A few years ago someone asked me a very simple but very intriguing question: what do all successful marriages have in common? With the hubris that comes from not actually having been married at the time, I thought for sure I could at least get close to the correct answer. Was it communication? Was it love? Was it shared hobbies? Was it respect and trust?
No. Those things might be important but, according to the research, it wasn’t the common ingredient across the relationships studied.
So I scratched my head. Then it came to me. As someone who studies the subconscious brain I was sure I knew the answer: these people must have seen a successful relationship early in their lives and tried to mimic it.
Good try, but I was wrong again. The one thing the people in these relationships had in common was simple: they each believed they were WORTHY of love.
WOW I thought. With my work, I should know this. But WOW!
Love and basketball
Around the same time, I was working as the mental training coach for a college basketball team that had just gotten a new head coach. The coach was hard nosed, positive, and driven. The athletes were scared, used to losing and, fearful of hard work and commitment. In other words, they were losers- both in their results and in their mindset.
So the coach got to work teaching them about the work necessary to win. They lifted more weights than they had ever done in their life, they puked during sprints on the track, they even did pool workouts and boot camp with a marine drill sergeant. Their bodies were ready to persevere, their muscles were toned for battle, their stamina would keep them going when previously they would have quit. She taught them about EARNING Winning.
But it wasn’t enough. Which is why I was there.
These athletes had earned the right to win, they were physically ready to be successful but they still needed to believe in something deeper. In order to win, in order to become winners, they FIRST had to believe they were WORTHY of winning. If they couldn’t do that, no amount of physical conditioning was going to make them push through in the fourth quarter of a close game.
Which brings me to this: we all need to believe we are worthy of winning- in sports, in love, in life. The problem often is that we think we are doing this: we think hard work is going to make us feel worthy or that saying our goals out loud will convince us it’s possible. Yet still we remain unaware of the mental limitations we internalize. And this affects every single behavior and decision we engage in on a daily basis. Basically, if we believe we are worthy, we act accordingly. If we don’t, we find ways to F*** it all up.
You already know this. Look around you, it’s painfully obvious to see in others. You watch these people, loved ones or colleagues, family or friends, self-sabotage time and time again. You wish you could give them a magic pill to make them believe they are worthy of more in their lives. It’s all around us in the…
- The young woman that dates every asshole in her vicinity even though there are plenty of nice guys to choose from.
- The guy that never gets his act together to finish school so he can get a promotion, make more money and have a better life
- The athlete that consistently underperforms despite having talent and putting in all the physical work necessary for success
- The friend that has a heart of gold but constantly makes poor money decisions in life and therefore can never get a leg up.
But maybe in your life, the places you feel unworthy aren’t as obvious. Maybe they’ve smugly hid in some corner of your life. Maybe it’s in an area that you have convinced yourself isn’t important to you-like singing or writing or a long lost hobby that you’ve deprioritized. Maybe it’s subtle, only found when peeling back the layers of logical reasons (excuses) you’ve held back.
Because this is the deal: we all do it and in fact we are masters at it. We can mask our insecurities in a million logical ways (that might be legitimate). It sounds something like this:
- I don’t REALLY want that job because it involves late nights (I don’t actually believe I’m ready for that much responsibility).
- I’m too busy with work for a real relationship. (I don’t actually believe I’m worthy of a loving relationship that allows me a great work life as well).
- I don’t have time to write that book. (I’m not a good enough writer to write a book).
- I’m not going to set up a coffee with this influential person I met who might be able to help me in my career. (Why would they want to meet with me?)
It’s not that we have to move forward with every single opportunity around us at every second- that would be unsustainable. And it’s not ignoring the fact that life throws a lot of unfair and unavoidable curveballs at times. But it’s important to recognize a universal truth: we all impose self-limitations because we don’t believe we are worthy of more. The only question is whether we are aware of them or not. We can’t avoid this. What we can do is constantly work on reminding ourselves that we are worthy of love, of beauty, of success. We can remind ourselves that we are worthy of winning.
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below: Where do you see this in your life? Is there a certain person you care about that doesn’t believe they are worthy? What does that look like?