For What I'm Worth

For What I'm Worth

I’ve been contemplating the notion of my own value.

  

Over the last few years, I’ve had the pleasure of sharing life with many people as we have plummeted to some of the lowest points of our lives, pulled the pieces together, and begun the slow trek back up that hill. One thing I, and many others, have been guilty of on this journey is comparing my life, my circumstanes, my pain and my suffering to someone elses. It’s as if I am trying to somehow validate feeling bad because I’ve gone through something worse, or make myself feel better because what I’ve been through isn’t as bad as the next poor soul.

If my child stubs her toe, I’m not going to show her a picture of someone with a broken ankle in an attempt to make her toe feel better. The pain in her toe is independent of the pain of the person with a broken ankle. In the same way, the fact that a friend may have gone through a much more bitter divorce than I did, does not take away from or invalidate the pain that I felt as my marriage ended. 

A common statement I hear when talking about a couple divorcing is “At least they don’t have children.” True, it’s good that there are not kids suffering through the process along with the couple and yes, it simplifies things from a legal perspective, but it doesn’t really lessen the hurt that man and woman are likely experiencing.

Somewhere along the way I started reminding myself and others that pain and suffering are personal, not relative.

It occurred to me this evening that I can substitute the idea of my personal value, the esteem I give to myself, in that same phrase:

“My value is personal, not relative”

On some level this feels like something I should have been aware of sometime ago, like grade school maybe? But looking at the way we are conditioned to define ourselves, it’s really not surprising that I, or perhaps many of us, may have overlooked this simple truth.  Self-esteem stems from our view of self, not a comparison to those around us.

That being said, “value” is still by definition a measurement; it’s the worth that is assigned to a particular thing – in this case I am that thing. So this begs the question, what criteria have I been using to measure my value? More to the point, how should I be measuring my value? Here are a few concepts I’m playing with:

  1. the degree to which I relate to God as my higher power.
  2. the sense of wholeness I have (of course that requires defining “wholeness”, which I’m working on)
  3. my ability to be honest with myself regarding my own reality

I’m not suggesting that these are measurements that everyone should use. They are very specific to me and to this season of my life. They may work for some people, others may have other notions that would better articulate their sense of value. It could also be that a year from now I have a different concept of how I quantify myself worth, and yet a different paradigm a year after that. I’m not even certain that means of measurement is as important as the intentionality of the process and the end result.

I recently watched a TED Talk given by psychologist Shawn Achor. In the talk he makes an argument that happiness is not the result of success, but rather success is the result of happiness. (It’s listed on TED’s playlist of the funniest TED Talks – very much worth the time! You can see it here.) Since I’m in a substituting mood, I’m going to go out on the limb and suggest that in the same way, my personal value is not the result of success, but success is the result of my personal value.

One major outcome of that shift in thought is that my self-worth is no longer dependent on circumstances, but rather my ability and courage to change the things I can – to adjust my circumstances – increase in direct proportion to the value I assign myself.

As I have wrestled with my codependence this last year, I think I have begun to see this pattern at work, even though I was not actually aware of it. The more I value myself, the less I depend on others input and feedback to find my value and the more confident and secure I become in my own skin. Relationships – friendships – other people are not a source of my value and self-worth, but are an outpouring of that value and an opportunity to honor the value of others.

It’s not a concept I feel I have my head totally wrapped around just yet in a practical day-to-day sense, but i am excited and hopeful knowing it’s in the works!

(P.S. – while pain and suffering are not relative, that does not mean relatives can’t cause pain and suffering.  That’s a whole other post – or maybe series – for some other time!)

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