How much does a feeling of worthlessness cost you?

11 Apr 2023

How much does a feeling of worthlessness cost you?

How often have you counted the cost of your feelings of worthlessness? Please understand that I am not asking you in order to make you feel any worse about what has happened to you than you already do. Rather, as ever, my intention is to help you to see the upside.

There always is an upside, as we shall see here.

Abuse inevitably costs a person dear, both in terms of their quality of life and their finances.

The biggest loss in a narcissistic relationship

You cannot help but lose in in your relationship with a Narcissist and you cannot help but regret that loss. But the biggest loss, in my experience, is the very last thing that survivors recognise: the effect that the loss of their self-worth has on them.

Survivors feel very keenly the loss of their self-worth. Most struggle horribly with an intractable sense of worthlessness. However, they tend to see that worthlessness as who they are, rather than a reflection of what has happened to them.

It’s another manifestation of the observation that, correctly speaking, people have depression rather than being depressed. Depression causes you to see, experience and respond to your reality in a different way, for sure. It is like a thick fog that descends on you, shutting down so much of your vision and hearing. However, it is something that descends on you – or happens to you. It is not who you are.

So, it is with worthlessness.

Worthlessness is a reflection

When worthlessness hits us, it is a reflection of how we have been made to feel, NOT who we are.

But try telling that to the person afflicted with deep feelings of worthlessness.

This week, I want to tell you about my lovely client Sally and the reality check she received from… two cups of bubble tea.

Like Sarah, who featured in my last newsletter, Sally had been pigeon-holed, more or less from birth. The key difference was that Sarah had been pigeon-holed as wonderful, whereas Sally had been pigeon-holed as worthless.

Sally’s mother was one of those people who had not wanted a child – despite indulging willingly in activities that could be reasonably expected to result in a child. She felt both aggrieved and entitled to visit her feelings of injustice on the child who had the temerity to be born to her so “selfishly”.

Sally’s mother’s narrative never faltered. She never stopped telling Sally how wonderful her own life might have been if she had not been so cruelly corralled into motherhood by a worthless, thankless child.

How the worthlessness pigeon-hole works

Sally had been consigned to the worthless pigeon-hole before she could even speak. Her mother never saw fit to change that assessment. No matter how many times her daughter’s achievements proved her wrong.

In her own way, Sally was every bit as exceptional as Sarah. But that didn’t cut any ice with her mother who dismissed every one of Sally’s considerable achievements as “worthless”.

Plus, she used her parental role to ensure that Sarah could never take advantage of any of the opportunities that came her way. Her semi-detached father, also, was heavily invested in making sure that Sarah failed, at every turn.

18 years of that treatment left Sally with an awareness of her own abilities that was dwarfed by a crushing sense of worthlessness. She knew that she could never ask for much, expect much or even dream of one day having much.

Sally’s mother had plotted Sally’s entire life for her. It was to be a hard, thankless struggle until death.

When the bar has been set very low

Unsurprisingly, Sally learned to set the bar very, very low for herself – as do all survivors of narcissistic abuse.

I started working with Sally at a particularly low point in a life that had been filled with lows.

Someone has to hold a belief for the Sallys of this world. I made a conscious choice to do that for this Sally.

Over the time that we have been working together, Sally has become much more comfortable with  the gifts and abilities that she had all but given up on. She has transformed the way that she shows up in relationships. When a boyfriend found fault with her for being “spectacular”, she accepted that she had no wish to shrink herself to fit into his mediocrity box and drew a line under the relationship.

Overall, she is doing decidedly better. But for all that, The Bubble Tea incident recently occurred.

You can take a person out of the abusive situation…

You can take a person out of an abusive situation, but it can sometimes prove a lot harder to take the abusive programming out of the person.

Faced with a grave financial shortfall, Sally decided to do some delivery work and ended up driving two bubble teas to an ungrateful customer.  But when she did the math, she realised that it had actually cost her money to drive these two bubble teas around her city.

I waded in to point out that with her gifts, talents and qualifications, there was no way Sally should have been doing that work. It was time for her to rid herself of the “Worthless” label that she had been sporting, since forever.

She agreed and then froze as she realised that she wasn’t going to get away with just paying lip service.

Instead, we focused on the inaccuracy of her beliefs about herself. Sally had everything she needed to do really well – apart from her Worthlessness programming. That had been given to her by two parents who would actively step in to turn to transform resounding success into failure whenever opportunity presented itself.

While Sally was aware that she deserved better than the narrative and experiences she had lived by, she felt frightened to risk raising her head above the metaphorical, parent-imposed parapet.

But Sarah, like all survivors of narcissistic abuse, is made of stronger stuff than she realizes. She wobbled. She backtracked…

And then she leapt forward.

She finally got it. She owned the reality and became appropriately indignant about it. She resolved that those days were now behind her.

Appropriate indignation

Having seen this moment many times in clients, I knew there was something about the tone and cadence of her speech that showed that Sarah was finally feeling an appropriate level of indignation at the abuse that she had been obliged to endure.

She had stopped believing that she must have been at fault and, instead, understood that this was an injustice that she is no longer prepared to tolerate.

With that, she has – finally – stepped into her power.

What will that bring her?

I can’t know yet not least because she does not know. What I can know is that it will be a turning point in her story. She isn’t prepared to buy into that old feeling of worthlessness anymore.

When you stop buying into that old feeling of worthlessness

I am not a great believer in the Law of Attraction (still less in the Law of Assumption). But I do know that when you make that internal shift, you show up differently in your life and people are obliged to respond differently to you. You do not leave them the space to exercise their abusive, dark arts on you.

When Sarah was living her Worthless narrative, she had to try, at all costs, to make people like her. Now, she doesn’t. She is sublimely unconcerned who does and who does not like her.

Abusive people don’t do well with indifference. It makes them feel unimportant. That leaves them with just two choice: either make the person have an emotional response to them or else go elsewhere for supply. Since they are always looking for the win, they are not going to waste their time around people who, they rightly judge, will not offer them that win.

When you stop buying into that old feeling of worthlessness, you lose the appeal you once had for Narcissists. That old feeling of worthlessness costs a person so much.

I don’t know whether you have woken up from that old nightmare of worthlessness yet. But I do know that you will and when you do, you will be free to rebuild a beautiful life for yourself. I also know that it could be the most unlikely thing thing that finally wakes you up – like Sally’s two itinerant bubble teas. If you are struggling with enduring feelings of worthlessness and would like help in restoring your faith in yourself, your future and the chance to have a good relationship in the future, I invite you to check out my Break Free Membership for all the tools, insights and blueprints you need to move forward.


Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.

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