Do I Deserve?

by Mark Ivar Myhre on May 20, 2011

Here’s a comment I got recently:

“I’ve done some pretty rotten things and as a result I don’t deserve good stuff plus ( I think it’s from childhood) nothing good will last.”

I realize you weren’t even asking me a question when you made that statement, but the issue of deserving is something I have a hard time not commenting on!  Especially since I’ve had such a hard time with it myself…

But first let me say a few words about that second part.  The errant belief about nothing good lasting – that can easily be changed if you wanted to. But then, who wants to give up their beliefs?  Especially ones that have stuck with us through thick and thin?  The ones that never deserted us?  The ones that shape our lives… the ones that…

Yes, of course I’m being facetious.

“Nothing good will last.”

I imagine there’s a little pain and shame clinging to that statement.  Maybe a lot.  Either way, once you feel whatever is holding that belief in place, it’s fairly easy to turn that around into “Nothing bad will last.”

Or, “Nothing good will leave.”

Or some similar statement.  Anyway, it’s easy to change it if you want to change it.  What might be a little harder to believe is that you can change a belief like that quickly and easily.

Is it hard to change beliefs? If so, that’s probably the first belief you would want to change!  Then it can be easy.   I’m dead serious about that.

But the main issue I wanted to talk about concerns the first part of that statement – the part about deserving.

Do I deserve?

Now that’s a much more complex issue.  Sadly, for most people, the answer is no.  And instead of deserving, they’ve substituted entitlement.  It’s hard to find someone who’s not entitled to something – for some reason or another.

Entitlement usually comes from suffering and struggling. In other words, it comes from something you’ve done.  Deserving, on the other hand, comes from who you are.

But what if you’ve done rotten things in the past?  How can you deserve then?

That’s a very interesting dynamic if you think about it.  First, we’ve got this ‘past me’ – this version of me in the past, who’s now dictating what I can do and feel today.  My past is controlling my future.  Or so I believe.  Or so I’ve created.

Some part of me – who’s less than I am now – is setting the boundaries for what I can be now.  Maybe it’s from childhood, or adolescence, or from young adulthood – or maybe it’s even from last week… but some part of my past is now dictating what my life can be now.

Feelings of undeserving start between the ages of five and ten, approximately. After the conscious mind has developed, but not too far after.  Just like self esteem starts at that age.  You decide how much you deserve at this age.  And from there, it’s merely reinforced as you grow older.

What’s fascinating to understand about all this, is that we are the ones who decide whether or not we deserve.  No one else decides.  It’s totally up to us.  Just like self acceptance.  We decide if we’re acceptable or not.

When you really stand back and look at it objectively, you’d think it would be so easy to feel deserving.  Instead, what you usually find is a thin veneer of ‘false deserving’ that covers up a huge layer of entitlement, pain and shame.

It’s only when you get through the pain and shame do you find the true deserving.  It comes from the truer you – the ineffable you.  But most people get stuck on the ‘false deserving’ – the judgments we hold about whether we deserve or not.

The question is – why would we cling so tightly to the lie that says we don’t deserve?  I mean, isn’t it painful enough to believe that?  Not counting all the negative impact that lie creates in our lives, and will continue to create.

We shame ourselves when we say we don’t deserve. That much is obvious.  But why would we shame ourselves in this way?  Part of the reason is that we’re just carrying on the torch that was handed to us.  The shame that was given to us as children, we pass on to our children.  And of course we hold and embrace that shame in our own lives as well.

That’s the nature of shame.  It spreads if you don’t give it back to the offender.  It’s like a hot potato.

A more insidious problem is that the undeserving becomes a huge part of our identity.  It’s how we see ourselves.  “I am the one who doesn’t deserve, because of my ‘crimes’ from the past.  That’s who I am.”

Giving the shame back is a piece of cake… except for this reason.  See, undeserving is painful… and shame REALLY sucks… but if I didn’t have all my shame and pain, I don’t know who I’d be.  Therefore, I need my shame and my undeserving.  The fear of the unknown (loss of identity) is worse than the pain.

It’s like wrapping yourself in a barbed wire blanket.  And thinking it’s keeping you safe and warm.  And not even knowing what it’s keeping you safe and warm from!

One final reason we keep the judgments of undeserving in place is because we want to punish ourselves.  Maybe I should have mentioned this first, because it’s the most superficial – meaning, it’s the surface reason.  It’s the first reason.

Self punishment is the first barrier to deserving. Now certainly, shame ties in here.  Shame and self punishment go hand in hand.  But if you get them to stop holding hands then you can deal with the issue of undeserving a little bit easier.  Separate the shame from the self punishment.  How do you do that?

By dealing with the self punishment first.  I’ve prepared a series of three audio files that help with ending self punishment.  But you already know that, if you’re on my mailing list.  You can find out more about them here, if you wish.  Maybe now is the time to be done with self punishment once and for all.

And what about the whole concept that I don’t deserve good stuff because of things I’ve done in the past?

Good grief.  Just forgive yourself!  That’s a slam dunk.  Climb up on the slippery log.  You’ll fall off, and right into the arms of forgiveness and change.  Forgive yourself for whatever it is that’s so awful.  Nothing you’ve done is so big and bad that it can’t be healed by forgiveness.

No, the real question is, why would you cling to the past?  Why would you pretend it’s real?  Why would you keep it alive?  That must be exhausting.

And why would you give some lesser part of you control over your life now?  Why would you ride in the back seat of your life while some delinquents up in the front are taking you for a joy ride?  You know how those things end up.

Why would you give your power away to the past?  That’s the real question.

Something to think and feel about…


J. May 20, 2011 at 8:41 am

LSE: Low Self Esteem, its the culprit behind most self punishment and why we feel we do not deserve. Ending LSE can be easy for some and for others a life long battle. The key to ending LSE is face who created the pattern. Typically your early childhood care takers. LSE was created by repeated neglect. Rarely caused by one event. As we get older we repeat the cycle with self punishment. The LSE grows larger. When an individual finally can not take that lifestyle anymore the process of healing will begin. We need to ask for help from healthy people or people that have lived through trauma. Reaching out can be difficult. Just do it. You deserve it.

Another good article.


Mark Ivar Myhre May 20, 2011 at 6:04 pm

Hi J –

the biggest point I got from your comments is the part about reaching out.

Man! that’s been so hard for me to do!

thanks for the reminder

Rahlyns May 20, 2011 at 9:00 am

I’ve been thinking about this in the context of a friend who’s brother raped and tortured her for half of the year she was 11 and he was 12. What a huge burden he must carry. To know that you as a child did something monstrous – and to move past that has got to be very scary. Thanks for this blog – it gives so much to ponder!

Mark Ivar Myhre May 20, 2011 at 6:06 pm

you know, that brother might just be in denial – you never know.

I would guess he hasn’t moved past it. I know from my own life how tough it’s been to let go of the past. But then, something just clicked…

Lynn May 20, 2011 at 9:56 am

I have thought about and been counseled in this subject matter many times. I’m not done with the self discovery in this area and not sure it can be done as quickly as this article suggests.

Anyway, I am seeing a picture form, or an idea as to why I am so ready to punish myself or declare I deserve nothing and in fact deserve hell.

I think, but not totally clear about, that I punish myself or reject myself in different ways, before anyone else can do it. I am at a point in my life where I can hardly bear any harshness directed towards me.

I’m in the process of healing (have been for several years) and much is at the suffer, with real nerve endings. Much is exposed to myself at this time of my life. So, the best way, since I really believe I’m “bad”, I will punish myself.

I can regulate that pain, even though it is awful. I can’t regulate and administer the depth of pain that comes from other punishment through harsh words, attitudes, etc.

It is akin to desiring to to peel my own band aid off, rather than have someone do it for me. I choose when to yank if off, allowing me to get ready, be prepared.

One of my biggest fears is the unexpected. So much of my life has been filled with moments of thinking all was fine, especially in relationships (all forms) and with no warning disaster comes. Suddenly this person feels like my enemy, rather than my loved one, friend or anyone I have some type of relationship with.

I am beginning to feel strongly that I do what I feel others are going to do anyone, but be unpredictable about it. Job done. So, I can relax. Crazy?

I would like some feed back. I have been diagnosed with PTSD coming from a life of neglect and abuse. I have on the loosing end of other people’s instability. One minute all if fine, next minute, all is chaotic, painful and scary. yes, let me do it to myself as I see fit. Any thoughts? Anyone?

Mark Ivar Myhre May 20, 2011 at 6:31 pm

Hi Lynn,
I’ll be glad to leave my thoughts –

first, I agree that it can be tough – self discovery is a life long journey, I believe.

I also know that some things are much easier to deal with than others. And each person has their own individual issues that they hang on to, while other issues they can sail past with ease.

For me, everything was tough to change – but over the years it’s gotten easier. And some things were a lot tougher than others.

That ‘deserving hell’ is coming from one part of you – and if possible, I would objectify that part – see it separate from yourself – talk to it – learn from it – and take your power back from it. (Just a thought.)

And as for the self punishment you mentioned, well, I hope you read the ebook I wrote on the topic. If you don’t have a copy, email me and I’ll get it to you. Because what you describe is not crazy at all. It’s a textbook example of self punishment.

Now, as for being blindsided – that’s an example of not hearing the whispers. Not seeing the clues. Because there are ALWAYS whispers and clues. But that’s a complex subject – more than I could cover here.

Bottom line, there’s a lot of childhood shame that’s being relived. But I guess you already know that. Did you read the articles on this blog about shame? That’s where I would start.

Chris May 21, 2011 at 2:19 am

Thanks for the article. As always, it hits the Mark.
I relate so well to the issues Lyn raised. But life does get better even if it takes lots of work. I think that I am now putting myself first for the first time in my life. If I can accept others as they are then it is time I accepted me as I am. It is working.

Best wishes

Mark Ivar Myhre May 22, 2011 at 6:24 pm

“If I can accept others as they are then it is time I accepted me as I am. ”

well said!

Teresa May 22, 2011 at 4:48 pm

My meds are Folic Acid 1mg 2 tabs dly.
Latuda 40 mgs 1 at bedtime
Savella 12.5 mg1 2 times dly.
Trazadone 150 bedtime Just 1 of these
Vitamin B-1 100mg 1 tab for 20 ays
Clonazep.5 mg1 tab 2 times dly.
I am not under standing this thing called life.

Claire Garrard December 27, 2012 at 3:53 pm

Hi Mark,

I’m so glad you have written about this.

I was emotionally and psychologically abused by my parents right through to my 40s. One of their mantras to me was: ‘You don’t deserve it’. This phrase came out every time I was given something even if it was my birthday or Christmas. I know now it isn’t true, but I feel it is lodged in my mind and I can’t get shot of it. Any suggestions?


Mark Ivar Myhre December 27, 2012 at 9:58 pm

you can certainly change it – but it takes time and effort to reprogram yourself and to let go of old patterns

if you want, get in touch with me and we can talk about it privately

Claire Garrard June 30, 2013 at 9:25 am

Thanks so much for this, Mark. Whenever I was given anything by my parents, even on my birthday or Christmas, they would say: “You don’t deserve it.” I felt a great deal of guilt and shame about getting anything and for years found it difficult to allow myself anything pleasurable. Now I am just beginning to really address this and know that the statement was false and is false.

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