How much is your self worth anyway? Is it a measure of how much money you make, or how successful or useful you are, or how much others appreciate you? Is it dependent upon your level of physical fitness, health, or beauty? Is it based on your expertise, your service, your sense of humor, your optimism? The problem with self-worth being directed by external experience is there will always be differing opinions as to your value. In this country, if you are poor, physically or mentally ill, elderly, female, born into certain religions, or a person of color, you have been devalued before you drew breath.
How then, do you value yourself?
Recently someone who knows I’m coming up on the anniversary of my daughter’s death, told me to cheer up, because she didn’t want to feel sad. I didn’t remember asking her to join me in sorrow, but all I said was, “No, I’m going to go ahead and feel sad right now.” And I understood that she didn’t want to be with those emotions. That’s a choice we all make every day, what and whom we choose to be around, what we want to experience.
And in that moment of deciding it was fine to feel sad even if she wasn’t okay with it, I realized that since Maia died, I have been taking care of other’s feelings around her death, simply because they don’t seem to know how. I have been trying to make death more comfortable for everyone else. And I’m tired. I’m tired of “being strong,” and “together,” as if my value is based upon how much I don’t emote all over other people. Sometimes I want to howl loudly in public, or wail for hours like they do in other cultures. I imagine many bereaved people feel this way.
One of my Native American friends commented that she was tired of smiling at white people so that they don’t worry she will shriek in rage and run over and scalp them. Even though we both laughed, it was also very telling that she felt that it was her responsibility to assuage their fear.
What if our worth isn’t based on how much we take care of other people’s feelings? Or how much money is in our bank accounts, or how we happen to have inherited genes that support longevity? What happens if our self-worth really comes down to how much we value ourselves for no reason other than we are living, breathing beings who deserve love, shelter, food, care, clean water, and a great planet to live upon?
I like supporting other people in their growth and self-love. I like serving and being served by others as well. it makes me feel happy, alive, and connected. But I don’t want my sense of value to be based solely upon how much I can do for others, or how much they can do for me, but more, upon how much I am able to love myself and others even when life is tough and losses are hard.