Deservedness–the generational curse. Grandma didn’t deserve fine accessories. Mom didn’t deserve a new house. I don’t deserve to exist. It’s the snowball that gains speed and bulk on its way down the abyss. We mention it as if it’s all over: “ I can’t believe I used to think I wasn’t pretty.” The funny thing is, the more we pretend we believe we’re worthy, the deeper it burrows into every attempt to break free. It’s the apprehension before approaching another person, or the fear of demanding exactly what it is you think you’re worth. If you believe you’re worth nothing, you work for nothing and consume in shame.

Shame takes many forms. Sometimes it’s the inappropriate fancy footwear you wear to an outdoor event. The kind where everyone asks if your feet are cold and you insist, in great pain, that you’re completely comfortable. Sometimes it’s the fear of standing too close to someone for fear they can smell you wore the same blouse two days in a row. Sometimes it’s quitting a job you were good at simply because you’re too exhausted to be seen anymore on a daily basis.

You say mean things to cover the hurt. You justify the bridges burnt and battles won. You demand only the finest because it’s your birthright. No! The cycle of want and shame ends here. This time around you’ll have what you deserve. Suddenly having it, you realize something doesn’t feel right. Looking at it doesn’t fill you with joy. You feel a splinter of agony digging in the depths of your gut and you ignore it hoping it will go away. It doesn’t go away. It grows and starts to take on a pathological presence. It’s there when you wake up and there when you go to sleep. It reminds you, every time a beam of light enters your heart, that you don’t deserve to feel joy. You don’t deserve what you have and you don’t deserve to be loved. Like apprehending a beast fleeing an open cage, you step out of the way and surrender. Every move is a wrong move. The best mode of defense is curling up on the couch with a blanket waiting for the affliction to pass. Eventually it passes when some other distraction gains the upper hand–but you know it’s there waiting–like the spider webs underneath the bed.

It’s advanced throughout the years. You know what it is and whence it came. You understand, accept and analyze it. You toss it around as a joke, use it as an excuse and banish it in ritual. You write about it, recognize it in others and sometimes even forget about it. You can learn to be kind to yourself and others. You can even forgive yourself and move on. You can transform it and turn it into art. All of these remedies are convincingly admirable. Yes, you can learn and grow and tell yourself you are a deserving creature; yet you’re still a creature and look over your shoulder. You still feel pain while realizing the beauty of your surroundings. The void of death is haunting, but the abundance of life more haunting still.