Today’s culture sends a lot of mixed messages which can easily throw off our views about what makes us a worthwhile person. In our age of flash, speed, and material abundance sometimes it is easy to get our signals crossed when it comes to our self-worth and personal value.
We humans are multi-dimensional beings who enjoy many layers of existence, both inside and out, all contributing to the whole of who we are. However, often when it comes to what we feel our value is, we think about our personal measure of power, success, beauty or wealth.
The way we perceive our own worth as a person has a profound influence on every aspect of our lives. Limited, inflated or distorted views of self-worth can undermine our efforts to change or create better or different lives, or even lead us to believe we are only good for one reason. Personal crisis can result from believing our value is aligned with a transient trait or temporary state of being.
Take for example these common scenarios:
A man is big and strong and has placed a great deal of his focus in life on the ability to excel by using aggressive force. A sudden change resulting in an insult to his physical strength such as an injury causes serious issues around his self-worth as he does not know who he is in life without that ability. If I am not a man of great physical strength, then what is my value?
A woman completely consumed with being a mom places all of her focus on mothering her child. Her good intentions result in her entire identity becoming wrapped up in caring for the child and the nuances of the child’s life. As the child begins to grow up the mom may begin feeling useless and lose her sense of value because her self-worth is exclusively aligned with the act of being a good mom. If I am not needed as a mother, then what is my value?
A person is very attractive and has primarily identified with simply showing up in the world as a beautiful woman or handsome man using their good-looks to influence and please others. As time ticks by, any significant changes to their appearance such as weight gain, aging, or physical scarring that mars their face or body can cause drastic issues around what their value is as a person now that they are no longer extraordinary in the area of beauty. If I am not a person of exceptional beauty, then what is my value?
A person has exceled in the area of career and has focused a high amount of their energy on job success at the expense of other areas of their life. A sudden and unexpected change in business results in them losing their job causing a decrease in their sense of self-worth because they placed their value as an individual primarily with their professional success and being at the top of their field. If I am not a huge success in my business, then what is my value?
A person identifies with being the bread-winner in a relationship and gains their sense of power and personal value from being able to take care of everyone around them financially while using their money as the primary means of contributing. A change in financial status can cause severe pain and a decline in their sense of self-worth since they perceived so much of their own personal value to be their ability to relate and connect to others through the exchange of money. If I do not have money to support my partner, friends and family, then what is my value?
UNDERSTANDING THE TRUE NATURE OF PERSONAL VALUE
Our individual talents and special traits are important gifts from us to the world. They are part of your whole-ness, and need to be enjoyed and expressed. And being exceptional in certain areas, or spending the bulk of our time on the life-functions that we most enjoy, is a key to our personal contentment.
Making value judgments based solely on these externalized roles or things however can cause us to be distracted, incomplete or shallow in our thinking. Often times when I have clients who are struggeling with a big transition, they are having a crisis related to their value; an area of their life that they interpreted as being an expression of their value is changing or expiring. When a part of ourselves we most identify with drasticly changes it will often leave us disoriented and confused about what we have lost and who we are in the world without it.
Although on an intellectual level we know as people that how much money we have, how many miles we run a day, how pretty we are, or how excessively detailed we are as a parent, are not true measures of self-worth–it does not stop us from leaning on these strengths and feeling that these dazzling attributes make up our value.
Mistaking abilities, looks, behaviors or material wealth as an expression of our value is like treasuring the outside box of a gift more than the true treasure inside.
ONE OF A KIND
I have witnessed great shifts in thinking when a client begins feeling into their greater-value as a being. This value far exceeds what we are good at in life, and is contained within our essence. Essence is the intrinsic nature or indispensable quality of something.
Your essence is of great worth, and is always present, even when you are having a bad day or lose everything you thought to be prescious in the world. You are a totally unique individual–one of a kind–and your energetic imprint is so rare that it is not shared by anyone else on the planet. Those external expressions we so highly value are merely a bit of icing on our gourmet cake.
Exploring this idea, and centering ourselves in the knowing that can and will eventually emerge from it, can be a great awakening of sorts. The liberation that can come from a personal practice that combines transcending the small ideas about our value with stretching to develop ourselves in well rounded ways as a human being (even if we consider ourselves to be “all-grown-up”) can create enhanced balance and well-being. Because even if you like being the bread-winner or the mom-of-the-year, you are still more than that.
The journey for playing with this idea can begin by:
–> Honoring the concept that you have an Essence that makes you YOU
–> Exploring parts of yourself that you have never considered a possibility
–> Considering what the flip side of your “weaknesses” are
–> Reactivating dormant aspects of yourself that you have left behind or neglected
Regardless of how we go about it, aligning with this deeper aspect of ourselves will keep us grounded in a vast sense of Self that is unchanging. When the kids go off to college, it is time to retire, or the wrinkles start to appear—we can feel rooted in the essence of who we are and continue to outwardly express and enjoy all our many dimensions.