It’s quite interesting how we’ve bought into the idea that our self-worth is a function of something outside of ourselves; be it our jobs, or spouses or college degrees or all of the above.
The sad thing happens if we ever lose that one thing, we feel like we’re nothing. We don’t know where to start, and we turn into that headless chicken that first inspired the phrase. That’s why the first thing to do is to have multiple identities so if one of your identities isn’t working out for you, then another one takes over. Let’s say your job is the only thing your life revolves around, losing it becomes disastrous. Whereas if there are other identities and roles you play – maybe you’re a good son/daughter, or you volunteer in your community or you have a good social support – the blow from losing that job lessens.
The second thing to do is to make sure our self-worth is a function of internal strengths, and I’ve personally come to learn this the hard way. I come from a small tight-knit town and one thing we have that I haven’t experienced in other places is the very strong influence society has on people’s personal choices. It’s like a magnet that keeps the iron filings — or people — in line.
If you’re one of us, chances are, the phrase “What will people say?” always plays somewhere at the back of your mind, and it’s difficult to break the habit even if you’re trying to break away.
So you walk around defining your self-worth as a function of society-approved thing; for men it’s a corporate job, and for women it’s a husband and kids. So if nothing about your life has society’s seal of approval, you’ll probably hear your fair share of talk about being abnormal, inadequate, and unworthy. The nice people say it in front of your face, and the not-so-nice ones say it behind your back.
And everyday you’re going to have to remind yourself of your worthiness, not because you have something, but because you are. It doesn’t matter what job you’re holding or whether or not you have a ring around your finger a kid tagging along by your side. Remind yourself you’re worthy because you are. Remind yourself of your personal values, and take concrete steps to live by them day in day out. Remind yourself to treat people with respect, and to add value to the lives of those around you. Remind yourself to engage fully with the world, to feel the sand tickling your feet, to watch the silver supermoon melt into dark, choppy waters, to close your eyes and feel the wind against your face, because life is beautiful and you get to be here…
Most importantly, remind yourself it’s a battle you’ll keep on fighting every single day…
simply because you are.
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Also, check out my short story collection, “All Bleeding Stops and Other Short Stories from the Kenyan Coast,” and the non-fiction book summarizing a lot of ideas in the personal development field if you want to change your life but don’t know where to start, “Mine your inner resources”.