Today, we talk about worthiness.


Worthiness, and the lack of it, is something that's been a primary part of my struggles to start sharing more of my thoughts and beliefs, to allow myself to assume a leadership role in business and in other areas, and to search for an enduring romantic relationship.


Lack of worthiness seems to be at the root of perfectionism, workaholism, fear of failure, and fear of success. It's often the stumbling block in feeling a sense of well-being and belonging with others.


The topic of worthiness is really hard to unpack, or it was for me, because it is distinct from self-confidence. Throughout most of my life, I've been fairly confident in my abilities to do things or figure them out. In fact, I think too often I used confidence as a way to escape the fact that I didn't like myself that much.


It is only in my late 30s and early 40s that I feel my sense of self-worth is starting to catch up to my sense of confidence.


Worthiness is also one of these foundational topics that seems connected to almost everything in the world that I care about. It's at the core of belonging and othering, political inclusion or exclusion, status and privilege in society, religious and political extremism, online trolling, sexism, good and bad leadership, and the global decline of democracy.


That's why I'm so happy to be talking to Dr. Adia Gooden today. Adia is a clinical psychologist and a TED speaker who works in the area of unconditional self-worth and helps people to embrace it. Adia is also an author and the host of her very own podcast called Unconditionally Worthy. Adia gained her bachelor's at Stanford and her PhD at DePaul University, and worked at the Counseling Center of University of Chicago.


Today, she works as a speaker and coach, and is working on a new book in the making about the mental health of black women.


I spoke to Adia in early November, and I was excited to talk to her since I saw her powerful TED Talk on the subject of worthiness. Adia is an energizing and empowering speaker, so it was a joy to chat with her and hear her insights as well as practical advice that can help us feel better about ourselves.




In this conversation we talk about:

  • What growing up feeling lonely as a child instilled in her.
  • What's wrong with trying to be perfect?
  • What is worthiness, and how self-worth is different from self-confidence?
  • Why is worthiness important?
  • The rise of depression and anxiety.
  • The effects of COVID, as well as social media and phone addiction.
  • How to systematically improve our self-worth.
  • What does the journey of self-worth look like?
  • What's an imposter syndrome, and is it good or bad for us?
  • How are worthiness and spirituality connected?
  • What's the connection between worthiness and human dignity?
  • And how she'd like to change the narrative of black women's mental health in the US.


What stayed with me from this conversation is how relatively straightforward and systematic our approach to self-worthiness can be. Following a relatively simple formula of self-forgiveness and acceptance, we can confront our feelings of unworthiness and start building a stronger foundation. And the effects of that can cascade throughout our lives, whether it's our professional lives, our family life, our relationships, and how we feel moment to moment.


This conversation is one of a dozen or so weekly conversations we already have lined up for you with hackers, designers, thinkers, makers, authors, entrepreneurs, and activists who are working to change our world for the better. So follow this podcast on your favorite podcast app or head over to to subscribe.


And now let's jump right in with Dr. Adia Gooden.




[5:48] Life in the Present

[7:28] Early Childhood Challenges

[11:20] Problematic Perfectionism

[13:53] An Academic Journey

[17:18] What is Worthiness?

[21:22] Self-Worth vs. Self-Esteem

[24:26] Why is Worthiness Important?

[27:32] The Rise of Depression and Anxiety

[33:49] Embracing Your Self-Worth

[37:11] Worthiness and Courage

[41:14] Worthiness vs. Achievement

[43:39] Imposter Syndrome

[45:15] Faith and Spirituality

[49:34] Black Women's Mental Health

[52:43] A Short Sermon