Shedding the Mask of Unworthiness: A Mental Block to Embracing Identity and Purpose
As an adult, I have everything perfectly matched when I get dressed. My hair, makeup, jewelry, shoes, pants, and shirt all meticulously coordinated. This attention to detail has become a nearly obsessive component in every part of my life from making scrambled eggs, to exercising, to what order I vacuum the rooms in the apartment. Everything has its order, a particular process. There is a “right way,” of doing…anything. How did this way of living come to pass?
The Weeds of Unworthiness
The first time I made a necklace as a child, I assembled the beads in order of what I saw first that looked appealing and pretty. A friend’s older sister rebuked this, and instructed that I should choose a pattern starting from the center that created symmetry. Only then would the necklace be beautiful.
I followed her example and created a cookie-cutter necklace. I have saved many things from my childhood: A scrap of cloth I wore around my waist when playing power rangers, a string of light green plastic beads that reminded me of the necklace Cinderella wore in the cartoon, an extensive collection of books…the list goes on. I do not know what became of that perfectly symmetrical necklace.
This story is one example of the way many people become enslaved in the shackles of unworthiness, and fall prey to craving the approval of others. No matter what we do, it never feels like we’re enough, and yet the drive to make an impact remains. Everyone wants to know where they’re going, asking: “What am I meant to do?” and “Who am I meant to be?” I have found that the answer lies in our origins, and it is both more and less complicated than one might initially believe.
I have encountered two different schools of thought regarding our origins:
- There are those who believe that we are born flawed and broken, with innate original sin.
As I ponder this inordinately negative belief, my mind flows…original…origins…who are we before we know anything? Are we empty shells devoid of identity and purpose? Personally I feel that if this were true, then there wouldn’t be so many interesting, unique, and exceptionally different personalities and perspectives. The world is far too vibrant, complex, and in a constant state of argument and flux on so many matters for such a thing to be true.
- The other camp consists of those who believe we are born perfect.
Although I was raised to believe otherwise, my experiences in life have led me to favor this viewpoint. I believe that we were intentionally created, designed, and shaped with the utmost love and care. We come into the world unblemished, without any preconceptions, and have no negative ideas about people, life, or the world. When we are born, we are completely uninfluenced versions of our truest most original self.
The idea of seeking that unedited version of ourselves is both baffling and yet intriguing. Who was I before I experienced anxiety, sadness, worry, loss, pain, expectations, imposed rules of “how you should feel,” or “who you are.” It is a nearly unfathomable thing to imagine a state of mind liberated from these earthly constructs. Yet this is how we come into the world. Completely unedited. Amazing. Envision a mindset with no limitations about what is and isn’t possible for who you are and who you could become.
I wonder if that eternal question: “Who am I and what is my purpose in life,” isn’t in a way self-answering: uncover the first and the second becomes clear. When we shed the human confines of the world, and the expectations that we have unsuspectingly incorporated into our belief system of who we are and how the world is, what is left? What passions, talents, desires, and dreams? When all material and immaterial limitations are stripped away what remains?
A deeper memory whispers at the corners of my mind:
I am a child in the backyard, the rich lush grass tickles my ankles as I fly — not run — through the greenery, breathing in the leaves, the bark, the soil, and the flowers around me. I lift my arms and face up to the perfection and freshness that is the summer sky, warm and inviting, and I breathe. There are no thoughts of mosquitos, ticks, or sunburn. Just open acceptance and appreciation of the gift of a sunny summer day.
I dance in the shadows, and embrace the tallest thickest tree to be found, marveling as I crane my neck upwards to its highest branches, immersed in an awe so deep and profound that it makes my knees weak. Everything is beautiful…wonderful…possible.
The world is alive and thrumming with friendship…an exciting energy of endless potentiality, imbued with the sacred breath of life. The world is my friend, my supportive and all-approving comforting place to grow and explore and be. Alone in the yard I feel inexplicably safe and overwhelmingly joyful.
The Roots of the True Self
Thinking back upon this memory, I wonder at the person who had no anxiety of creating something simply for the beauty it held in my eyes and the pleasure that it gave me to have made something all on my own. There is freedom in that…from expectations, from “shoulds,” from conforming to or seeking the approval of another. I am tempted to write: “I was…” Something tells me that to do so would be in error. Is that who I was, or is it simply a glimpse of who lies beneath the perfectly composed exterior that I present?
Who am I and what is my purpose in life? That is a vital question we all face. The first half of the question is: Who am I? Not: “Who do I show the world,” “Who should I be,” or “Who do I need to be.” This in and of itself implies that we already are this person underneath all the messages, expectations, beliefs, and “world-rules.” Who am I. That is present tense. My memory of being outside in the yard, and the anecdote recounting my disordered bead necklace tells me that this ordered, careful, controlled, sense of self is not innate to who I am, but rather a mask of protection that I learned to put on to please those around me. So it is for many people.
There is a version of ourselves that we hide, and many versions that — depending on who we’re with — we put on over the top. Therefore, there is an honest version of life that is missed by living beneath the masks.
What would happen if you unearthed your unworthiness and cast off the negative definitions and limitations written into your mind by the world? What if you stripped away the fear of what you should do, who you should be, the order of how things should be done, and how you should live your life…and just danced to the tune woven into the fabric of your soul…embraced the purity of your spirit, the eternal core of your being, and just lived in harmony with your design? Would that really be such a terrible thing?
When we shed the mask of unworthiness, live deeply connected as our authentic selves, and embrace those who truly love us for all that we are, there is no turmoil, confusion, or conflict. Peace, love, and joy abound.
Thank you for reading this story! I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you enjoyed my musings, please take a moment to share this to social media in the hope that it may touch the heart of someone who needs to hear it.