Symptoms of an Unworthiness Mindset

take the leap of faith. The image captures the feeling of being worthy and breaking through the internal conflict between staying stuck and taking action towards growth and success. a watercolor painting of a woman taking a leap of faith off of a grass covered cliff, free falling into a light blue sky.

If I asked you, “Do you feel worthy?” you might tell me yes. But it’s possible that you’ve got a sense of unworthiness lingering underneath the surface. Whether or not you realize that’s what’s going on, an unworthiness mindset could be holding you back in your business or your relationships.

Unworthiness can show up anywhere you’re trying to create results in your life.  It often manifests in sneaky forms. If you’re working yourself to the bone, procrastinating on next steps, or trying to beat yourself into action, check to see whether an unworthiness mindset is influencing you.

Since unworthiness doesn’t always make itself obvious by flashing neon “I don’t feel worthy” lights in your brain, you’re going to want to be on the lookout for the ways that this issue tends to show up.

neon sign reading, "I don't feel worthy."


Oftentimes, when people are experiencing a sense of unworthiness, it manifests as overworking. You may notice that you’ve been putting in too many hours behind your desk.

Maybe you feel like you don’t deserve a break. You shouldn’t get to play or recharge.

Instead, you try to bolster your worthiness by working, working, working. You won’t relax until you’ve put in enough hard work to earn that break.

My Story

Overworking isn’t my go-to symptom of unworthiness. For me, this issue has been known to show up in a related way.

At times in my life, I’ve really given myself a hard time for taking breaks.

Video games are one of my favorite ways to unwind. But when I’m feeling unworthy, I find myself saying, “Get off this game. You’re such a horrible person. Get up, you lazy self.”

I don’t pour myself into overworking. Rather, I beat myself up because I’m not overworking.


The problem of paralysis sets in when there’s a direction you want to move in life. Maybe you want to start something new, or you have something that you want to create.

But instead of taking action, you begin to slow down. You invest all your time in meticulous research and analysis. You do it all in the name of getting fully prepared.

What you don’t do is move forward. Instead, you say, “I’m not ready yet. There’s more I need to learn.”

I can speak on this one from personal experience. When this manifests in my life, I have things to do, but I’m just not doing them. It’s not always clear at the moment why I’m not taking those actions that I’ve identified.

In the same way, you might not consciously realize why you’re procrastinating instead of taking the actions that you want to take.

At this point, though, I’ve seen this pattern play out in my life and my client’s lives often enough to pinpoint the cause. When this sort of action paralysis occurs, there’s a good chance that unworthiness is at the root.

Procrastination serves as a way of trying to protect yourself. Unworthiness can lead you to believe that action might lead to failure or rejection. Staying in research mode instead of moving forward with your plans is a way to guard yourself against that potential outcome.

Impostor Syndrome

Paralysis often pairs with impostor syndrome.

That’s the feeling that it’s only because of dumb luck that you’ve had any success so far. You’re sure that you don’t actually deserve it. You’re not skilled enough, and you don’t know enough. Pretty soon, everyone is going to realize that you’ve been fooling them this whole time. You’re nothing but an impostor.

Of course, impostor syndrome is lying to you. In reality, you’re where you are in life right now because you got there. You’ve put in the work and built the skills — and you’re continuing to do so.

I’ve found that impostor syndrome almost always signals an issue with unworthiness. People feel unworthy to be where they are because they don’t recognize how much they know and have to offer.

For more on impostor syndrome, read “How Do I Get Over Impostor Syndrome?”


Speaking to yourself with the word “should” is another symptom of an unworthiness mindset. Other words that send the same message include “need to,” “have to” and “ought to.”

When you tell yourself, “I should do this,” it develops a master-slave relationship inside of you. You move your plans and ideas away from a heart connection, which is your true inspiration. Instead, you shift them toward being an external idea. Then, your authority is suddenly outside of you.

This becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you split yourself internally and turn against yourself, you’re going to feel more unworthy. It doesn’t correct the issue; it deepens it.

You can read more about these troublesome words in this article on empowering language patterns.

‘Why Can’t I?’

I often hear clients bemoan, “If only I could… “ and “Why can’t I?” They’re not achieving the results that they want in life or taking the steps that they have in mind, and they’re beating themselves up about it.

I get that. It’s a common issue. We often think that we can beat ourselves into making progress in our lives. We believe that, with enough self-flagellation, we can whip ourselves into shape.

This is such a key issue when it comes to unworthiness that I want to take the time to really dig into it, piece by piece.

What We See in Our Lives

Unworthiness symptoms like procrastination or impostor syndrome can lead you to feel that you’re stuck in life.

When that happens, you might start to believe that you’re dealing with a form of self-sabotage. That aspect of who you are is thwarting you or holding you back. It’s against you.

This belief, in turn, leads you to reject yourself — or at least a part of yourself. You might start to think, “Oh, there are parts of me that are bad. They’re unacceptable. I can’t let them in.”

When that happens, you’re creating a divide within yourself. You shut yourself off from accessing that part of yourself.

How This Spirals

If you’ve got two parts seemingly at war within you, there’s going to be conflict.

The part of you that wants to move forward tries to coax the other part to join in on the progress. Its aim is to accomplish something beneficial in your life.

But what happens when someone tries to convince you to do something that you didn’t want to do in the first place? There’s resentment! (Not convinced? Spend a little time with a toddler and you’ll find all the proof you need.)

When one part of you is resenting another part of you, more tension bubbles up inside. It takes so much work to maintain that constant state of turmoil.

You start to experience exhaustion, and that sends you on a path toward burnout.

A Quick Example

You have an email in mind to send. Making that connection has the potential to help grow your business.

Part of you wants to send it right now. Another part keeps putting it off.

There’s a constant battle between those two parts of yourself. You’re all charged up around that email.

So the email isn’t getting sent, but that’s only part of the problem. In addition, the whole back-and-forth process within you drains your time and energy — and that might be the more critical concern.

What’s Going on Inside

Those seemingly troublesome parts of you exist for a reason. They are actually in service of something that you love.

Perhaps they are there to promote connection with others. They’re your way of safeguarding love or inclusion. Or, they add significance or meaning to your life.

Whether love or connection or meaning, whatever they’re protecting is something that’s really important to you. But they’re an ancient protection mechanism that developed in your younger years. They aren’t serving your life in the same way today.

Take procrastination, for instance. If you keep putting off the things that will move your business forward, you might be awfully frustrated with yourself. What might that procrastination response be trying to do for you, though?

Maybe it’s trying to keep you from overfilling your schedule. Maybe it’s aiming to protect you from potential rejection. There’s value in those goals. It’s just that the method you’re using to achieve them is outdated.

Let me lay it out there as clearly as I can. Those seemingly negative parts of you — whether overworking or procrastination or impostor syndrome — have positive intentions for your life. They’re not out to get you. You are not self-sabotaging your life.

When you recognize this fact, you can start to have compassion for those parts of yourself. You can begin to dialogue with them and build more rapport within yourself. From there, you can choose a different way of showing up in the world.

I talk more about this in the article “6 Strategies for Moving Beyond Unworthiness,” so I encourage you to read that next. We’ll talk about what it looks like to engage in a dialogue between the various parts of yourself.

An unworthiness mindset might be showing up in your life in one of these sneaky ways, but you can call it out for what it is. Once you’ve identified it, you can take steps toward eradicating unworthiness from your thoughts and actions.
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