"I kept trying to make others see my worth instead of seeing it for myself."
— Steve Demasco
Most of us seek our own sense of value from externals; we often feel like we have to earn it. Our self-worth is conditional. We continue believing the messages we received during our upbringing in relation to ourselves. We often end up feeling that "if only I were (fill in the blank) enough, I would be valuable." In this regard, both men and women can also be trapped by gender roles. Stereotypically, men feel of value if they are good providers or are successful in the world. Women often feel of value when they are giving emotionally or in some way taking care of others.
Sometimes we disvalue ourselves if we don't feel a certain way (e.g. generous, kind, giving, in a good mood). We then have our own inner conditions for being of value. Our self-worth can plummet if we find we're experiencing less-than-pleasant emotions.
Poignantly, narcissism is an attempt to get value reflected back to oneself; but, paradoxically, if our own sense of implicit value isn't established, we can't really take in others' value of us.
"If someone holds us in high esteem, we can feel like we're acquiring value, but value is not something that we get from something that we do. Real value depends on nothing. It is inherent in our very existence." (Sandra Maitri) What would it be like if self-esteem and self-worth had nothing to do with the outside (achievements, relationships, work, possessions, image, etc.)?
For most of us, a new-born baby needs do nothing for us to recognize her value simply by virtue of the fact that she exists. Some of us have the same feeling about animals or pets. If we were lucky and had "good enough" parents, they reflected our value to us regardless of how we performed or how we made them feel. For others of us, at least to some degree, the task of finding our intrinsic value is left for us to do as adults.
Part of the process of finding our sense of inherent value is doing the archeological work of when and how it became derailed, or didn't have a chance to develop at all. Some good questions to ask ourselves: Growing up, were you appreciated or not? For what? In which ways was your self-esteem wounded? How were you recognized or acknowledged? How has your history affected your personal ways of trying to "get" value? What determines it, what is it dependent on? What is your felt-sense of your own inherent value? How do you try to feel valuable? How do you avoid losing value? When do you feel you're of value? When do you feel you're not of value?
When we are fired from our jobs, lose a relationship, or fail at an endeavor, it is challenging to not feel that we have lost our value. It might give us an opportunity, however, to see how reliant we are on the outside world to reflect our worth. And therefore can point the way to find value within ourselves by virtue of simply being alive.
Taking good care of ourselves emotionally, physically and spiritually are ways of valuing ourselves; speaking and honoring our truth is another. Knowing our Yes and our No, setting our boundaries, understanding our limits: these are all ways, among others, we respect and honor our inherent value.
Marla Estes, founder of the School of the Examined Life, is an Ashland teacher, facilitator and writer. She is offering a workshop, "Exploring Self-Value" on Sunday, April 19. Visit her website www.marlaestes.com for more details.
The Ashland Daily Tidings hosts the Inner Peace Community blog on its website. Go to www.dailytidings.com when you need an inner peace lift.
The Ashland Daily Tidings continues to invite residents of the Rogue Valley to submit articles on all aspects of inner peace including, intuition; kindness; gratitude; overcoming and or accepting life's challenges of addictions; loss; grief; pain; self-realization, awareness of Presence and more. All spiritual paths, faiths are welcome. Send 600- to 700-word articles to Sally McKirgan, email@example.com.