Self-Worth (Part I): Personal Anecdote
Self-worth has come up a lot for me over the past few months. I have been looking at it through many different lenses and from many different perspectives. But I wanted to share an experience I had recently that has inspired me to do more research on the topic.
I graduated from Harvard Extension School a few weeks ago.
When I was sitting in the auditorium amongst my peers feeling something that I couldn’t put my finger on….
Once I had a chance to explore the inner workings of my mind I realized I was comparing myself to those around me (check out my series on comparison here, here and here). The students who were mostly on my comparison radar were the prize winning, dean’s list recipients.
My thoughts went something like this:
“Why didn’t I try harder to get that .5 higher GPA?”
“I could have done more…”
Etc. etc. etc.
As I have talked about in my comparison blog series, I've discovered that comparison is the silent killer of confidence.
With those thoughts running through my head, my self-worth went plummeting.
The Most Valuable Tool We Own
Within this inherently materialistic society, we are constantly in search of more. We need to have things in order to make us happy. But really we should look no farther than what is in between our ears.
The Why Behind My Thought Patterns
Academics did not exactly come easily to me. I was a shy, dyslexic kid and certainly no award-winning student. Upon reflection, this self-expectation of not being the best seeped into other areas of my life.
I allowed fear to overtake me in many circumstances. I feared that if I tried and failed it would be the worst thing to ever happen to me.
Most of my life I played small, trying to play it safe. I didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of my peers. This did not help to build my sense of worth as a person.
I needed to attach my self-worth to something else, something I could control more.
Therein entered my eating disorder, which is a whole other blog post.
My belief was that if I was not “the best” I was not good enough in general. This belief of “not being good enough” became a perpetual fear of mine, which rooted itself firmly in my sense of self-worth.
These thoughts that have played over and over in my head have become part of my belief system. Whenever I am faced with something that pushes me out of my comfort-zone I want to hide (as many of us do) and my sense of worth takes a hit.
But I have come to realize that my self-worth takes a hit only because I have this abstract criterion as to what it means to have value as a human-being.
My Criterion for Having Value as A Human-Being
Simply put my self-worth is wrapped up in “being enough.”
But what does that even mean?
Enough of what?
Enough of a woman? Enough of a human? It just doesn’t even make sense. I hear this a lot and it is not just inside my head, but from other women. Having that perpetual fear of not being “enough.”
How to Change the Story
My accomplishments and successes have always been connected to my self-worth.
But that does not have to be the whole story.
By just being alive you have value. You have worth.
My aim is to slowly change my belief from basing my value off of what I do, to knowing I have worth because I am simply alive.
Questions to Start the Conversation
Do you ever downplay your accomplishments when talking to others?
Do you feel that in hindsight you should have done more? You should have been more?
Where does your worth come from?
Does your mind automatically put blame on you when something goes wrong?
What are your beliefs about your self-worth? (i.e. If you weigh X then you have more worth. If you were able to make dinner every night then you would have more worth.)