Do me a favour.
Cross your arms in front of your chest. Done? How does it feel?
Natural? Comfortable? Safe? Normal?
Now cross your arms the other way. Whichever arm was on top before goes underneath and the other way around. Give it a go.
If you are anything like me, you’ll struggle to even figure out how to do it. Do it anyway. For the (self-worth) experiment’s sake.
How does this feel now?
It feels wrong, right? Awkward, unnatural and weird. And you yearn to stop and revert to the way you’re used to. The nice, safe, comfy way.
That’s because your mind, when given half a chance, will try to maintain the status quo. It will encourage you to stick with common practice.
Do things the usual way. Even if it’s against common sense.
Just think about a dessert buffet. When confronted with the choice between a selection of mouth-watering cakes and fruit salad, we will almost certainly pick the cake. Even though we know the fruit salad is healthier.
While common sense warns that we’ll regret eating the cake, common practice still makes us scoff it. It’s habit. What we’ve always done and always will do. Even if we beat ourselves up for it afterwards because we know it harms our body.
And we do this for one simple reason…
The prehistoric reason why it is so hard to break with toxic habits
In the beginning, human beings were only concerned with survival. With getting enough food, clothing, shelter to guarantee the species’ survival. As such, our safety was the primal mind’s main concern.
And safety exists in habit, in common practice and repeating behaviour that has proven no immediate threat in the past.
Change implies uncertainty, bears an unknown risk of harm or death. As such, change is the antithesis of safety. And has to be avoided at any cost.
However, as our mind evolved to develop reasoning and common sense, it started to reflect about abstract concepts and extrapolate outcomes of our behaviour into the future. Predicting long-term consequences instead of merely being concerned with immediate safety.
Which is why we so often feel conflicted. Why we seem to have two voices arguing inside of us. One desperate to change, the other set on maintaining the status quo.
So, when confronted with the choice between chocolate cake and melon, the primal mind screams: “Let’s take the chocolate cake! We always take the chocolate cake. We know it tastes good. It has never harmed us before. Chocolate cake is safe.”
While the rational mind will argue: “The sugar and fat content in this piece of chocolate cake has been proven to cause diabetes and heart disease. And you will hate yourself for being weak and gluttonous afterwards.”
All good arguments. All common sense.
But the thing is that the primal mind will always win. Because, despite all our evolutionary advances and modern life, safety remains our chief concern.
And the primal mind believes it knows what’s safe.
So, what does this have to do with your worth?
When you first start to increase your self-worth and practice the affirmation “I AM worth”, your primal mind will resist. This is not you being a hopeless case. This is the primal mind doing its job.
You see, you believed in your inherent worthlessness for most of your life. The feeling of being inadequate, unacceptable, not good enough is your common practice. The most destructive habit of your life.
If you have been following me for a while and especially if you took the free 7-day “Self-Worth Booster” email course, your rational mind knows that infinite worth is the essence of your Being. You can see the logic. You can feel the truth of it in your heart.
It’s common sense.
And you want to believe it. But somehow, your mind always reverts back to worthlessness thinking. To self-condemnation, negativity and low confidence. Even if it hurts. Even if it ruins your life, makes you hate yourself because you fail to transcend it.
Because worthlessness is your status quo. And your primal mind will stick with it.
Unless you make a conscious effort to convince it otherwise. And break the worthlessness habit.
How to re-train your primal mind
What do you think would happen if you crossed your arms the other way around every day for a month? Or if you consciously forced yourself to choose melon over cake for 90 days?
The new behaviour would become normal and start to feel safe. Because your primal mind is capable of learning and adapting. It will stop to resist eventually and accept the new behaviour as normal and safe.
It just takes time.
And the same applies to remembering your true, inner worth. Right now, worthlessness is your common practice. Your primal mind’s safe place.
A painful, soul-crushing, self-shaming place. But safe nonetheless. Whereas the belief in your true worth is new, unchartered territory, potentially harmful.
And in order to break the worthlessness habit, to convince your primal mind that being worth is safe, you will require 5 crucial attributes:
When faced with change, the primal mind will resist. Because that’s part of its security job. So, it will only have one word to say to you: “NO.”
And it is used to getting its way. Like a wilful toddler, it knows what it wants, will nag and bother you. Or throw a tantrum if nothing else works.
Until you fling your arms into the air in desperation and snap: “Fine! Let’s just do it your frakking way then!”
But to transform your life you have to be determined, you have to dig your heels in and stop obeying the primal mind.
(Only in situations where your rational mind knows the change is safe, mind you. Don’t disregard the primal mind if it implores you not to leap through the penthouse window!)
You have to learn to ignore the primal mind’s wailing, warning and moaning. Which will require…
2. The ability to tolerate discomfort
The primal mind’s stubborn resistance can cause a significant amount of discomfort.
We feel different, weird and wrong. Worries and fears of potential horrifying consequences ruminate in our mind and we suffer the general distress of doing something unfamiliar, unknown, extraordinary.
And a full-blown “I will get my way” tantrum may include anxiety and panic attacks. As well as sneaky distraction methods, such as the sudden questioning of the purpose of your life and a devious “what’s the point anyway” depression.
But all this discomfort, despite being unpleasant and alarming in places, will not harm you. Eating the fruit salad and believing in your true worth are safe, healthy actions that will improve your life.
The awkwardness and emotional pain will fade with every repetition of the new behaviour or belief. You will have to grit your teeth for a while. But you will break the worthlessness habit.
If you repeat “I AM worth” with…
3., 4., 5. Persistence, patience and self-compassion
Let’s face it. Remaining stuck in worthlessness is the easy way, the path without resistance - that will ultimately lead to misery, ruin and self-loathing.
Still, it’s easier to try, and then withdraw back to worthlessness as soon as we run against the primal mind’s fire wall. It’s more comfortable to surrender to our present circumstances, no matter how miserable, than to face the unknown and our primal mind’s battlements.
And we blame ourselves for our failure and lack of progress. Beat ourselves up for our uselessness, weakness and inaptitude. When all it would take is a bit more persistence. A bit more patience and self-compassion while we re-train our primal mind.
You manage to be patient with other people (and even pets), have compassion for them and forgive their mistakes while they are learning.
Why shouldn’t the same apply to you?
It’s your turn to break the worthlessness habit
The awkward uncertainty and discomfort are normal. Setbacks and rebounds will occur. This happens to everybody when we first go head to head with our primal mind.
It doesn’t make you inferior to others, somewhat more damaged or terminally worthless. It’s just the primal mind’s resistance to change. Which it has been programmed to enforce for over 100,000 years.
You cannot persuade your primal mind that it is safe to break the worthlessness habit within a week. It’s impossible and unrealistic. Not only for you, but for everybody who tries.
But you can convince it of your new way of thinking if you persevere. It only takes a few weeks to re-train your primal mind. So, acknowledge the reality of life-transformation, repeat your affirmation with determination, accept that discomfort, at least at the beginning, is part of the journey.
And be patient with yourself. Because nobody does any better when first confronted with the primal mind’s resistance. I know I certainly didn’t.
And in three months from now, you will feel better about yourself. The belief in your inherent, true worth will be your new normal. And the primal mind will accept that it’s safe.
And you will know that it was worth it.