Full text of clinical psychologist Adia Gooden’s talk: Cultivating Unconditional Self-Worth at TEDxDePaulUniversity conference. In this talk, she shares from her life experiences on how to break negative thought patterns and live more freely.
Listen to the audio version here:
Adia Gooden – Clinical psychologist
I have struggled with feelings of unworthiness for as long as I can remember.
From the outside, my life looked pretty perfect when I was growing up. My parents had a happy marriage, were supportive and earned enough for us to be more than comfortable.
I was mostly happy.
But I also had a deep sense that something was wrong with me. My most painful moments were at parties.
When I went to black parties my friends made fun of me because I was rhythmically challenged and I couldn’t get my awkward middle-school body to mimic the latest dance moves.
As the only black girl at parties associated with my predominantly white school, I was never chosen to dance. I was never the object of anyone’s attention. I felt like I didn’t belong.
So around age 12, I decided that the way to cure these feelings of unworthiness was perfection. Simple, right? If I was just perfect then I would fit in, I would be chosen, I would really be happy.
So I threw myself into formal dance classes, worked hard in school, and tried to be a supportive and selfless friend. My self-esteem was high when I got good grades and felt included, but crashed when I didn’t do well academically, or was left out.
In college, busyness became my key strategy for trying to feel worthy. I juggled classes and tutoring in the Black Student Union and the student government is already a gospel choir, a step team… barely – giving myself time to breathe, to think, to be.
After college my attention turned to trying to find a relationship to feel the void. The anxiety, and ups and downs, I experienced in this quest were exhausting. I remember going out to bars and clubs and just like in junior high was rarely the one chosen to dance. I began to question my attractiveness with my brown skin and kinky hair – be accepted by a potential partner.