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Hey, what's your default?

Hey, what's your default?
By Elizabeth Filips • Issue #54 • View online
I don’t really know you, so this might seem like a forward question, but: do you feel worthy on unworthy by default?
What state do you think you start an interaction, a task, a day, a friendship, a relationship? As someone secure in who they are, or as someone who somehow needs to prove, to themselves or others, that they’re actually worth it?
Do you feel you’re subconsciously scrambling to collect points of some sort? Are you trying to keep late-night or late-life self-hate at bay by working hard enough, looking good enough, and being successful enough every day? Who set up this game for you? Are you running on default collecting points for metrics you never even questioned you valued? What do you even value?
For most of my life, I’ve felt unworthy by default. 
I’ve always been a micro-rejection, mini-mistake or harsh stare away from crippling emotional distress. My self-perception factory settings seem to be those of self-perceived unworthiness. I wondered for so long how other people seemed to pay life on easy-mode, carless, beautiful freedom, while for me every action was a threat to my fragile core. 
When you’ve never been properly taught or allowed to respect yourself, when you might’ve even been told that the real you is ugly, and so you need to fake it and change in the real world: what sits at your core?
Unworthiness is a dangerous beast, because even when it expresses itself as overachievement, it’s at its core unaccepting of the rewards it may receive. Do you even feel you deserve the attention and love that makes you feel good about yourself?
What ironic game have you been programmed to play, when you spend your life scrambling to offer gifts at the shrine of an ego which only seems to accept sacrifice?
When you only expect success but only truly can accept failure, how can you win?
I’ve come to separate worth from all other self-perceptions: beauty, intelligence, results, happiness, love even. Because even though the latter I’m allowed to let fluctuate (it’s natural for me to feel less or more happy, beautiful, loved), it’s not natural for me (or anyone) to feel any less or more worthy. 
When I’m feeling that devastating, soul-crushing, familiar feeling in response to something not fitting my ridiculously-high self-standards, I now take a step to think: “wait, am I feeling unworthy right now?
I know it sounds absolutely obnoxious and childish, but my default settings are to sometimes consider even small changes a clear message to me: you’re not a good person. And making a manual separation myself: “No, Elizabeth. You didn’t do a great job this time, but you’re OK. It’s fine.”
Separating performance from worth, beauty from worth, intelligence from worth, has been an extra step in my programming I wish I would’ve had from the start. 
Our default settings are important because they’re the baseline from where we start. Friendships, careers, relationships are a potential threat to our sense of self, and so if we’re already starting on shaky ground, the reasonable reaction would be to hide, avoid, not take risks. Luckily, I do think self-worth and our cores are malleable to change. When we notice, we are free. We can take the long way to adjusting our default settings to enter parts of life we’ve been denying ourselves for a long time.

🪄 Quote of the week
“Decency isn’t concerned with tradition, it’s the acknowledgement that other people are like us, have things to do, places to be, needs and worries.”
Morality for the Rest of Us, with Readwise
🖤 My Favourite Things This Week
Paediatrics: I’m back in medical Schoo, currently on my paediatrics rotation and I’m LOVING it. Both from an emotional perspective: getting to see babies and children, feeling as though medicine is making a great impact on someone’s life (setting them up for a new, improved trajectory); and from a medical perspective: paediatricians get to do so much! The job touches upon so much medicine and so many specialities, in a different way to adult medicine. So much of what a paediatrician does would be impossible to do as a doctor of an adult patient. For adults you would be referring them on to other specialities so soon, in paediatrics, the doctor gets to cover a lot of the medical decision making and management themselves, without specialist referral: so they need to be specialised in a lot of different branches of medicine. I’m a bit in love with the speciality so far. Although I’m also shocked at how common and distressing safeguarding cases are in child care. Seeing first hand cases of child abuse or neglect has been something I don’t think I could’ve been prepared for.
🎥 YouTube Video This Week:
How I Can Study 10h a Day: The Perfect Schedule for Chaotic People
How I Can Study 10h a Day: The Perfect Schedule for Chaotic People
Did you enjoy this issue?
Elizabeth Filips

Heya, I'm Elizabeth, a medical student and painter in London. Some Sundays I write about exploring meaning, productivity, little pleasures and just navigating life. And some of my favourite things that week.

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