How can we succeed in feeling valued on a sustained, day-to-day level, and help satisfy our deep need to belong?
(1) We feel valued when we are popular with others: when we are adept at entertaining people with our wit or intellect, or valued for our looks or for our talents, or for what we can do for others. This works well enough, but there can be problems:
What happens when the approval we receive evaporates? When our talents, or looks, fade? When we no longer impress?
Every time an entertainer performs in front of an audience they have the attention of ‘the tribe’, and the tribe applauds them. That’s a great way to feel valued! However, the applause is temporary. From what I gather, when the show is over the entertainer goes home, or to a hotel room, and the feeling of being valued dissipates. Is it because the entertainer does not have a strong connection with anyone in ‘the tribe’? Is the appreciation they receive one dimensional because they don’t know the people valuing them? The entertainer might know they are valued by many, but might not feel it, so the door to rejection, to abandonment, remains open. So, they have to keep performing, keep entertaining, to receive that regular ‘hit’.
To feel valued on a sustained level and add to their core happiness, they might have to entertain most nights.
‘The person who seeks all their applause from the outside has their happiness in another’s keeping.’
How many wealthy entertainers continue working long after they can afford to retire? They might say they enjoy it, and they probably do. They might say it’s ‘in their blood’. And of course, they might have charitable causes they like to support. But I suspect that for some, it’s the audience’s appreciation that keeps them performing. That’s not a bad thing, but are their efforts to feel valued directing their life? Have they limited their options?
Further, might an entertainer be haunted in the quiet times? ‘Am I an imposter?’ they might ask themselves. ‘Does my audience love the image I present, not me? Would they reject me if they knew the real me?’
‘Where do you go to my lovely, when you’re alone in your bed?’
I’m using entertainers as an obvious example; it’s not just entertainers. Doctors enjoy respect, but when some have retired they have felt empty, and useless. Could the fear of feeling useless be haunting many workers, and keep them from retiring?
My concern is that if we are driven by the need to feel relevant and valued, that drive may be directing our lives, and making us vulnerable to the times when we no longer are valued by others.
(2) Another way to feel valued is to feel loved, by family or friends. It is a five-star way to feel valued, but it’s not guaranteed. We can be taken for granted by our partner, parents or children. Many people feel more valued by their adoring pet!
As for making friends, we can’t force people to like us, and if we try too hard to please people we either please the wrong ones, or they see through us. Worse, we can end up losing touch with the person we are, and rely too heavily on the façade we have made for ourselves. That leads to instability and insecurity.
And, even if we do feel valued by our friends or family, what happens when they move away? Or we move away?
(3) Another way to feel valued is to have a deep belief in a god that is ever-present and ever-loving. However, that can be problematical if we become self-righteous and judgmental in the hope of keeping that love, or earning more of it. Or in the fear of losing it.
(4) The best, most enduring way to feel valued is to be in touch with our inner self-worth. Have you met people who are so self-assured they don’t need another person’s approval to feel comfortable? Who enjoy close relationships, but don’t need them, to be happy? They are the ones in touch with their own inner flame – their self-worth.
But I’m not going to tell you to start loving yourself. We can’t simply flick a switch and begin loving ourselves. We can’t simply say to ourselves,‘Hey, from now on I will love myself,’ and do it. If only it were that easy! But there are things we can do, and that’s what we will focus on in the remaining chapters of this section. But first, let’s look at the topic of self-worth.