Deserve Is The Ugliest Word In The English Language


Have you ever asked yourself, “Do I deserve______?” You can fill in the blank in whatever way makes the most sense to you.

Do I deserve that ice cream? Because if I worked out enough today, then I’d deserve ice cream.

Do I deserve a promotion? Because if I worked really hard at my job, then I’d deserve a promotion?

Or I got a promotion, but I am not sure I deserve it?

Have you asked yourself if you deserve to find love in your life?

I have such an issue with the word “deserve”.

Here’s the definition – “do something or have or show qualities worthy of reward or punishment.” So, in other words: do I have the right to, am I entitled to, am I qualified for, am I worthy of ___?

I get it. You have to work hard and then you get the reward. We don’t want to have a world in which we give promotions, ice cream, love for free. Right?

I remember 15 years ago when my nephew was little, everybody was getting an award for showing up at the soccer fields. And that is not what I am suggesting.

But where does it end?

Do you deserve a hug? Do you deserve love in your life? Do you deserve to voice your opinion? I see this with my coaching clients. It comes up over and over and I’m so struck by the quantity, the sheer volume of times that I hear this question. We’re brought up with this as the norm. Did your parent say: “You are being a good girl.” “You’re being a good boy today.” “You deserve my affection, you deserve my love.”

That’s what’s happened when we’re little – everything we did was contingent on whether or not we got our parents’ love. If we’re behaving really badly and they aren’t happy with us, then we might be punished; they might withdraw affections. If they are happy with us, we get the opposite. They tell us, “Good girl, mommy loves you. You can come back sit back on the table, you’re not on a timeout.”

I understand we need to discipline our children and we need to teach them how to function in culture. But the message that we received over and over and over and over throughout childhood – if you do the “right” thing then you deserve the love, you deserve the affection, you deserve that new toy that you’ve been wanting – is what causes lifelong struggles.

We take the misguided belief about the word ‘deserve’ into every aspect of our lives. So much so, that in coaching sessions clients talk about how they want to avoid conflict. Or how they don’t know what they want or what makes them happy. It comes out in a story filled with blame, shame or anger, but what is underneath that emotion is:

“Do I deserve the right to my opinion?”

“Do I deserve the right to say how I really feel?”

“Do I even deserve the right to my unexpressed feelings?

How many of you have feelings that you don’t think you have the right to have?

You may think, “I shouldn’t feel that way.”

As soon as we go down the slippery slope and question whether we have the right to our own feelings, our own voice, our own opinion, we fall into a trap. I call it emotional weight. I call it the junk food thoughts of our life. It’s what weighs us down.

But that can change when we rise up and take back what was always ours – our authentic voice.

Do you give yourself a moment to fully express yourself privately and make peace with that moment?

It’s okay to feel anger.

It’s okay to feel frustration.

It’s okay to feel sadness.

But we don’t think we have the right.

“I should suck it up, man up.” I can’t tell you how many people tell me that, “I need to get over it.”

Well okay, we don’t want to wallow in self-pity, but we do have a right to our feelings. We actually have a birthright to our feelings.

And here’s what I want to say to anybody whosever had this experience of questioning whether or not they deserve, whether or not they are worthy of self-expression, of their truth – it’s your birthright.

You’re human. You’re here. You live and breathe, so how can anybody take away your right to your own feelings?

Maybe when you were little, full self-expression did not work out. Maybe your family didn’t respond well? Maybe you got punished for speaking your truth? But now you’re an adult. You don’t have to remain silent. You don’t have to cut off those feelings, your beliefs, and your truth.

You don’t have to ask the question, “Do I deserve the right to my own voice, my own feelings?”

The question is, “Do I have a right to them?” That’s the literal synonym to the word “deserve”. So ask yourself this, do you have the right to your own feelings?

We are born feeling, human beings. We are born with emotions. They are yours and now, you’re free. You don’t live at home. You don’t have to get approvals from parents or teachers or anyone in a power position.

So how can you begin?

Pema Chodron author of, Start Where You Are, talks about the idea of starting exactly where you are. What she means by that is – start with whatever emotion is really coming up with you and allow that emotion to exist. Breathe into the emotion and breathe out compassion to yourself and anyone in the world that may be experiencing that emotion. Because at any given moment someone is anxious, sad, frustrated, so breath out compassion to anyone who may be experiencing what you are in this moment.

Then allow the emotion to be in your body. Do not resist it. Do not push it away and most of all do not judge it. The emotion will move through you rather quickly if you don’t judge or resist or critique your right to have these emotions.

Everybody deserves their feelings. It’s not a question of deserve. It’s a question of how we’re built. We’re born having feelings, we have no choice. This is what we are, we are thinking and feeling beings.

So take today, see if you can notice your feelings. See if you can allow them to happen without judgment. Just breathe into them and when you hear yourself asking the question, “I shouldn’t. I don’t deserve. I need to get past it,” remind yourself that it’s your birthright.

You’re here, you’re alive and your feelings matter. And if they don’t matter to the person to the left or to the right of you, just let them matter to you.