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Feeling worthless

5-minute read

If you feel worthless, you may feel hopeless and insignificant. You may find you have feelings of guilt, or that you feel useless and ‘beyond help’. You may feel that you have nothing to offer the world.

This can make you feel that everything is wrong, and that there is nothing good in your life. It can be easy to focus on the negative aspects of your life, rather than the positive ones.

If low self-esteem (where you have a generally negative opinion of yourself) is causing you to feel worthless, then you may be very critical of yourself. You may avoid challenges or relationships for fear of being criticised, even becoming socially isolated. You may neglect your appearance or abuse alcohol or drugs. If you are experiencing any of these feelings, see your doctor for advice.

If you feel that someone’s life is in danger, including your own, call triple zero (000) or visit a hospital emergency department.

Why am I feeling worthless?

Several factors can contribute to a feeling of being worthless. It may be sparked by an event, such as a relationship breakdown, loss of a loved one, losing your job, or by an ongoing situation like bullying, poor performance at school, abuse or financial pressure.

A person who was constantly criticised when young may form the negative core belief that they are worthless. A core belief is a deeply held assumption you have come to think about yourself or the world, based on your childhood experience. Our core beliefs drive our automatic thoughts.

If you persistently have low self-esteem, it can erode your confidence and leave you feeling insecure, unmotivated and cause you to feel worthless.

Feeling worthless can also be a symptom of depression, so make sure to get help by reaching out to your doctor and some of the organisations and helplines listed below.

Self-help when you’re feeling worthless

While arranging expert help, here are some things you can try yourself.

  • Talk to someone you trust — even though you may feel like withdrawing from social contact, connecting with people may help you feel better and add some perspective.
  • Imagine you are helping a friend — think how you would advise a friend if they had negative thoughts about themselves. You would probably find all their good points and remind them about those, so why not try that on yourself. Challenge your negative thoughts.
  • Make a list of your good points — write down your 3 best features (these might be physical characteristics — for example, that you have a nice smile — or they could be things about your character — for example, that you’re friendly). You could ask a friend or family member to help you with this. Carry the list with you and look at it whenever you feel negative to remind yourself of your good points.
  • Turn negatives into positives — make a list of the main negatives in your life and work through these one by one. If you find you are blaming yourself for everything, try re-thinking each issue to see if there could be an alternative explanation. Then, try to work out what you can do to create some positive outcomes for each of your issues. You may want to ask someone you trust, like a friend or family member, to help you with this.
  • Remember happy times — think about times when you’ve had fun and enjoyed yourself in the past. Use these memories to help you plan a similar event for the future so you have something to look forward to.
  • Get outside — getting some fresh air and sunlight can help improve mood. Interacting with nature or spending time with pets or other animals can also be a mood booster, as well as reducing stress.
  • Stay active — try to get some exercise, or do some stretching. However small, any activity can lead to more energy and increase positive feelings.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs — while they may seem to help initially, in the long term, drugs and alcohol may worsen your situation and can disturb sleep patterns.
  • Get enough sleep — sleep and mental health are closely linked. Developing a healthy sleep routine can help you get enough restful sleep.
  • Eat a healthy diet — what you eat affects how you feel, and a poor diet can increase feelings of anxiety and depression. Eating well can improve your concentration, energy levels and sleep. Try to include fruits and vegetables, high fibre foods, fermented foods, olive oil and fish in your diet.

Where to get help

If it’s not an emergency, talking to your doctor is a good place to start. For what to do in an emergency see above.

Your doctor can help you by creating a mental health treatment plan, if necessary. Medicare rebates are available for sessions with mental health professionals. Your doctor can also prescribe medicines for depression or anxiety, if appropriate.

It can be hard to take the first step of reaching out to your doctor — here are some tips for talking to your doctor about mental health.

Remember, that all conversations with your doctor are private and they will keep your health information confidential.

If you’d like to find out more or talk to someone else, here are some organisations that can help:

  • MindSpot (anyone suffering from anxiety or depression) — call 1800 61 44 34.
  • Beyond Blue (anyone feeling depressed or anxious) — call 1300 22 4636 or chat online.
  • Black Dog Institute (people affected by depression and extreme mood swings) — online help.
  • Lifeline (anyone experiencing a crisis or thinking about suicide) — call 13 11 14 or chat online.
  • Suicide Call Back Service (anyone thinking about suicide) — call 1300 659 467.
  • ReachOut (online mental health services for young people and their parents).
  • Headspace (mental health information, group chat, and online communities).
  • SANE Australia (mental health information, peer support and counselling support).
  • MensLine Australia (telephone and online counselling service).

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: September 2021

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