual orientation and is afraid to tell his parents, who, he states, will not «let» him be gay. He tells the therapist there must be something wrong with him, and he must have a «disease» that makes him «think about other boys.» Through several sessions, the therapist works with Derek to address the negative beliefs he holds, relaying facts about sexual orientation without trying to convince Derek of anything. He tells Derek many young men have thoughts about other boys as part of normal sexual development, whether or not they later identify as gay, bisexual, or queer. He also tells Derek research has shown homosexuality is a normal sexual orientation, not a disease or an illness. After a few sessions, Derek reports an improvement in his depressed mood. He has been able to focus on his schoolwork and household responsibilities, and his parents are pleased with his progress. He tells the therapist he is not yet ready to tell them what caused his distress. Derek also expresses a wish to join a queer youth group, and the therapist helps him find a group nearby. Derek continues to attend therapy sessions on occasion and reports that the youth group is extremely helpful.
- Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5. (5th ed.). (2013). Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association.
- Mental Health; Investigators from Seoul National University Report New Data on Depression (Feelings of worthlessness, traumatic experience, and their comorbidity in relation to lifetime suicide attempt in community adults with major depressive disorder). (2014, August 11). Mental Health Weekly Digest, 44.
- Wong, S., Leung, J., & Woo, J. (2011). Main content area The relationship between worthlessness and mortality in a large cohort of Chinese elderly men. International Psychogeriatrics, 609-615. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S1041610210000724
How To Conquer A Feeling Of Worthlessness
“How to conquer a feeling of worthlessness.”
Sometimes it’s good to say a title out loud. It’s good to say any number of things out loud.
We spend so much time keeping a plethora of misshapen, silent things roiling around in the grey landscapes of our brains.
But saying things aloud ensures that certain topics occupy space in front of our eyes, wherein examining them occurs without the self-destructive inner mechanisms our psyches keep so well-oiled.
Read the title of this piece aloud.
Does the sound and feel of each word make you uneasy or defensive?
Is there something you don’t want to face because you think that, in some way, you are not enough?
That feeling? That’s where our first inkling of worthlessness crept in long ago: the feeling that we weren’t strong enough or smart enough or attractive enough or spiritual enough or loving enough or anything enough to even face turning a wrong into a right.
A feeling of weakness, of incompleteness, of wasted potential.
What Use Are You?
What use is anyone to themselves if they can’t love, find their true calling, or simply be happy and helpful to others?
That’s a daunting question, certainly one that needs an audible solution.
We’re told in a hundred different, damaging ways that we must be forever in transit, constantly moving toward something; we must be productive, we must be of use to someone, somehow, somewhere.
It’s rare, however, that we’re actually allowed to turn that notion inward towards being of use to ourselves.
Selfishness gets a bad reputation these days, but let’s concentrate here not with the inane, petty selfishness of holding onto possessions as tightly as possible, but the selfishness of actual “self.”
We may not feel that we deserve to sit in silence on a work day, but what’s more productive: a few moments of soul work? Or meeting goals established by someone else in the hope that it will be reflected in a paycheck?
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with first and foremost being of use to yourself.
If you’re going to heal, heal yourself.
If you’re going to love, love yourself.
We stand before the universe as a sieve: that which goes into us comes us.
Worthy Of Love
Perhaps the longest-lasting and most pervasive feeling of worthlessness comes from feeling that we’re somehow unloveable, which at times is true: sometimes we aren’t very loveable people.
But that’s a whole different animal from feeling we aren’t worthy of love.
This is often a life thread that leads back to our parents (or other authority figures in our formative years).
Yes, everyone says, “Blame the parents!” but we’ve no interest in blaming: we’re here for analysis. Parents are excellent at making the smaller beings we start out as remain the inner children guiding our later lives.
Feeling unworthy of love is a way of punishing ourselves after giving of ourselves to a parent only to be rebuffed. It’s a crushing disappointment that says the fault must be in us, otherwise surely they would have responded as hoped.
The inner child quickly begins to think it’s not worthy of love.
The truth is (a) we’re all worthy of love, (b) none of us truly knows how to handle it, and (c) the only time you’re unworthy is when you spend a lifetime practicing being unworthy.
Take time to really connect with and talk to your inner child, find out why the wee one is in pain, and see what the two of you can do to make self-love be a priority.
Worthy Of Prosperity
There’s a notion that some of us are born to prosper, while others will never catch a break. And often the distinction is a nebulous, ill-defined word called “focus.”
From the moment we toddle upright, we’re told to set a course. “Oh, she’ll be an engineer” at the one stacking blocks. “He’s destined for the drums” to the one banging pots and pans.
Yet, even though the course changes a million times before puberty sets in, somehow “focus” is the key, bringing with it the underlying dictum that you have an innate direction or purpose that you have to fulfill, or your life will be a complete failure.
Thing is, absolutely no one else has any idea what that direction is for you. No. Bloody. One.
All those voices telling you who and where you need to be? They’re just as lost. Even worse, they’re directionless.
There’s no set, destined path that we can truly be aware of without being considered insane. At best we’re all constantly chasing “something” only to find it’s not there.
Are you worthy of a great career, financial prosperity, and the respect of peers? Without a doubt.
Life goals, career goals, they’re great… as long as one refrains from making one’s entire sense of identity contingent upon reaching them.
You can be a writer who’s never written a book; a lawyer who derives a delirious amount of joy from vertical gardening; you can be a healer whose only contribution to the wider welfare of humanity is a weekend spent as a Habitat for Humanity volunteer.
When you want to be a writer, a gardener, or a healer, you will be. It’s that simple.
Even better? Despite the usual panicked warnings from our psychotic media, there is time to be who you are, and do what you want to do.
You may also (article continues below):
What You Can Do Now
Okay, so it’s one thing to state rationally that you are worthy, but how do you actually convince yourself that this is true?
Here are some habits that it’s worth adopting that will persuade you of your self-worth.
It’s worth noting that change will not happen overnight; you have to keep returning to these things until they become second nature.
Flip The Script
First, know that Automatic Negative Thoughts that cause a sense of worthlessness hit everybody, and they don’t make you weak or unworthy of your desires.
Actually, acknowledging them puts you in a stronger position to deal with them, because too often negative self-talk becomes the only actor inside our heads with a speaking part, and it often speaks in absolutes.
“Always,” “forever,” and “every time” are not your friends.
One thing about feeling worthless is we never really have the right response when the absolutes rear their ugly heads.
Always? Really? You always screw up? You’ll be alone forever? Things blow up in your face every single time?
Of course they don’t.
Actively tell yourself the good you do, the accomplishments you feel proud of, and how none of those are isolated occurrences.
Turn automatic negative thoughts (ANTS) into automatic radiant thought: gently, with self compassion, as though nurturing that inner child.
A side effect of feeling worthless is constantly flinging oneself at the future: I’ll never be a Pulitzer winner.
Really? That’s the javelin you’re going with? How about dial it back and focus on what you’re doing right now. Are you writing? Is it going well? Excellent!
Are you on the midnight shift in a parking booth? Have you made a mental game to keep yourself sharp and occupied for the duration of the shift? Good. You are alive right now.
Stop flinging yourself at the future.
No matter how worthless we might feel, there are always things that inspire us.
We might need to dig for a while to get to where the light can enter, but there are undeniable moments of connection, joy, and reverence that remind us how wonderful we find life when we actually allow ourselves to see it.
Be inspired by the billion gifts of ART (automatic radiance) around you.
Don’t Measure Your Accomplishments Against Others
“Worthless” automatically means you’re measuring yourself against someone, vaguely or directly.
Less than whom? Again, questions need answers, and if your questions don’t stand up to scrutiny, label them as automatic negative thoughts and adapt to their presence until they wither away.
Very few comedians are as quick at improvising as Robin Williams was, yet people continue to attempt comedy.
Very few scholars hold a candle to James Baldwin, yet thinkers continue to expound.
There is nothing anyone is doing that you shouldn’t be doing as well if you’re inclined to put in the work.
If you’re going to compare yourself to anyone, it might as well be Batman, because he’s unreal and so is the assessment of how you stack up against others.
See how that weight just falls off?
You feel worthless because you feel stalled and stagnant, so get moving.
Exercising the mind and the body is instrumental to enjoying the vehicle your spirit gets to tool around in for eighty-to-ninety years or so.
Feelings of ownership and vitality are crucial components of feeling WORTHFUL. Full of worth.
Yes you are.
You are a universe with legs. There is so much potential swirling around inside you, it boggles the imagination. Literally everything there is for a human to do is available to you: not easily, perhaps, and admittedly not always successfully, but do move toward it.
Please, do try.
It’s worth it.