Feelings of unworthiness can occur in anyone from time to time. If they linger, you can take steps to turn them around.

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When you’re challenged by feelings of unworthiness, you may think you don’t deserve good grades, a job promotion, parental affection, or love from a partner.

While there are several potential causes of feeling undeserving, there are also several steps you can take to help you feel worthy and deserving.

It’s natural to go through periods of feeling unworthy of love or recognition. Most of the time, these sentiments are short-lived, but sometimes they can linger for different reasons.

Impostor syndrome

Impostor syndrome is a strong experience of self-doubt and feeling like a fraud, personally or professionally. Folks who live with impostor syndrome often credit success to luck and devalue their hard work and self-worth.

Past trauma

Research from 2019 found a link between childhood trauma, feeling unworthy, and developing depression as an adult.

Mental health conditions

Feelings of worthlessness can also be a symptom of mental health conditions like:

The National Institute of Mental Health states that feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness can be hallmarks of depression, especially if you experience these feelings every day for most of the day for 2 weeks or longer.

Not accepting your past decisions

Part of the human experience is complex reasoning and introspection. That means when we make a decision, we can review it and have satisfaction or regret over the past.

Not accepting your past decisions, even a string of mistakes, may color your views on yourself even long after the deeds are done.

Low self-esteem

Self-esteem is a measure of how you view your own qualities and characteristics.

Having a higher degree of self-esteem is associated with mental fitness and self-worth, whereas lower self-esteem is linked to feelings of worthlessness and lack of confidence.


Perfectionism involves setting unrealistically high expectations for yourself and becoming dysregulated when you don’t meet the rigid standards you created. You may believe things are all or nothing, either praiseworthy or worthless.

Covert narcissism

Narcissism refers to a group of personality traits that include difficulty empathizing, grandiose ideas, and a need for praise.

On the outside, covert narcissism in particular can appear self-deprecating and sound like consistently expressing low self-esteem. This person may avoid situations that challenge a fragile sense of self-worth.

On the inside, someone with covert narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) may still believe they’re superior to others (in line with other NPD types) and thus avoid criticism at all costs.

Feeling unworthy can leave you unmotivated and can make self-care difficult.

Since these thoughts can have such a negative effect on your quality of life, it’s important to learn how to reclaim your self-worth and recognize what a deserving person you are.

1. Acknowledge your emotions

Instead of judging your emotions, you can make space for them. Being mindful of your feelings can help you lean into acceptance.

2. Have a plan

Sometimes penning down your intentions can help change a habit that doesn’t serve you. You could try making a loose plan with as much (or as little!) detail as you need.

It can involve specific strategies like talking aloud to yourself to interrupt negative thoughts of worthlessness when they arise.

3. Enlist help from your inner circle

Asking for help is one of the most important steps you can take.

Beyond listening, those who care about you may also be able to help lift your spirits and point out your hard work.

A therapist can be a solid addition to your inner circle as well. Here’s how to find the right one for you.

4. Commit to your best, and understand that changes day to day

A lot of things can influence what your best will look like each day, including factors beyond your control.

Committing to your best doesn’t mean perfection. Instead, it means doing what you can at the moment and accepting it will not always be flawless, and that it is OK. You are enough.

5. Perform a private talent show of your strengths

By acknowledging the things you know you can do well, it can help you know yourself better and send some more self-love your way.

There are many reasons you may feel unworthy, but you can take steps to help improve your feelings of self-worth.

Challenging negative thoughts, making a plan for handling your emotions, embracing your best in each day, and reaching out to others can all help you toward feeling self-validated.