Escaping the prison of unworthiness

Years ago, one of my friends shared an allegory that changed how I think about myself and the world. The allegory:

You wake up and realize that you’re locked in a cell.

Time slips through your fingers. The days and weeks blur and crash into one another, each as empty as the last.

One day, without thinking about it, you reach into your pocket. Inside, you discover a key. You understand that this key will release you from your cell and that, strangely, you’ve possessed the key the entire time.

You gather the courage to free yourself. When you put the key in the lock, you notice that there was never a cell to begin with. It was all just an illusion. You were free the whole time.  


Though few of us realize it, we all live in imaginary cells that were built before we were even self-aware.

When you were born, you became a citizen of a country. In turn, you were bound by its laws. Then, your parents raised you in accordance with their beliefs about religion, education, diet, morality, and self-worth. As you grew older and more self-aware, the society you found yourself in encouraged you to observe its customs about fashion, relaxation, health, holidays, sexuality, ethics, and appropriate behavior. Along the way, expectations about almost every aspect of your life were forced upon you without your request or consent.

Sure, you may have gone through periods of rebellion, but the truth is simple: many of your biggest life decisions were made for you. Since none of us chose the circumstance we were born into, few people ever flourish to their fullest potential, similar to a plant’s growth being stunted by the size of its pot.

Soon, all the beliefs and expectations from the outside world alchemized to influence almost every aspect of your life. They created the illusion that you were unworthy. They hardwired demons, feelings of anxiety, and insecurities into your system.

I know that sounds far-fetched, but pause for a moment and reflect. How many times have you blurred the truth or failed to show up honestly and vulnerably? How often have you struggled to accept a compliment? Have you ever written your successes off as a matter of circumstance or coincidence? Are you able to see and feel the magic found in the mundane? Do you have a nasty habit of putting other people’s needs ahead of your own?

I’ve wrestled with all of the above.

These tendencies indicate that you’ve been tricked into believing that you aren’t worthy. They are evidence that you’re imprisoned in an imaginary cell. The power of the illusion rests in its ability to infect both your thoughts and feelings. By making you feel small, you’re much less inclined to believe in your own capability.

Feeling like you aren’t worthy has a nasty ripple effect. It makes you feel as though:

  • You’re not ready (so you perpetually tell yourself, “I’ll start tomorrow”)
  • You’re not lovable (so you pretend to be someone you’re not)
  • You have to work hard to get what you want (so you toil away day after day)
  • The future will be worse than the present (so you’re manipulated by your own anxiety and continually play it safe)

But thankfully, once you’ve learned to see the cell you live in, escaping from it is deceptively simple. Begin by asking yourself:

  • “If I felt like I deserved an amazing life, what would I be doing right now?”
  • “If I were ready to begin living my dreams, what would my first step be?”
  • If the real me were truly lovable, how would that change my actions? How would that change the conversations I’m having with myself and the people in my life?”
  • “If I assumed that success could come easily to me, what would I do to make that happen?”

Of course, the changes would be dramatic. You would become more fully yourself and feel more deeply powerful and connected. You would be fully alive.

The trick is to answer these questions with actions rather than thoughts or words. Respond with your life. Begin living as though you are worthy, ready, lovable, successful, and capable. Doing this will unlock your heart and mind. You will illuminate the truth about your own power, worthiness, and ability. You will notice that the cell you found yourself in was nothing more than a compelling illusion.

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5 thoughts on “Escaping the prison of unworthiness

  1. I think we are all guilty of having that ‘I’m not worthy’ devil on our shoulder. Well written post and good advice, thanks.

  2. This is a great post. And I loved the allegory, and the part “actions rather than thoughts or words”. Thank you Jason.

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