Confession: I Don’t Feel Worthy

This weekend marked the beginning of a week of birthday celebrations for me, orchestrated and carefully set up to ease me into this new year, a year that puts me into a new bracket on the age chart.  Setting up dinners with beloved friends, yoga classes and brunches, so that I’m surrounded by love instead of alone.  So far, it has been wonderful, fun, special….and just a bit uncomfortable.

I know, how incongruous is that?  That I would feel anything other than elation around friends I have known for months, for years, for decades even.  Who have seen me through joy and tears, heartbreaks and failures and growing ups.  Who have rallied around me, toasting me with red wine and giving me cards and singing Happy Birthdays.  I should have exalted in the attention, basked in the love.  And instead, a part of me was uneasy.  
Because they all showed up.
Some with headaches, some with husbands, some who can’t even eat pizza, some from the South Bay, some straight from work.  
That’s kind of the point, obviously.  And they’re my friends, who had told me they were coming, it really was no surprise to walk into a restaurant and see them sitting there.  So what exactly was my anxiety about?!?!
Part of me felt like I didn’t deserve it.
When I was in 8th grade, my best friend that year threw me a surprise party.  I can remember my mom having to tell me about it because I was having a moody, 14-year old kind of day and wanted to skip the sleepover that was planned at my friend’s house.  I refused to go.  She pleaded with me, trying to reason with her stubborn, self-righteous daughter (to no avail, I could out-stubborn anyone).  She finally resorted to telling me about the surprise party, thinking that would surely change my mind.  Um, no.  That made me want to go even less.  Because now I was not only the brat who didn’t want to go to her best friend’s sleepover, I was the brat didn’t want to go to her own surprise party sleepover that she clearly didn’t deserve and had to be forced by her mom to attend.
I went.  It was fun.  We ate junk food and laughed, watched Pretty Woman and Robin Hood with Kevin Costner, and tried to see who could hit the high notes in that Phantom of the Opera song, the one that ends in that piercing high E that mostly sounds like shrieking.  But I don’t think I stayed over.  I think I remember that I went home that night from this surprise birthday sleepover that my best friend threw for me because I couldn’t shake the knowledge that I didn’t deserve it.

It’s 20 years later and I’m 20 years older and it’s the same.  I don’t deserve it.
I never had another surprise party after that birthday.  I took control, planning my own birthday celebrations or lack of them some years, it was my choice.  That was so much safer.  I could control how much I allowed myself to take.  And I could share it, that felt okay.  I could have a blowout 3-day extravaganza 21st birthday with my two sorority sisters who were born the same day.  Surely I deserved at least 1/3 of a celebration?  I could indulge in the 30th birthday party at that bar on the Lower East Side called the Skinny and invite everyone I knew because it was also my friend Erin’s birthday.  And people could come to celebrate her and maybe I could accept a slice of the cake, a sliver really, and wash it down with her prosecco and just a little guilt.
The control felt necessary.  Because what if someone else threw me another party that I did not deserve?  Or worse, what if they didn’t?
I’m still worried no one will show up.
I went to a healer earlier this year who placed her hand on my heart and told me that she was sending love to me, directly into my heart.  Could I feel it?  I don’t know.  I could feel the light pressure from her hands, and feel her breath on my cheek, but love?  I don’t know.  She then asked me to focus on sending it back to her, straight back to her heart.  Suddenly it felt like my chest was on fire, heating up that cool room in Ojai the way the blankets and tea and afternoon sunshine had not.  Burning down through my fingertips and my toes like I had been holding them over a campfire, so hot it actually hurts but you can’t move away .  “I feel it”, she said. “I feel your love”.
“But you have trouble receiving the love that you give.”
How does that happen?  Did I miss that lesson in elementary school that taught how to give and receive love, nestled somewhere between sharing your toys and washing your hands in the bathroom?  Was I home sick that day and no one brought me the homework that had 10 multiple choice questions that led you to the knowledge that you are worthy of love?  Or did I just pick B for every answer and miss the point completely?
Instead I keep tallies of what I owe, like mini-golf scorecards that come with those stupid little pencils and always have me +1 over par.  Struggling to get my score down, to at least break even someday. 
It’s fine, I don’t need a ride to the airport. (Don’t go out of your way for me!)
You don’t need to come to my party. (I can’t take up your time!)
Please, don’t get me any gifts. (How will I repay you?!?)
How can I possibly repay you for this love that I’m not sure I deserve?
I can’t.  I have to drop the scorecards.  I have to go back through the questions and not just choose “B”.  I have to find another way that allows me to accept love.  While I’m struggling to open incredibly thoughtful gifts, when someone else wants to pick up the tab, when I’m confronted by the idea that I’m taking more than I deserve.  
All I can come up with is…thank you.  That’s all that’s left.
“In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives.  In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.”
-Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat Pray Love
Thank you, to all of you who sustain me.  Who love me.  Who show up.  Who remind me that I am worthy, and that I do deserve love.

29 thoughts on “Confession: I Don’t Feel Worthy

  1. Thank you. Thank you for your GLORIOUS heart!

    “But you have trouble receiving the love that you give.”

    This is where I live. This post reaches in and grabs my entire being with the truth of how I see myself. I have trouble receiving the love that I give (especially after weekends such is this where I felt completely alone and abandoned to the panic attacks when I should be asleep in the wee hours).. Instead I took a chance and read your post.

    Medicine for my weary soul right now.. when I needed it the most.

    thank you.

    And on Wed? know that I will be sending a smile and a warm gentle happy thought to you to honor your day. Your birthday!

    • Thank you so much Ella! Your words mean so much…and I KNOW in my heart that you deserve the love that you give as well. It’s so easy to see it for others isn’t it? I can see it for you, in you.
      And thank you for the birthday wishes!!! xx

  2. Pingback: Confession: I Don’t Feel Worthy | Wholeheartedness

  3. Oh wow. This post sure hit a nerve. I completely identify with you. It’s like you put down in words what I, for years, have been struggling to try and define, make sense of, repair.

    Thank you. You are not alone, and something I’ve learnt along the way is that you definitely deserve all the love you receive. Never feel guilty or unworthy of it. 🙂

    • Thank you….you are not alone either. I think we can all be here for each other, and can remind each other of this love that we very much deserve. Thank you for reaching out!

  4. I kept reading with my eyes wide open, just INCREDIBLE! Has she read my mind?

    I have never heard anyone express, word for word, especially in a way that I never could, the exact sentiments I experience. Discovering not knowing how to love, not knowing how to accept love, kindness, generosity, to even know what it would feel like to surrender to it and accept it, as you so beautifully expressed. I am ridiculous about the keeping score thing to the point that its exhausting…”did I remember to pay her back, oh crap wait, I forgot. She’s going to remember that and think of only that the next time she sees me”.

    You said it all perfectly!!!

    Katie, you are soooooo deserving!!!! As I am, you are, as we all are from friends, strangers, whoever, whenever.

    Thank you for a further awakening to “not being alone”.

  5. “The control felt necessary. Because what if someone else threw me another party that I did not deserve? Or worse, what if they didn’t?”

    “What if they didn’t”

    I love this post! I always feel like I need that control too, because heaven forbid I expected something, ANYTHING and that person didn’t deliver?

    I immediately thought if Elizabeth Gilbert’s quote too and then I saw you referred to it.

    Happy birthday! You deserve every celebration that comes your way!

    Thank you for this!

  6. WOW, there are other people out there who feel like me .. unworthy, or a control freak, not sure which, sometimes both ! Recently, I also sought advice (reading) and she hit the nail on the head ‘why is it that you think you don’t deserve the love that you give so readily to others?’ Good grief, how could I answer that. I wanted to run out the door right then. But my chest tightened and a tear ran down – that was my answer. As I read your article, I find myself doing it again… So this year is my year to remind myself that I deserve love and good things, that’s my (belated) birthday wish for you too. As with all new habits, start a little at a time to get used to it ~ Enjoy your year xo

  7. I love receiving gifts. But what I love even more is if I can come up with a great idea for a friend’s gift, offer it to them and then see how incredibly happy they are unwrapping it. It feels soo good! So it’s always an exchange of energy, not a one way street. Great post!

  8. Beautiful post, Katie! You definitely deserve all the love you give and more! This hits home for me, as well. It’s always a comfort to know I’m not alone. Thank you so much for sharing.

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