I Love Me: Self Worth (Part 1: Authenticity)
I am that I am.
Self worth is a tricky concept in that it requires a thorough understanding of two concepts; "self" and "worth". Here, we cover the concept of self. Self seems simple enough, but if you've ever spoken to a twenty-something, and even some forty-somethings, you'll find that a lot of people have somehow fallen out of acquaintance with themselves at best, or at worst are completely unfamiliar with who they are. You hear it often said, "I'm just in a place where I'm trying to find myself." On the face it seems silly. You know your name, your age, your parents, your hometown, your social security number...etc. We know these things, so what exactly are we saying when we make these types of statements?
We are often referring to the parts of us that have not been assigned by external forces; the parts of us that originate from our hearts and minds. It is the essence of what make us ourselves. Let's think of it this way; if you were somehow forced to go into a witness protection program, and your identity was stripped away, and you had to start all over, would you still be you? Would you still hate onions on your burgers, or would you still freak out if you met your favorite celebrity? Would forget the secret handshake that you've always done with your dad? Would your reoccurring nightmares about creepy clowns go away? No, they would not. These parts of you are embedded in you; your preferences, your experiences, your feelings, your dreams, your fears. These are the real identifiers of who you are. However, these are often the parts of us that are concealed, known perhaps only to those very close to us.
Of course, when people are on their soul search to find themselves, they are aware of these things about themselves. What they are not always aware of are the ways they might moralize their preferences or their predispositions to fit the norms of those around them. So, you might really love Justin Bieber, but in the social group you hang with they would completely roast you for it, so you don't mention it. While your fandom for the Biebs is not all that important, the question is, "are you being yourself?" if you feel ashamed or uncomfortable to share the things that make your heart jump. In more serious instances, you may hide your deeply held wants or needs so as to make everyone else feel comfortable or feel okay about you. So, you are a new student in college; you know in your heart you've always wanted to be a singer, but you know what your parents would freak about it, so you decide declare biology because premed is always the way to go. Or, maybe you know that you are definitely attracted to the same sex, but you are worried about how your religious community will react to you, so you pretend, you keep quite. Or, you know feel like you are not happy in your relationship but you feel that saying anything or doing anything about it is not a part of your vows, no matter how miserable you are.
So why? Why do we so easily do these things, why do we hide who we are from the world. It seems we start at a very young age to shift our behaviors to our external situation. We start to take on the preferences of those around us as our own, in order to feel acceptable. In the book The Conscious Parent, Dr. Shefali Tsabary points out that we take on an "egoic self" in our formative years of life and play out these roles in ways that threaten our happiness, and ultimately, our effectiveness as parents. She points out that the opposite of this egoic self is our authentic self. The authentic self is the part of us that is content just to be itself. This means to truly become aware of your who your true self is one must come to term with their own thoughts, feelings and needs.
I think therefore I am
One definition of authenticity that best captures it is "worthy of acceptance or belief" and "true to one's own personality, spirit, or character." The philosopher Rene Decartes famously posited, "Cogito ergo sum", which means, "I think therefore I am". Without diving in too deeply, the 16th century philosopher theorized that, the only way to know that we exist is that we are able to think. Much discourse surrounds this concept, but for the purposes of defining "the authentic self", we will expound on this train of thought. Like Decartes, it could be argued that our ability to think defines us as people. If you understand that your thoughts are yours, unique to you and that they are your internal guide, then the understandings that you come to in life, though probably incomplete, become your life's teacher.
Since you came to exist, you have constantly been learning and coming to understandings about the world that you can reliably trust. As, a toddler you learn that when you place one foot in front of the other, you will get front point A to point B, barring unstable footing. As an 8 year old, you have learned that if you walked outside on a winter day without a coat, it would not be pleasant. As a teenager, you learn that parents don't take too kindly to backtalk (even if you do it anyway). As an adult, you learn that your boss is not okay with you showing up to work late. I think you get the point; we are constantly learning things in the world, and we make adjustments to our lives accordingly. What we often don't realize is that there is an internal voice within ourselves that is also responding back to life situations. This is where engagement and learning create knowledge through our responses.
In today's world of advertising, TV pundits, and lets face it, pushy family, we are constantly being told when to think about things. And, depending on your level of authenticity, you may doubt your understandings in life when a more assertive voice tries to state their opinions. The work therefore must be done to come to a belief in your own thoughts and opinions as true, at least to you and your life experience /position in life. You are entitled to your own logic and belief, and understanding this will bring you closer to your authentic self.
I feel therefore I am
Here, we argue that we are not only summarized by our thoughts, we are also beings that feel. This is not intended to be whole philosophical debate, but rather a call to acknowledge all parts of ourselves that we are not used to paying attention to. Emotions are as personal to us as thoughts. We feel sad, happy, anxious or frustrated, all because they are functions of us helping us to pay attention to ourselves. If we didn't feel, we would allow everything into our space and energy, especially harmful things.
Emotions are an inherent part of ourselves, and often we are disconnected from them, due once again to social conditioning. At some point in our lives, we were told that big girls and boys don't cry. We were told to mute our feelings in order to fit into desired roles. Though it is true that it is probably helpful not to walk around snot faced at work because your favorite character in Game of Thrones died, emotions have a place. We find that when you find yourself feeling like a relationship ended up badly, chances are if you look back, you can see many times you didn't feel right about something that transpired beforehand. But, as we have been taught, we ignore the signals. We ignore ourselves in order to be accommodating and understanding of others while being untrue to ourselves. We often wear this kind of behavior as a badge, but it's often a manifestation of ego. We hold so dearly our portrayal of "self" that we stifle our actual selves.
Related: Self Sacrifice
We are must make it our mission to honor our feelings. Honoring and giving space to all our feelings, without moralizing them, allows us to space to just look at who we are and figure our what it is that we are needing from ourselves, until we are able to nurture ourselves in this way. We won't be able to feel very valuable if the only person able to hear or do anything about our emotions, refuses to listen to us. If we don't value ourselves at a basic level, others will continue to devalue us.
I love therefore I am
This one kind of ties into the previous point, but is slightly different; it's about being aware of the things in your life you like or love, and choosing to be around those things. If you love music and you are certain that this helps you feel like your best self, you should make it your mission to add these things to your atmosphere. If you hate the color red, you are allowed to vanquish it from your space, no matter how irrational it seems. Unless that color is willing to change itself into pink so that it can be around you, you are within your right to choose what stays in your space. You are the master of your destiny.
Hopefully you caught the drift, but in case you didn't, what this means is that if there are people or things around you that cause you to feel or be less than your best, loved, and most true to yourself, then you need to release these things and/or people from your life. It's important to realize the difference between things you think you need in your life vs. the things you actually need in your life to be happy. You might think you need your mother in your life even though she is an addict, but this comes from a place of fear or obligation. You do want your mother in your life, but I'm pretty sure you would like her to be healthy and sober. What you love is your mother and the spirit she has, but if it is taken away by a self-destructive pattern, then what you are getting is her addiction, not her.
You get to choose what you accept in your life. If you have a person around you that you love, but hate their behavior, you can set a boundary that requires that person to leave certain behaviors at the door when they enter your space. Even if it is something they can easily change, like for example a boyfriend who is drug dealing, you can require that in order for him to be in your life, he must stop altogether. In this way, you are allowing only what you love into your life and nothing that might disturb it. Honoring yourself means being clear what you are uncomfortable with, not staying in a space that makes you uncomfortable.
I am therefore I am
In summary, to heal your authentic self, you must be willing to accept and honor all parts of yourself. Believe that you are valid enough to honor your own thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Know that you are worthy of love and respect. By honoring yourself, you will then be able to love and respect others. Authenticity is the prize that you have and only you can redeem it. You win the prize of you. Believing that will undoubtedly lead to increased self worth. Today, choose to be you, no matter how odd, weird or unwanted you might feel.
"By being yourself you put something wonderful into the world that was not there before."- Edwin Elliot
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