Overcoming depression and feelings of worthlessness

Last Updated on July 18, 2020

There would be times in our lives that feelings of worthlessness comes in or we question ourselves and what we are doing. Or we suddenly lose motivation in our tasks and life in general.

If we are working for someone for a living, at least we would still drag our sorry selves out of bed, get ready and go through the commute to work. But once we get off from work and in our spare time, we may engage in time wasting activities such as scrolling through the endless newsfeed in Facebook, playing with games such as Candy Crush or binge watching Korean Drama series.

If we are self employed or doing freelance work, it is even more challenging. To get the motivation to get up in the morning and to plan and work towards our goals can be a challenge during our downtime.

Left unchecked, indulgences in unhealthy habits or addictions can eventually spiral out of control. Eventually it would lead to depression or substance addition to numb the inner pain of worthlessness.

But why this phrase in our life that occasionally does creep up?

Feelings of depression and self of worthlessness can happen due to:

1. Going through a very bad patch in life

Yes life really sucks at times. Periods of setback such as losing one’s job or losing a loved one through misunderstanding, separation or death can be really traumatizing.

I have been through my share of rough patches in my life, at times what I go through is so traumatizing that I do not even wish it on my worst enemy. In loss of loved ones, there would be naturally a phrase of sadness and grief.

Having support from family and friends helps. If there is really no one in your life that could share or cared about your pain, then you can go for professional counselling or therapy. There are also a lot of online group and supports such as in Reddit and Quora may many people shared their heartbreaks, sorrows, personal tragedies and loss. And they would also offer you words of encouragement when you share your pain, having gone through similar experiences themselves.

Of course, no one can fully take away our pain. These invisible wounds takes time to heal but it is helped by knowing that you are not alone in this world.

Note: There would be trolls who say nasty things and patronizing people who talked with judgmental tone. Or those who offered nothing constructive. Especially in YouTube and Facebook when twisted people asked a troubled person to ‘go and die’. Please, don’t let these people get to you.

2. Imbalances in our body

Based on Traditional Chinese medicine, imbalances in certain parts of our body can affect not only our health, but our emotional state. For example, imbalances in the lungs may cause extended feelings of grief while in the liver result in feelings of anger, or spleen feelings of worry and anxiety. It is sort of like a chicken and egg situation- whether it is the excessive negative emotions that triggered the imbalances or the imbalances that triggered the emotions.

If the imbalances are physical in nature, treating with acupuncture or herbs to harmonize the imbalances can equip us to heal.

3. Unhealthy diet

Unhealthy diet leads to feelings of lethargy and fatigue. Sometimes the diet may be considered as healthy but it is not agreeable to our body. When we eat certain food, it does not make us feel well or give aches and pain.

Everyone of us is different. Learn to be conscious of how your body reacts when you are eating certain type of food. If you feel tired, pain or lethargic (your limbs feel heavy and your brain feels drained), and yet you are not avoiding the food, it may indicate that you are somehow using the food to numb some inner pain.

One thing I know is that if I take too much of outside food that is laden in MSG or fast food that provide no real nutrient, it makes me feel lethargic and tired. After a day or two of outside food, I would then resume to cook.

4. Growth stage

You would have heard of stories where a person, who is successful in conventional context suddenly gives up his 6 figure monthly salary and become a travel blogger or a freelancer. Or a person who decided to go back to college at 50 years old to earn a degree, Masters and PhD and then change their field.

Before the person makes this move, he/she would have gone through a period of uncertainty, doubt, self reflection, worry and even anger. As humans most of us would prefer to stay in our comfort zone so it is not easy to make the transition and there would be a period of discomfort and doubt when we are doing so. Especially since it is very unlikely that we would meet with success in the beginning.

5. Clutter and disorganization surrounding us

I grew up in a cluttered home. I had to learn the proper way of cleaning and decluttering on my own. Hence I know that from direct experience, clutter really zaps up our energy.

How do we expect our creativity to flow when our entire work desk is cluttered with things that we could not find? Clutter and hoarding holds us back in the past, with so much stuff that is pulling us back and stopping us from moving forward. Hence since the past few years, I have attempted to organize and declutter my life. I still have a long way to go but getting rid of stuff has helped me feel more free and less overwhelmed.

6. Negative influences

Negative influences can be tangible or intangible. Mixing with the wrong company or toxic people can really wear us down. If we are not careful, we can be dragged in the mud alongside with them as after all, misery loves company.

When I read real life stories of good children brought up in nurturing homes that eventually become drug addicts, it has some kind of relationship to peer pressure and the need to be accepted. Peer pressure is hard to overcome and it is unfortunate that the teenager or youngster made friend with a drug pusher who have a very subtle way of making the victim take the first dose of drug or heroin.

Therefore parents need to monitor the kind of friends that their children is hanging out with. Do your best to maintain an open and nurturing relationship with your child. I remember when I was a teenager, it was my mom’s  non judgmental and acceptance of my flaws that made me open up to her. In fact, I never shared anything much with her because she was so fierce when I was younger. Right about when I was 15 years old, I went through bouts of peer pressure. One day I could not take it and blurted out to my mom. Expected to be reprimanded, judged and scolded, I was surprised that she just listened without judgement and acceptance. That is, she assured me that no matter how I turned up to be, she would always accept and love me as her daughter.  When I started opening up to her, peer pressure does not have a stronghold on me.

There are also influences that are invisible and subtle in nature. I believe in each one of us lies both a good and a dark side. The dark side of our nature would always emerge and tempt us in all sorts of destructive ways. It can start of as a subtle bad habit such as playing online games, binge watching shows, listening to songs with negative messages and eventually moving to the darker side such as watching porn, violent or horror/torture shows,  and then gradually venturing into the dark web.

Our mind would then move downwards- become more negative and sadistic. As time goes by, it gets harder and harder to control our impulses and tendencies. The discrepancies between reality and what is going on in our minds become harder to bear that we need to turn to substance abuse such as promiscuity, alcohol, gambling and drug use to escape our feelings of unworthiness and to numb the growing pain that we are feeling inside.

Understand that this is just a temporary phrase

Feelings and emotions are fleeting. They come and they go.

It is only the moment that you give significance to them, convinced that they are permanent that these emotions would spiral out of control.

For example, just the last few weeks, I find that I lost the motivation to get up early. Well, I am a caregiver hence I still need to get up in the morning to care for my mom and get housework and cooking done. I went through these tasks daily like a robot.

But I give up the one thing that I love which is blogging and writing. I remember last year when I decided to resurrect my blogs and start new blogs…. each day I just can’t wait to jump out of bed.  Sometimes I work till the wee hours of the morning to complete certain cleanup projects.

Then suddenly, I lost the motivation. When I had time, instead of working at my blogs, I started watching more movies- especially Thai ghost stories or watching senseless YouTube videos.

I am able to pinpoint the loss of motivation to something personal that is happening in my life. But after a while, I realize that there are a lot of situation in life that you cannot change. Really, you can’t. The only thing you could do is change the way you deal with it. But you cannot force it…. you need to give time for acceptance and letting go to come in.

Due to years of practicing mindfulness, it helped me to understand myself better. I knew I would meet with better success if I were to set goals for myself and plan out my day. But I still lacked the motivation or push to go.

Finally, I find the following resources on the web that really help to kickstart me back into my previous motivated self. I would leave you with the story of Jon Morrow who operates the site Smartblogger.com:

Jon Morrow- Unstoppable Me: 7 Life Lessons from a Guy Who Can’t Move Anything but His Face
Jon suffers from muscular dystrophy, similar to the condition of the late Stephen Hawking. Yet he never let the setback he encountered stop him from achieving what he wanted in life.

Due to his disability, he was on healthcare plan by the US government but the plan would be withdraw if he was to earn USD700 per month. It was really a catch 22 situation. If he depended on assisted healthcare, he had to live in poverty.

His biggest fear is to die alone in a nursing home.

Hence he could not get a job that pays him. So when he was able to write for a popular site, Copyblogger, he worked for free. Eventually he decided to move to Mexico and started his consulting business, being referred by Copyblogger. Today he earn millions from his online business.

Yet he is on a wheelchair, could not type on his own and need to speak to a microphone to have it turned to blog posts. What he said really strike a chord in my heart:

The way you respond to that pain is another matter, which we’ll talk about in a moment. For now, the point I want to make is this: if you feel depressed and weak, unable to cope with the difficulties of life, it’s not because you are a flawed human being. It’s because you were unprepared for the pain you are experiencing. The problem, ironically, is that you haven’t suffered enough.

The opposite is also true. If you want to become a stronger and more capable person, the smartest thing you can do is systematically (and safely) increase your pain tolerance.

For example, Tim Ferriss recommends lying down in the middle of a crowded public place like a supermarket or a coffee shop. You’ll feel like a fool, but the experience will condition you to deal with embarrassment and discomfort in the future.

The bottom line?

The degree of success you achieve in life is directly proportional to the amount of pain you can tolerate. If you ever want to accomplish big things like building a successful business, becoming the best in your field, or changing the world in some way, you need to start training yourself to endure the pain all those things require. It’ll also prepare you for the next time life punches you in the face, which is inevitable.

The only caveat is you have to keep the right mindset. If you respond to pain the wrong way, it makes you weaker, not stronger.

Excerpt from Jon Morrow- Unstoppable Me: 7 Life Lessons from a Guy Who Can’t Move Anything but His Face

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