Episode 43: Cultivating Unconditional Self-Worth in Ourselves and Our Children with Dr. Adia Gooden

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Does low self-worth impact the parent/child dynamic? Can we raise liberated children by cultivating our unconditional self-worth?

In this episode, Dr. Adia Gooden and I talk about how low self-worth impacts you and your child’s lives, how to recognize and address underlying triggers that stem from low self-worth, and why it’s crucial to center your worthiness in your parenting journey.

Adia Gooden, Ph.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist, speaker, and host of the Unconditionally Worthy Podcast. Her work focuses on helping people on their self-worth journeys and she specializes in treating people of color through individual and couple therapy.

After many years of struggling with low self-worth, Adia realized that her worthiness wasn’t going to be found in achievements or relationships. She realized that her worthiness can be found within. Thus, she was inspired to start talking about the important and powerful role unconditional self-worth plays in our lives.

At the core of every toxic, systemic problem that our society has is a narrative of unworthiness. 

From a parenting perspective, self-worth is a major underlying current, particularly in how we raise our children to value themselves, make their own decisions, and respond to triggers.

How does low self-worth manifest in one’s life?

Low self-worth, or a feeling of unworthiness, can look like:

  • Overworking yourself
  • Having difficulty setting boundaries for fear of rejection or not meeting expectations
  • Perfectionism and people-pleasing
  • Anxiety, depression, and constant worrying
  • Harsh self-criticism

If you’re a parent struggling with feelings of unworthiness, you’re not alone. I struggle with it, too! Sometimes I have thoughts like, can I keep my daughter safe? Am I able to be a good mother? Moreover, once I’m triggered, I sometimes project those thoughts and feelings onto her. Don’t get me wrong, we’re all allowed to feel triggered, but that doesn’t mean we get to project our fears onto our children. 

How do you recognize underlying triggers that stem from low self-worth?

“When we don’t feel worthy, there’s no room for mistakes,” Adia says, “And it’s really hard to tolerate the fact that you may be doing your best as a parent to love and care for and protect and nurture your child and there are still going to be times where you miss the mark … and it’s really hard to hold that if those mistakes or misses … reflect your worthiness.”

Adia goes on to say that if you feel really upset or like you’ve done everything wrong, that may be a sign that you’re using the attempt at “perfect parenting” to prove that you are worthy. So, everything that deviates from that feels like an assault on your self-worth. Does that resonate with you?

We want to raise liberated children, so what are we projecting onto our kids that isn’t theirs… or isn’t even ours? Many of our fears are grounded in trauma that black people have had to endure for centuries, so how do we offer ourselves compassion while trying to flip the script for the next generation?

How to Cultivate Unconditional Self-Worth in Your Children:

  • Avoid language that labels kids as “good” or “bad”. That sends a powerful message that says they need to conform to you and that their worthiness (their goodness or badness) is determined by following the rules, not acting out, etc. Their behavior is not attached to their worthiness. Whether they’re your child or not, the comments should never be about the child being good or bad, it should be about whether their behaviors are safe, unsafe, appropriate, inappropriate, etc.
  • Start looking at your child as an individual instead of an extension of yourself. 
  • Be willing to set and enforce boundaries for yourself and your children. If you’re parenting in a liberated way, you’re probably challenging some norms, so boundaries with other family members and community members are important. These boundaries can include what’s okay and not okay to say to your child, how you ideally want to respond when you’re angry or emotional, and what actions are appropriate for certain environments. 
  • Own your agency and don’t break your boundaries down.
  • When you’re triggered, take a moment to process your feelings and to soothe yourself. That way, you can respond in a way that feels good to you.
  • Involve your kids in setting and articulating their own boundaries as well as how to respond when their boundaries are crossed.

If you feel unconditionally worthy and if you feel that your worth isn’t dependent on external circumstances and acceptance from others, it’s easier to make choices. It’s easier to exercise your agency. It’s easier to reflect upon your life and identify the options you have. This can be immensely empowering but it also can be scary!

When you want to ground yourself in your unconditional worthiness, Adia recommends practicing self-compassion, non-judgemental mindfulness, remembering common humanity, honoring your body and your needs, and practicing self-kindness (this is where reparenting comes in!).

Being a parent is a role you are embodying, it’s not all of who you are. 

To Adia, decolonizing parenting means releasing ourselves from the idea that children need to conform and need to be controlled. Let’s take the ownership out of parenting, be in power WITH our children, and rediscover our unconditional worthiness so that we can help our children embrace theirs.

Ready to start cultivating your unconditional self-worth? Listen in to this powerful discussion to learn more!

About Dr. Adia Gooden:
Adia Gooden, Ph.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist; she received her BA in Psychology from Stanford University and her Ph.D. in Clinical Community Psychology from DePaul University. Dr. Adia formerly served as the Director of the Clinic and Community Programs at The Family Institute at Northwestern University and a Staff Psychologist and the Coordinator for Multicultural Outreach and Support at The University of Chicago Student Counseling Service before launching her own private practice and business focused on helping people on their self-worth journeys. Dr. Adia specializes in treating people of color through individual and couple therapy. Dr. Adia is a sought-after, dynamic speaker who gives talks on unconditional self-worth, imposter syndrome, and Black women and mental health. Dr. Adia gave a TEDx talk on “Cultivating Unconditional Self-Worth” which has over 700k views. Dr. Adia hosts the Unconditionally Worthy podcast and has an online course designed to help people connect to their unconditional self-worth.

To connect further with Adia:
Visit her website: www.dradiagooden.com
Listen to her podcast: www.dradiagooden.com/podcast
Follow her on Instagram: www.instagram.com/draidagooden
Connect with her on Facebook: www.facebook.com/dradiagooden