I Love Me: A Portrait of Self Worth
Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
Does love come first and then self begins?
Or, must there be a self and then love appears?
The answer to the riddle is this.
Where ever a self is, love must also exist .
It is now February and as Valentine's Day rolls around and the waves of sentimentality that pervades this month set in, we thought that the topic of self love and worth would be the most fitting topic for this month's blog series. I remember clearly the days of singlehood and feelings of dejection that would pinch me every year because I was not the beloved of someone. Now looking back what I wish I knew then was that single, married or somewhere in between, the relationship with yourself and the love you develop for yourself is the best Valentine of all. This is the intro to a 5 part series on the principle of self worth. Hopefully by reading this compilation you will come to a deep appreciation for yourself, and by the end I hope you can confidently say "I love me" too.
This series is largely based on what I have found on my search for a way to find self true worth, and love me for me. What I have found in a nutshell is that the concept of "self" must be inextricably tied to love in order to live a life of wholeness. Some might be reading this and thinking "duh!", but I beg to argue, that for every person who thinks that this is obvious, there are probably two or three more people thinking "aha!" This is because most people come into this world with a peculiar set of circumstances that leave them in some way, shape or form feeling less than, unworthy, scarred, unloved or unloveable.
This series is made to explore the facets of ourselves that often prevent us from from loving ourselves in the same way we show love to others. We will discuss facets of self worth and how to implement them in our lives. And by the end, our hope is that we can unflinchingly say "I love me, how about you?" But first, let me share my story with you, in hopes that that you may find your own story in mine and we can travel on this journey to self love together.
Just Be... ME?
The concept of self worth or self esteem is a perplexing concept in today's society. Ever since I was a child, I can remember my mom saying on various occasions that she didn't want me to have low self esteem. The statement would come from different scenarios stemming from friends, or from the clothes I wore, to the posture I stood with. The imperative was that I should do things or wear things that would build my self-esteem, or that I should not do things that would diminish it, or you know just BE confident.
With this thinking in mind, I always felt wary to be a person of high self esteem or worth, because I did not want to be the kind of "pathetic" person who had low self esteem, according to this mindset. Looking back, I see how ironic it was that I (or my mother) thought that one could vanquish low self worth just by speaking aloud the words "I have high self esteem." How disheartening it was when I would try so hard to muster up the courage I needed to speak loudly or make new friends at yet another elementary school. When I found that I wasn't able to give a witty retort to someone's roasts, I felt the need to walk with my head down as a teenager, because I didn't want to be seen. Much to my and my mother's discontent, I never could quite become that ball of self assurance she wanted me to be.
I now realize that this concept of low self esteem has plagued me throughout my life. Even though I do think of myself as a person who would not stand for being treated badly because I deserve a basic level of respect, I've found that a palpable sense of intrinsic self esteem is foreign to me. My self worth seems tied to whatever accomplishments I had or had not made. You can probably guess this is somewhat unstable. I hadn't realized how much this affected me until one day, I had another instance of my recurring dream, where the general scenarios change, but the theme of the dream would inevitably leave me feeling rejected and hurt. This dream would always wake me up feeling deeply bothered and sad. After another episode of this dream, I went about my day and a conversation came up where, once again, I felt rejected, just like in the dream. This led me to talk it over with my spouse and I realized that the crux of my issue was feeling like no one valued me for who I was objectively.
I realized that for whatever reason, I seem to only inspire appreciation from people because of the things I did for them. And worse yet, it seemed like I myself would only count myself being worthy of love and respect because of the things I would do. I was upset at first, but then I realized that they probably have just been following my lead. Wherever I happened to pick up this habit, I needed to put it to rest. Looking back, I can see that I was giving pieces of myself away in hope of feeling worthy of love, respect and value. I prided myself on the roles I played in life; a good sister, daughter, wife, mother, student, worker, and friend; not because I myself, as an inherent being, was respectable or valuable, but because of the things I did. It never occurred to me that these were two different things.
Pieces of Me
At some point in my life I adopted the belief that in order to be valued, I would have to auction off pieces of me, or my vitality, in order to gain approval. As a result, people would value me; but only in the ways I gave them myself; as a giver, caretaker, achiever and every other "er" I could push myself to be. I was valued for being everything - except for being myself. If fact, I don't think I had any idea of who "myself" was. And really, it didn't matter much until one day in September, four years ago, at the beginning of what was supposed to be my final year of graduate school, when I could no longer be anything but me; the stripped-down, bare-boned, nothing-left-to-give version of me. The auction had ended and every part of me that was deemed valuable in me was suddenly gone.
I remember the exact moment when my heart sank into my belly and just sat there. I could not muster the strength to get out of bed on any morning. I couldn't get out of bed to eat, or to shower, never mind coursework. I was suddenly at the end of my perceived worth, and at that time I had nothing else. All I had was a trade: I traded my striped down, broken self for a diagnosis: Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). It seem like a fair trade; I had nothing left to give, and the disorder gave me a reason why.
For the years that followed, I hoped and prayed for the old "worthy me" to come back into existence. So that I might have "high self- esteem" again. But, I have not really been the same since. After four years, of waiting for the return of myself; that person has not returned. My depression was the wake up call I need to stop waiting for others to validate me based on my abilities. But instead, I have been forced to try to gain value in myself just as I am. Without the self image I had projected for so long, without being able to accomplishing anything. I've run into walls over and over again, being frustrated with the fact that I was no longer able to perform. And that my year of service to those around me did guarantee me a lifetime of appreciation and respect. I came to learn that my willingness to be okay with myself, with no strings attached, was where my real self worth lived.The journey to this realization was way different than what I thought it would be. But today, I can say safely I now see myself as holding intrinsic value, and no longer feel the need to give myself away in tiny pieces to make anyone like or love me. Why? Because I Love Me. Read parts 1-5 of the Self Worth series to learn how to love you too.
- I Love Me: Part 1- Authenticity
- I Love Me: Part 2- Acceptance
- I Love Me: Part 3- Courage
- I Love Me: Part 4- Healthy Habits
- I Love Me: Part 5- Healthy Community
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