“If what I do or create doesn’t define my self-worth, then what do I base it on?“
This has been something of a life-changing question for me. Well, the answer more so. For possibly the very first time in my life, it made me uncomfortable with the very self-made beliefs I’ve lived with. It made me question the importance of the noise in my mind and how it often presents a very distorted version of not just the world, but also myself. It is an answer, and a concept, that left me gobsmacked for a long time.
But we won’t get to the answer so quickly. Not yet, not yet…
You see, when we live our lives constantly seeking validation through the work we do, the things we say, the art we create, and the opinions of those around us, it becomes almost impossible to not find our own worth in those things.
We start to see ourselves in the value of the work we contribute at our offices, in the amount of salt added to the curry, in the comments posted beneath our photos, and through the eyes of those we look up to (and those we don’t!). We start to believe that we are our thoughts. We create an entire universe inside our minds where the words we tell ourselves are very often not our own; rather they’re derived through our experiences – the good, the bad, and the unusual.
“Self-love” is the term that social media influencers love to use to promote their products and services. “Love yourself, be who you are, know your worth. Also, here’s a discount code you can use to buy some slimming tea.”
Irony is an understatement.
That social media propagates a completely false narrative of what self-love is, is a completely different topic. But it is a part of the bigger problem.
Our self-worth is almost always tethered to something tangible – our jobs, our marriages/relationships, our children, our physical weight, our grades and GPAs, our creativity. It could be something as silly as not being able to use a safety pin properly, and you could use that as an excuse to tell yourself you’re not good enough. It could be something as insignificant as finishing an assignment on time, and you could base your entire value as a human being on that one task.
But take all that away, and what are you?
If you, in this moment, had no job, no academic qualifications, no familial and romantic relationships, no ownership over anything materialistic, and had all your skills and talents taken away from you, would you still be worthy? Or are you suddenly less…of no value?
It’s a question, and a concept, that can make many uncomfortable. It stirs up emotions of doubt, uncertainty, and questions the very nature of our existence.
If what I do or create doesn’t define my self-worth, then what do I base it on?
When you observe people who show immense confidence (not the obviously fake, for-the-camera kind) in themselves, you’ll often find that they don’t necessarily take the work they do or the words they say or hear very seriously. They often appear not to take their mistakes or their achievements seriously. Heck, they don’t even take themselves seriously.
(Now, I don’t know if self-deprication is a source of better confidence, but it certainly seems to be a tool to get rid of the unnecessary noise in your brain that speaks of flaws and faults.)
But this is more than just building confidence. Confidence is a mere after thought in this scenario. Confidence is what others notice in you. An external observation. What truly matters is what’s within. Your worthiness. Your virtues. Your value. What is your self-worth based on?
The answer to that, I’ve been told, comes from a sense of grounding. Grounding yourself in the belief that you, in this moment, are valuable and worthy simply because you’re alive, you’re here, and you’re trying. Not even trying at your optimum level. But just…trying. Just here. Alive.
You are not your thoughts. You are not your actions. You are not your words. Well, not entirely anyway. The good, the bad, the ugly – all of it are simply by-products of your being. Ever changing. Fallible. Successful. A win today; a lesson to learn tomorrow.
Every step of the way is simply a new chapter – to grow and improve and change for the better. But each act, in its entirety, is not you. You are valuable simply because you are here. One of you out of seven billion! That is ultimately enough to gauge your self worth…
It’s an answer that left me overwhelmed, utterly confused, and is something I’m still processing, every single day. And every day, the answer manifests itself unto me in different, sometimes unthinkable, ways.
We all struggle with the idea of self-worth differently. Which is why I suppose this answer will mean something different to each one of us.
One of my favourite scenes ever, is the one in Avengers: Endgame (y’all know I’ll always bring in Marvel), where an obviously depressed, very obese, and raggedy Thor Odinson tries to wield the Mjölnir – a hammer that can only be lifted by someone who is truly worthy. He shuts his eyes and sticks out his hand, completely unsure of what will happen next. A few seconds later, the Mjölnir comes whizzing right into his hand, upon which an elated Thor looks at his mother and says “I’m still worthy!”.
The scene was one that was received with applause and a few laughs. But to me, it is profound. What a beautiful way of showing that your status, your weight, your clothes, and your mental health are not a barometer of your worthiness as a person.
To believe that being alive, and just present in the moment, is enough to base your self-worth on is a difficult task to ask of us as humans. Because of course we will continue to base our value on the things we do, the comments others pass at us, and the talents we possess (or lack thereof). Comparison and jealousy- the thieves of joy – will undoubtedly & unfortunately continue to purge our inner peace. That we will one day wake up, completely mentally untethered from all our material bindings is an idealistic, almost impossible, event.
But in the meantime, perhaps we could all try our best to start this journey, within our minds, to change the way we value and view ourselves.
Let’s not fool each other here either. This isn’t an easy way to rid ourselves of improving on our mistakes or learning new skills or getting better at life in general. All that very much remains an integral part of us evolving and changing into the best versions of ourselves.
The change, however, can be one where we are kind to ourselves. The journey can be a more forgiving one. The process doesn’t have to be one where we hate ourselves into change.
Maybe we can try to base our worth in each moment as it comes; in this moment – in the breath we’re taking, the sounds we hearing, the things we’re seeing; maybe we can find value in just being and try to teach our minds that that is enough.
If what I do or create doesn’t define my self-worth, then what do I base it on? The answer is almost entirely too simple to be true – you base it in the now, and in the fact that despite all odds, you’re alive and here.