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I Finally Realized That I Deserve Better—And So Do You

We are so hard on ourselves. We find some way to judge everything we do, whether it’s seemingly insignificant, like following a map upside down, or something more monumental, like saying something that may have hurt someone else. We can’t seem to help but belittle the things we do and ruminate them. We can spend hours, days, even years thinking of what we could have done better. When these thoughts crop up, they’re hard to stop. We keep spiraling, and we’ll continue to spiral if we don’t rein ourselves in.

Our insecurity shows itself in the actions we take in our lives. We make ourselves do things we don’t want to do because we think it’s the “right” thing to do, it will impress others, or for some other reason that’s not right for us. We stay in unhealthy relationships because we think we’re the problem, not the other person, or even if we recognize that they’re the problem, we give the person the benefit of the doubt. We stay in toxic work environments because we think this is as good as it gets. We do all these things, limiting ourselves to what we’ve known because we think we deserve it.

Ultimately, we don’t think we’re worth much as individuals.

We may have aspirations of moving up in life, doing the things that truly make us alive, but we don’t because that feels too out of reach. We may know intrinsically that we deserve better than the way we treat ourselves, or even the way toxic friends treat us, but we can’t break out of the cycle. We can’t leave the energy drainers in our lives, either because we depend on them for a relationship, we’re afraid of confrontation, or we’re afraid that we’ll never find someone to fill their void. We stay where we are in life—in work, relationships, and mindsets—even though we’re not unsatisfied with life overall. We do this because we think we deserve it.

I’ve heard countless times that you need to know your worth. It was something I learned in therapy, something I read in countless self-help articles, something my friends have said from time to time. But hearing that you’re worth it doesn’t make it true, nor does it make you magically believe it. When you become so used to living your life, even if it’s miserable, it becomes hard to break out. It becomes hard to even see that there’s a different way of living. You get used to being depressed, being anxious all the time, feeling paranoid or antsy or overall not okay. It becomes your norm, and we cling to everything familiar.

But eventually, something clicks.

It happened to me. I can’t pinpoint the exact time, but I know it happened. It was after I realized that I wanted the best things for the people around me. It was after I cheered on my friends when they reached their goals or were simply living their best lives. It was after I reassured them when they expressed doubt in themselves when I reminded them how amazing they were and that they deserved the best in their life.

That’s when it clicked: If everyone deserved better, then why didn’t I?

It was such a simple yet significant epiphany. Here I was, saying that everyone deserved to live their best lives, and I wasn’t living it myself. How could I, a person, a human, like everyone else, not deserve the best when I kept saying that others did? What made me different as a person? It couldn’t have been my flaws. Everyone is different, but everyone has flaws. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone feels insecure at times. Everyone feels everything I’ve felt at some point in their lives. There is no human emotion out there that only one person in the world has experienced.

Knowing that I wasn’t better or worse than anyone opened something within me. It seemed absurd that I wouldn’t deserve better if others did. If we’re all equal, if I truly believed we’re all on the same plane level, then I had to believe that I deserved better, too.

This is something I still have to remind myself of, and I doubt I will perfect this philosophy in my lifetime. But once I opened that door, I didn’t close it. It’s still there, even if it’s more open on some days than others. It’s still there, even if the door is only slightly ajar. The light still comes in regardless, and I see it. I’ve been respecting my time more. I’ve been putting up boundaries. I’ve been spending more time with people who care about me, and I’ve been spending more time doing things that truly bring me joy. I’ve let people out of my life who weren’t lifting me, and I’ve dropped things that no longer served me. Above all, I started living the life I wanted. It’s a journey that will continue through my lifetime.

Something clicked in me at that moment. I finally understand why I deserve better. And if you haven’t already, I hope you understand why you deserve better, too.

Writer, editor, and bi-con

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