Before you can win, you have to believe you are worthy. – Former Chicago Bears’ Coach Mike Ditka
For fourteen years, teaching eighth grade was most fulfilling. Colleagues from forty years ago remain life-long friends. But in time, the urge to move on set in. More than an urge, I felt compelled as if something was pushing me. There was: The Universe.
I wanted to teach high school, but I didn’t believe it likely for two reasons: I would be looked down on by my new colleagues and I did not coach, a standard expectation of male high-school teachers. Six months after I began my search, I landed a position at Summit High School in Frisco, CO. By the third year, the English department chair asked me to develop an honors-level American literature curriculum.
I tell that story as a personal example of self-doubt coupled with a sense of unworthiness simply not being true.
In my essay “Life’s prime Directive,” I write about how following one’s bliss ought to be his prime directive. It’s a lofty ideal, a prerequisite for leading a fulfilled life. But with some, I sense a powerful inner resistance that says, “I’m not good enough.”
That defeatist attitude is quite common, arising from a sense of unworthiness or self-doubt implanted long ago.
Perhaps, it is due to a parent, teacher, or coach’s comment, direct or indirect, which sowed a seed that wouldn’t grow into blossoming foliage but, instead, a noxious weed that took root and choked out the flowers of her dreams and aspirations.
Perhaps, it was an ongoing experience such as being picked last for a team either because of his inept athletic prowess or, worse, a campaign to ostracize him from his peer group.
Perhaps, it was pure-and-simple sexism or stereotyping: “Men don’t do/become…” or “You’re a woman! Know your place.”
Perhaps, it was due to buying into the cultural narrative that says, as I write in the essay, “American society has conditioned us to be dutiful automatons, functionaries within a corporate system.”
Part and parcel of that is a family-culture that defines success in rigid financial terms, a “you need to be like your six-digit-income parent or sibling.”
No matter how the seed might be planted, it takes on power. And once a tape is made, it can be replayed on a loop over a lifetime. Even for “successful” people who consider jumping into a whole new world/career/venture.
In the Catholic tradition, communicants repeat three times before receiving the host, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you…” That sentiment is apt in context of religious ritual, but in daily life, that kind of attitude is lethal for one’s happiness.
In “My Thirteen Daily Practices” essay, I address Intention in numbers five and six:
Visualize that which would bring true happiness to my life.
Note my worthiness to receive it.
I learned that from Wayne Dyer, who loved telling about the frustrated teacher who called him, he thought, a “scurvy elephant.” Instead, she had called him a “disturbing element.” Later, when he understood that, rather than allowing it to crush him, he embraced it and came to see himself as a “disturber of the status quo.”
Our thoughts reflect us, but more important, we become our thoughts. Doubts can be become self-fulfilling. Just as fear is more powerful than courage, negativity is more powerful than positivity. The reason is they arise from the same place in the psyche.
“Self-worth comes from one thing,” Dyer said, “thinking that you are worthy.”
Mike Ditka also said, “You’re never a loser until you quit trying.” A sport metaphor for life.