I was over the moon.
Humming to the cheerful song on the car radio, I replayed my successful workday in my mind. I couldn’t believe that the project manager had thanked me personally for my contribution.
Even thinking of the acknowledgement made me smile and warmth spread through my chest.
I turned right and stopped at the red traffic light. Still swaying to the music.
Also, two people had commented on my weight loss. I had worked hard to shed a few pounds. And it finally paid off.
What an amazing day!
I bounced with excitement. I couldn’t be more pleased with myself. This was the best day I…
The angry blare of a horn sent me flying.
Adrenaline raced through my body. My chest tightened.
The traffic light was green. And I had missed it turning.
I glanced in the rear-view mirror. The driver behind was shouting, making annoyed gestures.
In panic, I fumbled for the gearstick. My car crawled away from the crossroads in mortifying slow motion.
With the driver behind still cursing.
He clearly thought I was an idiot. An incompetent imbecile.
He would get home to his wife and complain about the most useless driver in the world. They would judge me, maybe even make fun of my embarrassing blunder.
My stomach was in knots, my vision blurred. Please don’t make another mistake now. He’s still watching…
I pulled into the next layby and let him pass. Sobbing and shaking, I hunched behind the steering wheel, too upset to continue.
How could this day have turned so awful so rapidly? What had happened to the happiness I had felt only moments ago?
And why was my life such an emotional rollercoaster?
My feeble attempt to get off the emotional rollercoaster
Things like this happened to me almost every day. I was exhilarated one moment and destroyed the next.
One incident, one unkind word, one strange look tossed me into an emotional abyss. No matter how content, happy or excited I had been the moment before. And it took me hours, sometimes even days, to drag myself back up from the depths of despair and self-condemnation.
I yearned for emotional balance.
If only I could take things easier, not care so much what others thought of me. I knew I needed more confidence, more self-belief.
And I was boosting my self-esteem.
I had lost the weight to feel more comfortable in myself. I worked hard, so I could be proud of myself. And I tirelessly strived the become a better and better version of myself.
Yet, still, I failed to get off the emotional rollercoaster. In fact, my emotional state deteriorated. The lows became more frequent, more intense. The things that triggered them became smaller, more “come on, it’s not really a big deal”.
But I couldn’t help myself.
I blamed myself, cursed myself for my weakness, my inability to “get a grip” or “just snap out of it”. What was wrong with me?
After all, I worked on my self-esteem. I tried everything I could to feel better about myself. Yet, whenever I succeeded to boost myself up, something happened, a mistake, a criticism, somebody’s disapproval, that hurled me back down.
I was at my wit’s end.
But then I discovered the shocking reason for my volatile emotional state.
The endless curse of the invisible judge
I was getting ready for my friend’s birthday party. For the last 20 minutes I had tried outfits, huffing in front of the mirror. I knew everybody else would look fabulous. And none of the clothes in my wardrobe were good enough.
I just didn’t look good enough.
I was too small, too chubby. My face was too round. The others would think I looked ridiculous…
And right there, staring at my sorry reflection in the mirror, it hit me.
What was I comparing myself to? Who said that I didn’t look good enough? Where did the criteria come from against which I measured myself?
And I had no answer.
I just knew that I relentlessly sought to reach some kind of ideal. All my life, I struggled to be special, extraordinary, a perfect 10 in looks, work, relationships, and everything I did.
As if I was constantly measured and weighed. And found wanting.
As if some invisible, merciless judge was always watching me, scrutinising every move I made. Smirking: “Berni, zero points, nul points,” whenever I screwed up or didn’t meet expectations.
And I was terrified of that verdict. I knew I had to be good enough. I was convinced that, somehow, my life depended on it.
For one disastrous reason.
The devastating reason why our lives depend on the judge’s verdict
You see, somehow, our society is convinced that we are all inherently without worth.
We are worthless voids that need to be filled before we qualify for happiness, love and abundance.
So, if we cannot accumulate enough worth, we will never be able to live a fulfilled life. We will never find a loving partner. And we will never get what we want.
Because we simply don’t have enough worth to deserve it.
And society stipulates specific criteria that we need to fulfil if we want to gain worth.
Beauty and popularity will earn us worth. And so will wealth, possessions, status, qualifications and other people’s approval.
And the more beautiful, popular, successful we are, the higher our level of worth. And our claim to a happy life.
Whether we believe it or not, we all abide by these criteria.
Because we yearn for happiness. And, all our lives, we've been told that the only way to get what we desire is to have enough worth to deserve it. By constantly satisfying the invisible judge with his imaginary scoreboard.
So, we please others non-stop, even if it exhausts us and makes us resentful. So, we can gather a smidgen of worthiness and eventually deserve love.
We work hard, even if it means neglecting ourselves, so we can earn enough worthiness to deserve other people’s respect and maybe some happiness down the line.
And that’s exactly what causes the emotional rollercoaster.
The little-known source of the emotional rollercoaster
Everything we do our entire lives is intended to increase our worth.
We fight and struggle to become the best versions of ourselves. So, we can earn some worth. And eventually qualify for a happy life.
We feel awesome when we fulfilled the required criteria and gained some worth. Because, subconsciously, we believe that it brings us a step closer to what we desire.
And we sink into desolation whenever we make a mistake, or other people reject or criticise us. Because it snatches away that hard-earned bit of worth we had scraped together.
And so life becomes an emotional rollercoaster. Worth up, worth down, elation, despair. Vicious and sickening, emotions overrun us with uncontrollable force.
Like on a real rollercoaster, we are mere passengers, without any control of what is happening to us.
Stuck in a never-ending spiral of imbalance and suffering.
All because we want to be happy. And we need the worth to deserve it.
And, no matter how hard we try and how many momentary successes we have on the way, ultimately we always fail.
Which is why trying to feel better about ourselves by boosting our self-esteem is such a futile tactic.
The dangers of boosting your self-esteem
Back when I was still stuck on the emotional rollercoaster, I believed that boosting my self-esteem would bring balance and relief.
But, instead, it made it worse.
And I blamed myself for the failure. Because, after all, boosting our self-esteem is what we are supposed to do to feel better about ourselves.
The thing is though, that all I did by boosting my self-esteem was to try and come ever closer to the required worth criteria. Be prettier, work harder, have more money, more possessions, more status and respect.
And attempt to not hate myself so much when I failed and lost worth. Which, granted, is beneficial.
But, fact remained, that I still bowed to the invisible judge. I still played a game that made me miserable. According to society’s rules that made no sense at all.
Hoping I would earn my worth.
Self-esteem became nothing but a measure of how well I thought I fulfilled society’s worth criteria. It was the slavedriver that shackled me to a downward spiral of hustle, exhaustion and misery.
Rather than helping me off the emotional rollercoaster.
I was sacrificing my happiness to gain more worth by fulfilling all required criteria. So, I eventually would be worthy enough to deserve happiness.
Think of it. That’s insane!
There had to be another way.
A way to break free from the rollercoaster. Rather than clinging to it in the hope it would get me enough worth in the end, if only I managed to suffer through the nauseating ride.
And eventually, I found it…
The life-changing discovery that helped me get off the emotional rollercoaster
I had given up the search when I finally found the solution.
My little daughter had been born, life was different and I struggled to adapt.
And I started to wonder whether the rollercoaster was all there was. Maybe the invisible judge was invincible and aspiring to meet random worth criteria was the true purpose of our lives.
But then, I watched my 3-week old baby, sleeping in her crib.
She was happy and content. She had love and care and everything she desired as soon as she thought of it.
Yet, she did not meet society’s worth criteria.
She had not accumulated any wealth or possessions, had no success or claim to fame. No impressive social media following or exceptional good looks. During her short life, she had done nothing that could have gained her any worth.
Yet, she had the happiness I yearned for.
And that’s when it hit me.
She didn’t need to accumulate worth to deserve happiness. She could never have any worth at all.
Because she WAS worth. Personified.
Worth was part of her Being, her birth right. As such, she deserved everything life had to offer. Without having to meet standards or fulfil random criteria.
And, as I marvelled at her blissfully smiling in her sleep, I realised that the same applied to me. And you. And all of us!
We all ARE 100% inherent, unconditional, indestructible worth.
We don’t lose our innocent baby worth along the way either. How could we? It is part of who we are.
Within me, and you, our worth still exists unchanged. No matter what happened to us throughout our life. No matter what we did or others did to us.
We ARE worth.
We just had long forgotten about it. And that was the real problem.
How to finally get off the emotional rollercoaster for good
We tend to believe that self-esteem and self-worth are one and the same.
But it’s the understanding of the profound difference between them that will free us from the emotional rollercoaster.
You see, when we work hard to have more worth, we walk the path of self-esteem. And it is a treacherous ride indeed.
Because, if we must earn worth to have it, it’s only too easy to lose it again.
Every mistake, every failure and rejection strips us of all the worth we thought we had. Because it was never ours to begin with.
It was given to us by other people. Their approval and acceptance, their gratitude and acknowledgement of our hard work caused us to feel we had worth.
But because it isn’t ours to have, they can snatch it away from us in an instant. And we plummet down the rollercoaster at dizzying speed.
Worthless once again. Simply because we missed the traffic light turning green.
That’s why self-esteem is such a fickle thing. And causes so much emotional upheaval.
So, to get off the emotional rollercoaster, you need to realise that worth is part of who you are.
And that nobody can ever take it away.
You deserve happiness, love and abundance. Right now.
Without fulfilling pointless criteria. Without having to be perfect or satisfying the invisible judge.
It took me a while to convince my mind of the truth. I had to repeat “I AM worth” many times.
But I am finally off the emotional rollercoaster. I finally have balance, freedom and happiness.
Life isn’t about becoming a better version of yourself. So, you can have worth.
It’s about embracing the current version of yourself. That already IS 100% worth.
And accept that you deserve your dream life. Right now.
No matter what.
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I lived on a rollercoaster fo so many years I thought I was going nuts. It took me a long time to understand that other people’s opinion is not my reality and my worth does not depend on anybody’s aceptance, not even mine! In my case too my daughter teaches me a great deal. She is a zen master that I have the privilege to take care of. Thank you for this brilliant article, for the autenticity and the wisdom and the generosity. Namaste!
Thank you so much, Suru! I am delightd that your daughter helped you realise that your worth does not depend on other people’s approval. It truly is one of the most important lessons we can learn. It is only upwards from there. All the very best, Berni