‘Why do so many of us feel the need to justify ourselves, just for living? What makes us think that our lives have to result in something amazing, or at least significant – that we need to make a difference to feel worthy of having lived at all?’
‘ Crystal Woods.
To have any chance of releasing ourselves from the shackles of trying to earn our self-worth, we first have to discover how we are trying to earn it.
Part 1. Is it possible you might be trying to earn your self-worth, without realising it?
If so, might any of the following methods apply?
▪ making lots of money? Or having lots of it?
▪ being kind and generous to many people?
▪ the label you buy?
▪ your prowess as a lover?
▪ the success, or achievements, of your children?
▪ your job title?
▪ your status?
▪ how much applause you receive?
▪ how good looking you are?
▪ how knowledgeable? How well read?
▪ how honest? How pious? How charitable?
▪ being feared?
▪ being interesting and articulate?
▪ being funny?
▪ being brave?
▪ the number of kids you have produced?
▪ how tough you are?
▪ how often you win?
▪ how good a parent you are, or spouse?
▪ how powerful and influential you are?
▪ how tidy you are?
▪ the size of your muscles? Or breasts?
▪ how well you identify with a celebrity?
▪ how much your friends like you? (Did you take up a bad habit because you wanted to keep a friend?)
▪ the number of hits on your blog? Or on how much fan mail you get?
▪ being good at what you do?
▪ how much alcohol you can consume?
▪ a combination of the above?
I am not suggesting that you shouldn’t enjoy many of those things. Yes, be charitable, look fantastic, make zillions of dollars, build an empire, if that’s appeals. But if it’s to pass a lifetime test, or if it’s to fill a void within you, be aware of it.
Part 2. Ask yourself: Is the method I have chosen helpful? In what ways does it enhance my life? In what ways does it hinder me?
That’s the end of the exercise. __________________________________________
When we come to realise that we base our self-worth upon how funny we are, or on how much power we have, or on how much fear we can instil in people, or on how good we are at video games . . . we come to view our behaviour differently. We might find ourselves less driven to pursue that behaviour, and become more rounded and easygoing. We might even find a new path.
Further, our need to impress might dissipate. We could spend less energy maintaining our image and more time being ourselves. We might even become less anxious, and relate to people on a deeper, more meaningful level.
Q. ‘No-one chooses to base their self-worth on something. I haven’t heard of it.’
We don’t consciously make such decisions; they happen over time. Our job is to become aware of our decisions.
Q. ‘If a witty kid finds she’s popular and judges her self-worth by it, she might end up being a comedian? Is that bad?’
She can be a comedian without basing her self-worth upon it. The danger of doing so is that she’s going to be devastated on the nights when no-one laughs, and she’s going to feel the pressure to be always funny, even on social occasions.
Q. ‘What are you suggesting, Mark? What is the key?’
Let’s become aware of the way we establish our self-worth. Then, hopefully, over time we will rely less on it to feel good about ourselves. We might even find that our behaviour and outlook have changed, and we have become more rounded and less anxious.
By focusing less on earning our self-worth we will come to realise that the world doesn’t cave in, and that other people’s opinions of us don’t matter. We become more self-assured. And, having dropped the judgments of ourselves, we also stop judging others. The distance between us – between us and everyone– diminishes, and the connection between us grows.
But let’s not give up in our search for self-worth! Okay, we can’t earn it, so what can we do?
Let’s have a look at the next chapter.