Why Do I Feel so Worthless?
"I have been through a living hell because of my lack of faith and my need to please others at the cost of losing myself. I've learned a hard lesson, but one I won't have to repeat."
s we answer the question which titles this chapter, it is important to realize that not all of the problems we face are a direct result of our abortion. In addition to creating new problems, an abortion often accentuates preexisting difficulties. Instead of blaming your abortion for all your problems, view it as a catalyst to recognizing and sorting out your feelings in order to better understand what "makes you tick" and how to make you "tick" better.
Why do I feel worthless?
Feelings of worthlessness result from various impressions you perceive. Your feelings of worthlessness may originate in your childhood. You may have been emotionally or physically abused by parents or other authority figures. You may have been unwanted by your parents or unable to meet their expectations of you. Feelings of worthlessness may have to do with external appearances ¾ flaws you see in yourself. In my case, I was an awkward and plain child. Peers often made fun of my skinny legs and large nose. My self-esteem was lowered with each thrust of verbal spears aimed at me.
A shameful act such as your abortion may have left you with feelings of worthlessness.
I feel the message I am to give others is that when you take an unborn life, you devalue that life, and in the process, your own inner respect for the value of your life is diminished. The destruction of that understanding of your own worth as one created in God's image results in the gradual or sudden breakdown of the inner strength of your life, and may result in the [eventual] destruction of it. The Scriptures are true, "Be not deceived, God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (Galatians 6:7). (Anonymous)
Thoughts such as, "I am the only one to have done such a terrible thing" or "No one could ever love or forgive me for what I have done" seem to confirm your worthlessness. Continued feelings of guilt rob life of all meaning. One demoralized woman tells it this way:
Abortion is a way of telling a mom the world doesn't need you or your kid, and besides what makes you think you deserve to have children? It’s like saying, this fetus is a blob of tissue because so are you. You're just a product of the baby boom, an unnecessary human being who takes up space and makes the world more crowded and polluted. We'd get rid of all you extras, but since we don't want to be too obvious about it, we'll just make sure we don't have any more extras coming from a lot of extras.
Satan also challenges us with being worthless. He puts vague yet subtle thoughts into our minds regarding our worth. God forgave all sin at the cross of Calvary. But Satan wants us to focus on the bad we did rather than on the forgiveness we have received. Since God refuses to punish us for the wrong we did, we sometimes decide to punish ourselves by focusing on our own past sins.
What is the difference between self-esteem and self-image?
Self-esteem can be defined as a belief in or respect for yourself. Self-image refers to your conception or idea of yourself, that is, how you look at yourself and how you think others perceive you.
How does low self-image affect me?
A low self-image can keep us from seeing the reality of a situation. We may find ourselves trying to prove ourselves, always needing to be right, being self-focused, wondering about our worth, manipulating others to reassure us of our worth.
A low self-image affects our self-esteem. Sometimes we perceive ourselves differently than others see us. Sometimes our perceptions are incorrect. Because we know of flaws in our appearance or faults in our character, we believe everyone sees them and judges us by these faults.
What determines our worth?
Trying to measure our lives by other people's standards leads to despair. We end up being and doing what we really don't want to be or do. Although a good self-image and positive self-esteem refer to our view of and belief in ourselves, these attitudes should not result from what we or others think about us. The value we place upon ourselves should result from understanding our position in Christ. The Bible tells us we are fully accepted in the Beloved (Jesus Christ) and that we are God's own possession (Ephesians 1:6, 14).
Our worth is not based on others' opinions of us, nor on our own evaluation of ourselves. God establishes our worth. Stop judging yourself by others' standards and look at yourself by God's standards. Sounds scary, huh? But we often judge ourselves more harshly than God judges us. Christians are worthy to stand in God's presence without fear of personal condemnation because God sees us as perfect and righteous through Christ. "He [God] has made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21; see also Romans 3:21-26; Philippians 3:9).
Your worth comes from the value God places on you. In Matthew 10-29-31 Jesus says, "Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are numbered. Therefore do not fear; you are of more value than many sparrows." Imagine, as insignificant as the sparrow is, not one falls to the ground without God knowing about it! But people are of far greater value than many sparrows. God created you in His own image (Genesis 1:26). You are so important to God that He knows the number of hairs on your head! Your physical appearance, intellect, and emotions were allowed by God to come together to form a unique person ¾ you. Most important, you are so valuable that God sent Jesus to die for you. When you downgrade yourself, it's like slapping God in the face.
Your value is inestimable. After all, God created you! God loves you ¾ let Him!
What is depression?
Following an abortion, we may feel down or discouraged. This is normal and to be expected; it is not depression. The problem becomes serious when we develop "I" trouble. This is the "woe is me" pity party. Dwelling on the negative aspects of an abortion and surrounding events to the exclusion of anything else leads us into depression. We focus on ourselves and our problems until we find ourselves in despair. Feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness drag us to depths from which we can never climb out on our own. It is when we are in the depths of depression that we often reach upward and outward to God, instinctively realizing only He can help us.
A classic description of depression is found in Psalm 38:1-11. Read it and see if you find yourself in King David's words:
O LORD, rebuke me not in Thy wrath; And chasten me not in Thy burning anger. For Thine arrows have sunk deep into me, And Thy hand has pressed down on me. There is no soundness in my flesh because of Thine indignation; There is no health in my bones because of my sin. For my iniquities are gone over my head; As a heavy burden they weigh too much for me. My wounds grow foul and fester. Because of my folly, I am bent over and greatly bowed down; I go mourning all day long. For my loins are filled with burning; And there is no soundness in my flesh. I am benumbed and badly crushed; I groan because of the agitation of my heart. Lord, all my desire is before Thee; And my sighing is not hidden from Thee. My heart throbs, my strength fails me; And the light of my eyes, even that has gone from me. My loved ones and my friends stand aloof from my plague; And my kinsmen stand afar off.
Reread this passage. If you have ever been deeply depressed, you understand how David felt. Notice that David's depression affected him physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
How can feelings of worthlessness manifest themselves?
In answering this question, I struggle with this: do feelings of worthlessness lead to depression, or does depression lead us into feelings of worthlessness? I believe the two are intertwined. When we feel worthless we lean toward depression because our eyes are on ourselves and our imagined lack of value. We can focus inwardly so long that depression results. However, when we are depressed, our feelings of self-worth plunge to their lowest depths. Depression results in self-condemnation. We believe we can do nothing right. We trust no one ¾ not even ourselves. We view ourselves as failures. Outward actions and reactions reflect what we are feeling inwardly. But beware! Our feelings may err and impair our judgment.
In an attempt to escape or justify feelings of worthlessness, we sometimes pursue activities which (although it may take us time to realize it) only serve to intensify our feelings of worthlessness. We may turn to drugs, sexual promiscuity, physical and emotional abuse of others (particularly children), alcohol, obesity, anorexia, over- or under-achieving, paranoia, or suicide as outlets for our feelings of inadequacy.
The following women tell you ways in which they tried to "prove" their worthlessness:
After the abortion a "friend" insisted that I sleep with him so that I wouldn't become frigid about sex. I slept with more men than I can count looking for a little love and affection. They were all so willing and soon left me more devastated than before. I was a whore but didn't even get paid for my stupidity. (Denise Lackey)
I was hospitalized for severe depression and placed under suicide watch. I had a plan to take my life. . . . People were shocked when they heard I was hospitalized for mental and emotional problems. Up till then I had them all fooled. All but God, that is! He saw the pain that drove me to the cemetery three or four days a week. It was so peaceful there! The thought of dying became more appealing as I walked between the tombstones straightening floral arrangements, searching for my baby. After all, the cemetery is a place for the dead. . . . At work I'd sit and cry. I just couldn't handle routine things anymore. . . . I planned my death. I was going to drive to my peaceful cemetery, swallow a bottle of sleeping pills and cut my wrists. I wanted to make sure I'd die. . . . (Paulette Hawkins)
They never tell you of the emotional trauma you go through after the abortion. I have attempted suicide twice, had numerous failed relationships because of my deep hate I had for all men, got involved with drugs and alcohol to help me forget. I have faked pregnancy hoping to bring him back, and now as a mother I feel as if I have to [make up] for what I did four years ago by being a [supermom]. (Anonymous)
I have in the past struggled with a subconscious desire to punish myself (because the Lord didn't) by psychosomatic illnesses ¾ my body would have symptoms, etc. I realize this and prayed I would see myself through the Lord's eyes, that I would have compassion on myself. (Laura)
Over the years as a counselor I've noted that many girls who return to pregnancy help centers . . . often deliberately get themselves pregnant again as a means of helping them to come to terms with an earlier abortion. Often because they feel it can take the place of a baby already lost, especially where an abortion has been pressured by family and friends. They yearn for something to call their own. (Christine)
What is this reaction accomplishing?
We have read how King David's depression manifested itself. He became physically ill and weak, his unconfessed sins burdened him as a heavy weight, his troubled mind deprived David of peace, and his demeanor caused family and friends to shy away from him.
Living out feelings of worthlessness and permitting yourself to become depressed result in a wasted life and ruined relationships. You can run thousands of miles to escape a problem, but when you arrive at your destination, your problems will still be with you. You can't run away from yourself. You must face yourself and learn to live with who you are and what you have done.
How should I respond to depression?
The best antidote for depression is to take positive action. Depression increases as we neglect our responsibilities. As work piles up, depression deepens. No wonder people get depressed when they sit idly in front of a TV for hours or lie in bed bemoaning their situation! This inactivity intensifies their depression. On the other hand, those who pursue self-debasing lifestyles, as confirmation of or escape from their inner turmoil, need to withdraw from their hopeless activity and concentrate on living responsibly.
God tells us not to dwell on evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22; Psalms 34:14; 141:4). Our act of abortion was evil. When you continue to dwell on it by refusing to relinquish thoughts of your abortion and how horribly guilty you feel, or when you refuse to deal with your problems God's way, you are committing sin against God. Instead, you should focus on God and on doing what He requests. Philippians 4:8 provides excellent advice: "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things."
To have victory over feelings of worthlessness and depression, you must put your emotions under the control of God (Galatians 5:1). I know things may be bad for you right now, but you have God's promises that they are not hopeless. Remember King David's words of utter despair? He resolved his depression by confessing his sin and asking for God's help (Psalm 38:18, 22). You can do that too. Fill your mind with God-honoring thoughts ¾ songs of praise or prayers for yourself or for others; look up God's promises and memorize them; seek counsel from others; be with other people ¾ don't sit in a room by yourself and brood; ask God to prick your conscience when you begin to focus on your abortion.
Situations in your life occur because God allows them for your own good ¾ to mature you, to teach you, to strengthen you. Look for God's purpose in your life. What goal is He trying to accomplish through you? Are your attitudes and actions helping or hindering that goal? Thank God for already having forgiven your past sins and claim Romans 15:13 for yourself: "Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."
Focus on God. We have no inner strength, only stubborn wills. Focusing inwardly and rehashing your abortion time and again won't help you because the solutions to your problems lie not within your own mind, but with God. The real need is to focus your eyes outwardly (Psalm 116:3-4).
You are going to have "off" days when you aren't at your best. Everybody has them. We are to place ourselves under the control of the Holy Spirit no matter what our feelings are. God does not excuse poor behavior because of the way we feel.
I like to give the people I counsel "homework" assignments (must be the school teacher in me!). Here's an assignment for you: For one week keep a daily log of reasons and situations in which you feel sorry for yourself. Then set to work correcting wrong thinking following the format outlined in Chapter Twenty-One, under the sub-heading, "What are the steps to healing?"
Is there any hope for real change?
I know, you are probably thinking, "Yes, but will I ever really be able to change ¾ will I ever feel like I'm worth something?" Because abortion is a negative in our life, the surrounding emotions tend to be negative. Dwelling on the negatives long enough will have disastrous effects, because what we think and how we act are directly related. "For as he thinks within himself, so is he" (Proverbs 23:7).
You feel worthless because you or others have convinced yourself you are worthless because you had an abortion (or for some other reason). Because you believe you are worthless, you have been trying to persuade others that you are as worthless as you believe yourself to be. Thank God our feelings don't determine our worth! And thank God we can change our concept of ourselves and our feeling of self-worth to reflect God's estimation of us.
In part, you experience self-hatred and thoughts of worthlessness because of negative emotions that have built up inside of you ¾ emotions such as shame, grief, anger, or hate. Yet it lies within God's power to turn each of these negatives into a positive. Shame becomes dignity. Grief becomes peace. Anger extends the hand of forgiveness. Hate resolves into love. And as these emotions find positive solutions, your self-hatred will become acceptance of who and what you are. Your feelings of worthlessness will dispel as you begin to view yourself as God views you
Dr. Jay Adams states:
While the Scriptures everywhere acknowledge the important place of habit and faithfully describe the hard struggle to put off old sinful ways, they also ring with the assurance that by the Word and the Spirit radical changes are possible at any point in life and regardless of what one's background may have been like. There is hope for great change in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Therefore, when a child becomes a Christian, he must be taught that much of what he has learned to do previously must be changed. The former sinful manner of life developed by others and by himself must be replaced by godly ways of living.
Hope for change lies in your willingness to believe and act upon God's Word. You are of great worth. God says so.
Before I read this chapter, I had a question about . . .
In this chapter I have learned . . .
To resolve my post-abortion trauma, I will . . .
I need to talk to God about . . .
A verse from the Bible which helped me in this chapter is . . .
After reading this chapter, I have hope because . . .
The devil is crafty but not wise. If you resist him, he will leave you alone (James 4:7).
 To place yourself under the control of the Holy Spirit means that by an act of your will you choose to allow God to guide and influence your thoughts, words, and actions.
Adams, The Christian Counselor's Manual, p. 139.