How valuable are you?
When you read that question, how does it land? In what various contexts do you think of your value? Financially, emotionally, sentimentally, intellectually? Do you think in terms of the service you provide, the contribution that you are to others, your family, your friends? Or does it boil down to how much money you have in the bank, your salary or your investments?
How do you measure the value of a human being? How do we measure our own value?
For some of us, our value is determined by our salary, the kind of car we drive, what we look like, a pat on the back from our boss, recognition and accolades, where we live or vacation or what we wear. But that game can’t be won, because there will always be more to strive for — a bigger home, nicer car, cooler clothes, more money.
Last year, a coach helped me boil down the essence of what I provide in my business to the following: “I see and value people for who they really are. “ And while it’s easy for me to see the value in others, it is often much more difficult to distinguish it in myself. It is sometimes easier to allow others to determine my value, and to seek validation from the outside, rather than really feeling it from the inside.
I wrote a blog about busyness a few years ago, and realized that having a lot to do has been an indicator that I am valued in the past. This feeling has led to me filling up my calendar with a lot of stuff that may or may not have fulfilled my own goals, desires or needs. And then, the opposite — taking some time for myself and relaxing — often seems unproductive, and even leaves me feeling de-valued.
This pattern can generate the idea that self-care is selfish. When, in fact, if we don’t take good care of ourselves, we can’t truly contribute to others. My busyness blog talked about how being burned out and stressed-out can sometimes be a status symbol of our worth. This often turns into chronic health issues as our bodies rebel against the constant adrenaline of our fast-paced lives.
Wayne Dyer said, “Don't equate your self-worth with how well you do things in life. You aren't what you do. If you are what you do, then when you don't… you aren't. I am a human being, not a human doing."
For those of us who are single, the lack of a relationship can actually be shameful. The opposite of valuing ourselves, shame tells us there must be something wrong with us. Therefore, if we rely upon a relationship, or even a date, to determine our value, are we more likely to settle for someone who isn’t right for us, stay longer than we should in a unfulfilling situation or even spend a lot of our time dating for the sake of dating without enjoying it very much?
I recently distinguished a pattern in my own romantic relationships. The story I’ve been carrying around is that it’s never a fit. If I like them, they don’t like me, and vice-versa. I literally had the thought: “If they’re really great, they don’t want me, and if they want me, they must not be that great.” Wow! That doesn’t give much credit to either myself or the men I date. If I carry that idea with me into my relationships, even subconsciously, I am likely to continue finding evidence to support my position and literally bring it about. Now that it is conscious, and no longer buried, I can release it and change the pattern.
Two authors recently hosted an online chat about single shame that was very revealing of some of the patterns we create and stories we tell ourselves about why we are single, and most of them aren’t positive. Sara Eckel, author of It’s Not You: 27 (wrong) Reasons Why You’re Single and Sasha Cagen, author of Quirkyalone lead a fascinating discussion that focused a great deal on the shame singles feel about how long it’s been since the last relationship and the length of said relationship.
The consensus was that long-term singlehood is tougher on women than men for a variety of reasons, including:
Women typically derive more of their identity from family and relationship and men from work
Women tend to be more self-critical (and twice as likely to be depressed)
Women internalize societal expectations more deeply
People who value (re: love) themselves will do a better job of setting healthy boundaries, saying no when they need to and working a reasonable number of hours — valuing their time. They will charge what they are worth, negotiate higher salaries and work smarter, not harder — valuing their professional contributions. They will get their own needs met, insist upon being treated equitably and practice good self-care — valuing their relationship skills.
I don’t mean to suggest that this is always easy. It is a practice. And sometimes there are long-held patterns to overcome and stories to distinguish and release in order to do so. Another quote by Wayne Dyer sums it up: “Self worth comes from one thing: thinking you are worthy.” How valuable are you?