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How do You Get Better when You think You're Worthless?

Updated: May 23

If you have depression or another mental illness, it is easy to fall into the trap of feeling like you are worthless. You may feel like you don't deserve help, or you don't deserve to get better. You may feel like God or the Universe is punishing you for your sins, and you deserve the bad things that happen to you.

In many instances, if you have a mental illness for a long period of time, people may say things to you that become the basis of negative self-talk and feelings of worthlessness. Loved ones may make you feel guilty for being sad, disengaged, or having difficulty completing your responsibilities.

What causes feelings of worthlessness?

Feeling worthless is a common symptom of depression. If you are anything like me, you may spend weeks, months, or years feeling like something is wrong with you. You might feel like if you just tried harder, applied yourself more, or tried to form a positive mindset, you would get better.

According to Better Help, here are some reasons why you may be feeling worthless:

  • Early interpersonal traumas, including abuse, maltreatment, neglect, or frequent criticism from caregivers 

  • Childhood or adult bullying 

  • Termination from a job, financial issues, or divorce

  • Feeling ostracized at school or work or in social situations

  • Stress and pressure to meet demands

  • Discrimination or rejection 

  • A mental illness like depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) 

It is easy to feel worthless when you think you have failed in some way. I know that personally, when I do something 'wrong' I will spend a lot of time beating myself up about it. I turn all the darkness of my situation inward through self blame. I feel like I am a bad person, and that I deserve all the bad things that are happening to me.

When you feel this way, you may not apply yourself in therapy. You might feel like it is impossible to get better, or that your problems can't be fixed, no matter what you do. If you feel like this, it can be easy to give up. To stay in bed for days and hide. To avoid anyone seeing you, because they are bound to see what a bad person you are.

Feeling worthless is really hard to cope with, and is a really self-defeating belief to hold onto. But, if other people tell you how worthless you are and you are already depressed, you can fall down a deep, dark hole that is hard to pull yourself out of.

How do you combat feelings of worthlessness?

Though it is extremely difficult to drag yourself out of worthless feelings, you can work on your limiting beliefs, and get to the root cause of your feelings. If you have been through trauma, you can do EMDR with the situations that are the root cause of your limiting, worthless, beliefs.

Choosing Therapy gives 12 steps you can use to stop feeling worthless:

1. Practice Self-Compassion & Speak Kindly to Yourself

2. Read About Others Who Have Overcome Challenges

3. Talk to Someone You Trust

4. Pay Attention to What Triggers Your Worthless Feelings

5. Meditate

6. Practice Mindfulness

7. Keep a Journal

8. Utilize Creative Outlets

9. Nature Walks

10. Practice Yoga

11. Do Something Kind for Someone Else

12. Talk to a Therapist

If you are struggling with depression or another mental illness, this might seem like a lot of work to get yourself feeling better. The thing to remember is to start small. It is just like with setting goals. Decide on one thing you want to do for the day to work on a positive change. You don't have to do them all at once.

Different strategies work better for different people. It may take time to find what works for you. If you are feeling down about yourself, you can revisit this list and choose one thing that you want to try. Then, keep trying to use that strategy as often as possible, so that it can become a coping strategy you can turn to in times of distress.

Don't worry if one of these doesn't work. You can always try something else. Then, see if that works better. Unfortunately, a lot of mental health recovery can be trial and error. That's why lists of coping skills are so long at times. Once, my therapist gave me a list of 99 coping skills.

It can feel overwhelming to decide what may be a good strategy, too. If you are experiencing this, talk it over with your therapist. They may be able to point you in the right direction, by exploring your feelings and what is triggering them.

You can make notes during the week between sessions of what is causing you to feel worthless, then address it in your session.

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