(and if it is, how much will it cost me?)
Thrive asked us to write about Self Worth. Which in itself is a challenge because it conjures the very issues it’s meant to address. Will the article get published? Will it be followed and liked? By how many? What if it’s not (published, followed, liked)— will that invalidate me or my insights? Am I writing this article for outward approval? Or for inner validation? Is it to help all of you? Or to help my Self? Or both?
First of all, just the notion that there is a Self is in itself revealing. Because I don’t think we pay much attention to its being. It plays second fiddle to a riddle called our Ego which often masquerades our deeper truth. As a result we suffer the consequences in a poverty stricken land called Self Worthless.
Being Human. Outwardly exhausting, inwardly daunting, and potentially rewarding at every turn depending on how we turn our perspective. What price beauty, fame, success? What price balance, inner flame, wellness? The Inner isn’t usually the winner because the Outer shouts louder. But the shouter is what makes us shudder, wither, and then wonder — am I good enough? Am I worthy enough? If the Inner is powered by the Outer, we’re bound for an eventual power outage.
Climate Change … Change the Emotional Climate. Nature … Human Nature.
We’re intrinsically linked, to both outward and inward fluctuations. But it’s those raging, prevailing inner winds that can be derailing. Self Worth is like the mast of our sail. It’s vulnerable to gusts which steamroll our self-esteem and blow us off course.
When it gets stormy out there and you’re being jostled by Life, pummelled by humans behaving badly, weary from drowning in tears about your fears of not being worthwhile, where do you seek refuge? With whom?
The world of Advertising measures my worth by how I look. Education measures it by my intelligence and exam scores. The success of my career measures my proficiency. The number of kids, lovers or Facebook friends I have measures my desirability, and so on.
Our fragile sense-of-self and incompleteness becomes prey to our communal species of Ego, who constantly interface or “in-your-face” each other with a desperate need for love.
I may take intellectual comfort knowing we’re all in the same boat but when I’m personally rocked it’s my heartache not my headache that needs soothing from the storm of life (even a quiet storm, as innocuous as a stranger casting a disapproving glance … or an email gone ignored).
I can go to a trusted friend, read a meaningful book, watch a film or listen to music that addresses the mood of my moment. I can also take comfort helping others (a simple smile to a stranger, or a helpful gesture like holding open a door for someone can restore and regenerate my minutest sense of purpose). Even engagement with animals or babies can be nourishing because the exchange is devoid of ego. It’s naked and pure. But the ultimate source of my comfort comes from a more primal and accessible resource that isn’t dependent on any outer accessory to enable me.
My wellspring of comfort comes from well within Me.
This is my very best friend. My very dearest love. Beyond my child, spouse, pet … it’s this wee little being called Me that holds sway. And as I charge forth in the outer world it champions me. Until we fumble. And then we crumble (but less than we used to when we weren’t in conscious relationship with each other).
This dismissed and dreaded “enemy within” is in fact my ally. It only acts up when I don’t react — to it. It becomes the drama queen when the world doesn’t applaud it. It needs me and I need it and we need each other in order to restore internal order when the outer world is out-of-order. I have created a private space within, and befriended this lifelong companion by transforming my misery through an alchemical mystery which has since become my passion for mastery.
Somehow, embedded below enough personal suffering, I discovered a cherished person. An aspect of and deeper dimension of my Self. It doesn’t make me invincible. I’m very much human. But it makes me in visible — to me. Which makes me more human because I start to see, to become more fully aware of and in contact with … me. Which becomes We.
The world is shouting right now. Tirades are unleashed and filtering into the global zeitgeist. Who to believe? What to think? Even if we’re unaffected someone near us probably isn’t, and we become part of a community that conveys its angst consciously and unconsciously. We become the recipient of each other’s fallout. And this spreads virally. All the more impetus to imp into us, the internal community. This becomes a kind of fallout shelter which shields us from the shrapnel and the twits who tweet.
Each of us has a slice of this Life. Our personal slice matters to the collective whole but even moreso to the Ego who wants to frame that whole around its self-centered hole. This donut becomes our primary sustenance which inevitably leaves us hungry because eating a hole is empty calories. And this frustration eats away at our whole.
The price of my slice-of-life has increased in value ever since I decided to put a premium on “my” slice above others’. I became less inclined to share my slice-of-it until I first learned how to bankroll my bit-of-it. To bankroll it means to invest in it. To invest in it means to know who I’m investing in. To know who I’m investing in means taking the time to engage that investment and learn why it reacts as it does, what belief systems are thwarting its flourishing, what buried treasures lie below its societally trained facade. It’s like dating. You fall in like (based on whatever little idiosyncrasy). And then you fall in trust (which is earned over time, by proving repeatedly that you will nevermore forsake yourself). And then you fall in comfort (aaah, the blessed repose of knowing you’re always there for yourself, regardless of how dark your self-doubts). And then perhaps you fall in love (the ensemble of this ever deepening courtship phase which continues to blossom ongoing as long as you nurture it).
Self Worth is the relation-ship that seizes those choppy seas like an endurance test … sometimes dropping anchor in a stunning atoll, but more often being drawn into riptide.
Self Worth is culled from hard knocks against the ship’s hull which breaks the ego into vulnerable pieces that almost beg you to behold the fragile essence breathing below deck. To hold one’s broken spirit with genuine compassion is one of the most stirring, revelatory, self-parenting relationship rituals a human can ever bestow upon itself.
When Life unleashes itself onto me I go toward me … toward my anger or pain or void … toward the life force that’s urging me to be present with it. I never condemn my private feelings, I condone them. All of them. I make conscious space for this otherwise obliterated Self to co-exist.
If I’m highly charged with anger “we” vent it (by literally talking it out loud between me and my Self, or releasing the energy in non-harmful physical activity). If I’m charged with hurt, “we” cry together, fully (I literally wrap my arms around myself and hug us, rock us). The key is in the “we”. I create a safe context to be with my suffering, to feel it as a means to heal it. Sometimes the convulsions come in waves — like when you’re a kid and cry so loud until you start to hear yourself cry, and then focus on the sound of that cry, and then forget why you cried and just become sleepy-eyed.
Once the initial energy wave is released I often turn toward Nature to observe another living thing that isn’t human but is still being. A tree, a flower, an insect or animal … all are ravaged by the elements like me. But unlike me they don’t take it personally. They are absent of an ego mind that can be undermined. I try to tackle my own root system of taking things personally and prune the weedy thoughts and beliefs appropriately. I am not a tree, but I learn to see the tree in the me which interacts with many other beings in a cacophony or symphony, depending on which way the winds of the emotional climate are blowing. So it behooves me to try to live in a more mild emotional atmosphere regardless of the outer world’s temperature — or perhaps because of it. This is a way to till the soil of Self Worth.
But ultimately it’s that private moment devoted exclusively to my Self’s expression that becomes benevolent lullaby which honours Soul by addressing Ache. Self Worth isn’t invulnerable to pain and insecurity. It doesn’t make me immune to the human condition in myself or in others. But it softens the edges. It eases the rebound.
It makes the dips less dark. It keeps me afloat when you’re adrift, sparing us both sinking spirits (because if I demand too heavily from you I risk to anchor you with an unfair burden, or infuriate you with my insistence). It gives me stewardship over a life that feels otherwise rudderless and at the whim of others’ emotional winds. And in giving to me, it inspires my giving to another.
This is a critical component of how I seed my sense-of-self. And this is how I “sync” into me.
Ironically as I write this, tonight to the West of me is a Self Worth contest called The Academy Awards, while to the East of me is a test of Self Worth called the Refugee Crisis. And in between those seeming polar opposites are a world of variations thereof — all part of that same face of our Global Selfie.
If Self Worth were deeply ingrained from birth, perhaps more political leaders would mirror more temperance rather than temper tantrums (and the populous that grows and then elects them, as well)?
P.S. For what it’s worth, developing Self Worth is entirely worth it, no matter who else acknowledges your writing about it :-).
Originally published at medium.com