How to Wake Up from the Painful Trance of Unworthiness

How to Wake Up from the Painful Trance of Unworthiness


“When we experience our lives through this lens of personal insufficiency, we are imprisoned in what I call the trance of unworthiness. Trapped in this trance, we are unable to perceive the truth of who we really are.” ~Tara Brach

Breaking free from the trance of unworthiness is a key part of our evolution process, both at an individual and collective level.

Let me explain why.

What I observe with clients and what resonates with my own experiences is that most (if not all) triggers, limitations we impose on ourselves, and fears of failure or success stem from a deep and profound trance we all find ourselves in at various points in our lives: the trance of feeling “not good enough.”

Once we’re enmeshed in this trance, where we truly feel that low vibration of unworthiness, and the shame that comes with it, we want to hide.

We want to ensure that no one discovers our perceived worthlessness, because that would mean rejection. And rejection is oh so painful. Because we still feel it as being abandoned from the tribe in our emotional body, emotion that’s imprinted during our formative years when our samskaras (impressions or patterns of thinking/feeling/reacting) are being created.

Therefore, humans naturally want to avoid rejection as much as possible.

From then on, we mask. We hide. We reject our true selves and put on a façade that we believe is valuable to the tribe, thinking that we’ll be loved for it. There are different types of masks we can opt for depending on our “culturescape” and family patterns of beliefs.

Your mask might resemble being an achiever. Constantly doing, constantly setting yourself up for success in whatever way your tribe defines it (a university degree, money in your bank account, the size of your house…).

Or your mask might be that of a “good girl” or “good boy,” a people pleaser. Staying nice, acting nice, not too ambitious, not too lazy, making sure you do not make mistakes or get in trouble because getting in trouble would be bad.

Or it could be a mask of service. You serve others, forgetting yourself in the process because thinking of yourself might be seen as selfish.

But all masks have limits. There comes a time when your mask does not serve you, or them. It serves no one because it is not you. So you end up fooling yourself and others into believing that the mask is you. And this misalignment feels awkward, tight, rigid, and stressful because it is stressful not to be yourself. It takes effort to constantly put on an act. It is tiring.

So there comes a time when you get really tired of it. Maybe you call this the mid-life crisis or the dark night of the soul.

It’s just that your soul is tired of the constant acting.

But your mask is really holding on, fearing that if it were to fall off, everyone would discover how worthless you are. So it works hard to stay and punishes you with harsh self-criticism each time you go off track and maybe show a bit more vulnerability, a bit more of yourself.

So how do you remove your mask? Well, it’s not easy. It takes effort and dedication. It’s a long, non-linear journey, more like a spiraling up and down movement. But it’s oh so worth it.

I too had a big mask on for a long time, and figuring out who I was without it was uncomfortable. So much resistance. So much fear. So many limiting beliefs.

I wore a perfectionist mask to keep myself safe for years.

I had a perfect body (according to the standards that were imposed on me at the time through magazines, society’s comments, women’s comments on their bodies), a perfect level of fitness (monitoring what I ate, struggling with anorexia), a perfect job (engineering, as per my family’s expectations).

I was a feminist, working woman (the strict version of feminism that was transmitted to me was to work full-time and not be at home because it was not valued) and an independent woman (able to do everything myself).

On the other side of the trance of unworthiness, life is so different from what your mask was expecting you to live. Maybe the big house you live in is not what lights you up anymore, or maybe it is. But you might find more joy and love in the small moments of life.

It’s so much nicer on the other side, so much more authentic; more energizing, fluid, and beautiful. Not all happy. But authenticity brings some lightness to your life even in the midst of life’s messiness.

Here are a few key steps to practice to break free from the trance and rediscover your true self.

1. Check in with your readiness.

First you need to be ready for it. You need to be willing. You need a strong energy of yes to change and no to staying the same, in that loop of constant self-doubt and feeling unworthy.

2. Practice radical honesty.

Be radically honest with yourself that you have been wearing a mask that kept you safe for a while but was inauthentic.

Feel the mask in your body. How do you feel when you wear it? What physical sensations do you experience? What’s the voice in your head like? What is your inner critic telling you?

Observe all of it. Each time you are back in this sensation, with this inner voice, catch it. Thank it for all the good work and beautiful protective intention all those years but be firm: you are in charge now.

3. Allow the feeling of discomfort.

Spend some time in the discomfort of removing the mask and being formless. Feel the resistance. Observe the internal battle. Feel it in your body.

After the internal resistance, there will be grief. Feel the grief fully. You are letting go of a part of yourself that defined you for most of your life. You will need to feel the loss. Take your time. There is no rushing grief.

4. Ask yourself: Who do I choose to be?

In your redefinition process, ask yourself who you want to be, what quality of being you want to embody. What lit you up when you were young, and what is lighting you up now? How do you want to show up in the world? How do you want to feel? You have the power to be whoever you want to be. What will you choose?

5. Remember your inherent worth.

Remember that you are inherently worthy of love. You were born worthy—a little newborn, a bubble of love. And you still are. Just as worthy of love, regardless of your age and the mistakes you made along the way. You are worthy of love because you exist.

6. Embrace forgiveness.

Forgive yourself for your mistakes. Forgive yourself for abandoning yourself so many times. Forgive others for anything they said or did that caused you to want to hide.

7. Decide that it’s time to shine.

It’s time to wear that new skin. It will feel weird for a while, but it will settle into something beautiful and relaxing. Eventually. Like when you meet someone you can be yourself with, it feels so easy and beautiful. Same feeling.

The world needs the whole of you. Your unique identity. Your unique vibration. Live authentically. Cry when you need to cry. Share how you feel with love and courage, without blaming others. Shine brightly when you feel that energy. Follow those steps that take you toward the vision of yourself you’ve set, those inspiring, energizing steps.

The journey is not going to be all rosy, but acknowledge the impermanence of the ebbs and flows in life so you can move through the challenging parts with trust.

8. Do what lights you up.

Do the things that make you feel awesome, whatever they are. For me, it’s yoga, walks, nature, spending time with good friends, and connecting with my kids.

9. Spend time in nature.

Nature brings out our authentic nature, our worthy nature, because nature is non-judgmental. Nature is authentic. Nature is powerfully beautiful. Nature is healing.

10. Surround yourself with a supportive tribe.

As you remove your masks, as you grow and heal, your relationships will shift. You might find that you cannot hang out with the same people you used to—because they might still be wearing their masks, and because they might struggle with your “new” vibration. That is okay and part of the process. Learn to let go. This will create space for new relationships to come through.

Find a tribe where you feel worthy and valued!

11. Be compassionate to yourself. 

Because the mask will want to come back for a while, on and off, in different forms. Your inner critic will get loud. Be patient. Hold this part of yourself and the part s/he is protecting tight. You got this… until the next time where you peel another layer and release another mask.

Don’t forget, the journey isn’t meant to be tackled alone. Getting support from friends, a coach, or therapist is incredibly valuable. It speeds up growth and makes it easier to have someone to guide and cheer you on along the way.

*Image generated by AI