How do you measure your worth? Is it by how hot you are? How much money you make? How accepted by your father you are? Is it measured by how much you get done in a day, or how consistently you’ve been meditating? Is it measured by your generosity or spiritual piety? Is your worth measured by how big your thighs or circle of friends or book collection is? It is how many deals you score? Chick you score? Grades to you score? Is your worth measured against others? You ideals? Your values or your boss’ expectations? Is it inherent and assumed? Is worth even measurable and comparable?
What is Self-Worth and why do some feel it must be earned while others seem to express it as a birthright?
There are days when my right to be here needn’t be sourced by anything. I just simply feel worthy. There are other days where it feels like any imperfection within myself that I can grasp onto is used evidence of the gap between where I am and where I should be- where my ultimate worthiness resides. Worth is finite from this view and begins to be measured in all sorts of absurd ways.
Since I’m a western woman, I doubt it’ll come as any surprise that I engage with others in the pastime of scrutinizing my body. My relationship with my body, particularly as it pertains to aesthetics and weight is actually quite healthy. Certainly in contrast to those early days, you know, those teen years when having a vibrant personality and inquisitive mind were merely booby prizes to being ‘the pretty one’.
The identification with my body can sneak up on me and I found my energy depleting rapidly over the holidays, primarily because I felt like I was wearing a fat suit. My body hadn’t actually changed that much but when I caught a view of my behind walking past a mirror and it looked like a pack of hamsters were nesting on my ass, I started feeling less adequate as a woman.
I didn’t realize what I was doing at first. It was totally unconscious. But after a while I started to notice, the direction of momentum dictates my experience of worthiness.
If I am becoming stronger, thinner or more flexible, I feel increasingly more confident and worthy. If I am becoming weaker, fatter or more restricted, I feel increasingly more anxious, unacceptable and unworthy.
And that, my friends, is what it means to become identified with something. I don’t have a body, I am my body and however my body measures up against the ideal I’m holding, or that which has been constructed by my culture, is the verdict on my ultimate worth.
We do this everywhere. It informs how we behave and while at times we may be on a high, since we’re doing well at whatever we identify with that makes us feel worthy, since all things are impermanent, at some point the momentum will move in the other direction.
So what’s your measuring stick? What are you primarily concerned with?
If it’s being accepted by others…you feel good and well and worthy when others are accepting of you. But if you fall out of favour with someone, suddenly you’re telling yourself that there’s something wrong with you that needs correction. This totally limits your options when it comes to how you express yourself, what you pursue and ultimately how YOU you are. Since all arrows point to gaining acceptance, even at the cost of authenticity and personal integrity, your behaviour will end up counter to that which is the fullest expression of your divine worth.
What if your worth is measured in contrast to the achievements of others? As long as you’re the best, producing the most, have the greatest results, you’re good and okay. But the second someone surpasses you, you feel kicked in the gut. How then, can you be connected to the deepest, unchanging, always and already worthy part of who you are and how you most long to live, if you have to get back up on your horse and gallop towards the top of the mountain?
Because we’re human, there is always a gap between where we are and where we could be. This gap seems to be particularly painful when we’ve been somewhere great before and feel like we’ve lost ground, when we were at some point better than we are now. Focusing on developing ourselves, on closing those gaps, are only healthy when it’s on behalf of something other than moving away from our feelings of inadequacy. Gaining greater capacity or producing results as an expression of love, connection, creativity or in service of our individual or collective well-being is fantastic. But, man, when we use personal development as a cure for self-loathing, it just perpetuates it.
Everywhere I look in my own life I can find ways to judge myself and measure my worthiness. I can make lists of ‘shoulds’ to be better, track my progress and lament the gaps. Or I can get honest about where I am and where I’m not and that none of these dictate my worth as human. I can take a wider view and see that the chase is something we step into and identify with and can step out of and dis-identify with.
I can relax knowing that I am not my body or my bank account. I am not my relationships or the keeper of my grandmother’s ideals. I am not my story or my personality or my habits or results. I am not my failures or successes or my talents or beliefs. I am not my thoughts or feelings or future. I am not my culture. I am neither perfect nor partial. I’m not measurable or static. And I am made up of all of these and none of these and my worthiness as finite doesn’t exist beyond an idea that I can choose to identify with or not.