These are good questions @Wings, and an interesting invitation to dive into things that probably hit close to home for many of us.
For your questions, I think that a reason is because we simply are in a position of an outsider when it’s about someone else. No matter which amount of empathy someone can have, struggling and hurting are always individual experiences that happen within ourselves. We can relate and understand, we can also feel for someone, but we can never be in their shoes entirely. Which I think is a great asset when it’s about encouraging someone, because we are not impacted by the hurt that’s happening the way they do. Of course we can hurt with and for someone, but there is still an irremediable distance that would make these hurt different. The emotional side of it is not made of “I am worthless”, because it isn’t about me, but someone else and what they believe about themselves.
When we support someone, we are not leading the fight they are leading within themselves at the moment. But because we’re not in it, we can be invited there and remind them that there is another reality that exists outside of what they are feeling. We can set some lights to show them a safe path when they are lost, because we can see the big picture of a situation. We can appreciate the life of someone beyond the emotional storm they are going through and feels like everything to them at the moment.
That is at least why I deeply believe in vulnerability and the fact that we are stronger together. Emotions, deep emotions and hurt can make us lose sight of so many fundamental things, for so many different reasons. But having safe people in our life who take the time to listen and understand us can be a pillar of strength during those times, because we can rely on them, they can remind us all the things we cannot see or feel when we are hurting.
Another reason, from the “we” side, and not the “others” one, was greatly shared by @Mystrose: worthlessness is a perception that is generally learned because we live in a chaotic, competitive, brutal world that constantly gives us reasons to feel bad about ourselves. It is sometimes integrated for so long that we are unable to even see the thoughts and emotions patterns at play within us. We are just bombarded and overwhelmed by it. We learn to live on this mode almost automatically, so it’s also hard to put words on it.
Another reason, I think, is simply because we don’t have to do the work when it’s about someone else, and when it’s about ourselves it’s just not pleasant to face our pain and challenge our beliefs. When we remind someone that they are worthy, we already know and embrace the conclusion/untangible truth that transcends their situation at the moment. But they’re not at that point yet. They have to go through an emotional maze to get to the same point about themselves, and we cannot do that for them. So we kind of have the “easy” position, the one that doesn’t require to do the work. While when it’s about ourselves… well we are at the beginning or middle of our own maze, and there are times when we just don’t want to deal with it (and vice-versa for others).
No matter what, there is strength to find in the connections we create because we realize that we go through similar processes and share similar thoughts about ourselves. A thing that generally helps me when I struggle with helping myself, is to remind myself that I am no exception. It humbles me to remind myself that I don’t own any privilege when it’s about hurting. I’m like everyone else who is struggling with seeing their own worth, which at least gives me the benefit of the doubt that, like everyone else I may also be worthy of love and have something to share with this world, whether I am able to see it or not. On the main page of the forum there is this sentence that I think summarizes it pretty well: “Where your story is unique but your struggles are not”.
Finally, I think there is often something interesting to dive into when it’s about the connections we make between others and ourselves. There isn’t necessarily a contradiction when we help someone while struggling with helping ourselves. Supporting someone affects us too indirectly and can be a reaction to our own feeling of helplessness. I know that I haven’t become a social worker by mistake. It is meaningful to me. And I’ve learned to see it as being part of a cycle that also meets my own struggles and growth.
I’m a firm believer that genuine care exists but is always made of two people at least. I deeply hate this idea that is often conveyed about helping others as being similar to sacrificing ourselves. I think it’s actually very hypocrite and doesn’t give access to the fact that we affect others as much as they affect us. If I tell people everyday that their situation is not hopeless, then it will of course affect me, my vision of the world and myself in the long run too. It doesn’t change the fact that my motivation and focus are 100% for the other person during the interaction we have. But it’s healthy to acknowledge that because being present is meaningful to me and makes sense regarding my own story, then it also affects me and shapes my heart.
Once I am aware of what belongs to my “relationship” with myself and my own story in the act of supporting someone, I can be genuinely present for someone else and embrace what is about them. All of this being constantly changing through unique interactions.