Do you know what you are worth? Are you happy with it? Discover how to develop infinitely increasing self-worth.
What are you worth?
When people used to read printed newspapers, the Parade section of the Sunday paper ran a cover story every year about what different people earned. When I first read this annual feature, it made me sick, and I know I was not alone. Everyone I knew read the article, and studied the pictures, career roles, and earnings. No one I knew liked what they learned. They would measure themselves against the examples in the article, and come up short. They weren’t good enough.
It seemed that almost everyone had a better career and earned more. To make matters worse, I was behind on my bills, doing without things that were necessary, like dental work and car and home upgrades. Seeing other people doing well did not make me feel good.
Great teachers said that I should be happy for them, but my gut reaction was not happiness, especially when I didn’t have a promising plan to strike it rich.
I was more prone to feel resentful when it seemed their good fortune was ill-gotten — or had come to them for no good reason. I was envious. Envy hurts us. Being envious requires us to think of ourselves as lacking or poor, and that is likely to cause things to happen to make us poor.
Why do we think less of ourselves when we see others doing well? We tell ourselves that we have less, that we are less. If we do that enough, we believe it. And then we tend to make it so.
Great teachers tell us that it’s better to view others’ good fortune with good will. It is better to be happy for them and believe that good fortune is our destiny too. It’s better to expect good things for ourselves and let go of envy and cynicism. But that is easier said than done.
Parade’s parade of people doing way better than me did not sit well.
Fortune magazine lists the world’s wealthiest people, a practice in our culture of holding up those who have amassed great fortunes as if they were great people, examples of the greatest people in a society that measures a person’s worth in dollars. Some of these billionaires may be great people, but is it their wealth that makes them great?
What is it that makes a person worthwhile?
If I ask what you are worth, chances are you will think of net worth, in dollars, the bottom line on a balance sheet that lists your assets and liabilities.
I am going to ask you to change. I am going to ask you to consider that some of your beliefs about yourself and your worth have been wrong. I am going to ask you to consider some ways of thinking that may be totally alien to your cultural and family beliefs.
SELF-ESTEEM AND WHY WE NEED IT.
The word esteem refers to an estimate of value. Our self-esteem is the value we place on ourselves. It is what we think of when we wonder if we are really worth anything, if we are good enough, if we count.
Experts in psychology have said that high self-esteem and high self-regard are absolute necessities to our health and well-being, to our wholeness. It is important because we will not save anything that is worthless — we will let it go to waste. Unless we value something highly, we will not bother to care for it; we’ll be prone to throw it out.
People who have low self-esteem have a big problem. They have unconscious processes that fail to care for them, that throw them out. It is like they have programming that tells them not to bother doing what it takes to thrive. We will only preserve and promote what has value, so if we have low self-esteem, we fail to take care of ourselves, to do what it takes to thrive. If we have high self-esteem, we automatically do what it takes to be well, survive and thrive.
If we have an adorable puppy that we love like crazy we will do whatever it takes to make sure it’s ok. We’ll treat it like royalty and give it all manner of treats and toys, and let it live in the lap of luxury. But if we find ourselves with a mangy cur, we are prone to neglect it, leave it out in the cold, maybe even give it away, not caring if it lives or dies.
When you think of yourself, do you think of yourself as the precious adorable puppy, or the good-for-nothing miserable dog? This is important, because you will receive treats and luxuries, or be left out in the cold, depending on how you value yourself.
It is extremely important how we value ourselves, what measures we use. We are in trouble if we use net worth, earnings, career, houses, education, popularity, looks, or just about any other measure we’ve been led to believe in. You may come up short and decide you’re not worth much, not worth saving. And even if you measure up well now, and you think you’re hot stuff, what happens if you lose your money, or your station, or your job, or your looks, etc. etc.?
YOUR SYSTEM OF VALUING, YOUR FAITH, IS A MATTER OF CHOICE.
While you may think that your family or your culture has thrust a value system on you, it is truly a matter for you to decide. You decide your values, what is worthwhile, and what is important. You are the one who decides what makes a person worthwhile.
It is true that others may judge you by your appearance, your speech, your education, your wealth, or any number of other things they think are important and valuable. But it is for you to decide if they are right. Are they the authority for you, the source of the truth about all things? Is theirs the belief system that you embrace?
The Holy Scriptures of many faiths teach that material treasures and many other sources of pride are short-lived false measures of worth, even illusions that blind us to a higher truth. Things like money and social status and good looks do not stand the real tests of time and life, but pale compared to things like honor, kindness, integrity, honesty, service, and love. You know in your heart that a rich heartless bastard will have nothing if the money disappeared, while a Mother Theresa will always be surrounded by supporters and well wishers, no matter what her circumstances.
A self-centered millionaire is not worth much compared to a mentally handicapped welfare recipient who is kind-hearted and helps the frail elderly. Ask the frail elders who are helped.
An actor who makes millions and abuses people is not worth much compared to a minimum wage day care worker who gently cares for the welfare of the children. Ask the children. Ask their parents.
You are challenged at every turn to decide what to believe about yourself, about what is important, what has value, and what really counts when all is said and done. And you may have adopted ideas that are contrary to the truth at the center of your soul. You may have habits of believing falsehoods that were planted by lost souls.
What makes a person worth saving? What makes them deserving of a happy and abundant life? What makes them important? What gives a person value?
UNCONDITIONAL POSITIVE SELF-REGARD
Psychologist Carl Rogers concluded that we experience a magical power for self improvement and success when we are able to experience unconditional positive regard for ourself as well as others. With this, there is an absence of judgment, an absence of evaluating things based on conditions of worth. This is where life is seen through a loving heart. It is the ability to accept our experience and process it, learn from it, no matter what it is, and always regard ourselves in an absolutely accepting way. It is unconditional love for ourselves. It is believing that we are ok, that we have great potential, that we deserve a shot at the good things in life, that we deserve them. It is believing that we have importance and special value in the scheme of things, a value in the world we are a part of.
The usual example of this kind of positive regard is the unconditional love mothers usually have for their child. Incredibly, even when a person has seemed to sink to the lowest levels of humanity, where they have committed heinous crimes and are on death row, the mom is often still there for her child, thinks of him or her as precious and wants the best for her baby. Her love is not contingent on any conditions, and she wants her child saved, believing he or she can get better, and to her, her baby is the most important thing on earth. Spiritual people say that this is the love that God has for us, that the creator has for its creation. Rogers talked about having this kind of regard for others and for ourselves. Loving, not judging. Seeing ourselves as valuable, just because we are, just because we are a child of the universe, as any mom’s child is. Rogers’ therapy taught us to love the child and hate the hateful behavior instead of hating the child. Rogers was convinced that the way to well-being in all realms was through unconditional positive regard, unconditional love.
We experience a tremendous power for well being when we can love ourselves, independent of the conditions of our experience. In other words, when we have high self-esteem, regardless of our status, wealth, looks, job, personality, our past, or any other factor you can think of, we experience a mystical power to foster our maximum well-being. In other words, self-esteem creates the conditions, rather than the other way around. You don’t create high self-esteem by achieving lofty conditions — you create lofty conditions by believing in your own intrinsic worthiness, by having high self-esteem as a matter of intentional belief, faith — by being loving.
If you had a mom and dad who loved you no matter what, you know what it is to be regarded with unconditional love, high value, and acceptance. But many people did not have this experience. Loving ourselves is not so easy when we have believed in something else. Loving ourselves is even harder if you have never experienced being loved like that. In this case you need to turn elsewhere for the lessons you should have received.
You are a part of creation, as worthy of your place here as any other living being in nature and all its beauty, every plant or animal on earth. Those forms of life are all important in the big picture and so are you. The universe that scientists study has not given birth to a single atom without its place and reason to be, a cause of its existence. Religious teachers say that God created you with and for a purpose, loves you just for being here, regards you as its most precious child, and always will.
Listen to the teachers who tell you they know that you are important and precious beyond measure, no matter what. You are special and important to creation, no matter what you may have heard or believed in the past. You are precious, like the adorable puppy, and you deserve what you need, deserve what it takes to thrive, just as nature’s plants and animals are provided what they need by the natural world.
THE MISTAKE OF GUILT, THE WOUND OF SHAME
I grew up in a culture that believed in guilt and blame, even preached it, but I have come to find out it is a mistake.
We have been taught to judge, to find fault, and to shame, blame and punish. But those who taught us this were lost souls.
Better teachers have warned against judging and blaming. Judging and fostering guilt and shame are mistakes with terrible consequences, damaging wounds. We reap what we sow, we get what we give. If we judge others, we judge ourselves by the same standard. If we seek to blame and punish, we are subject to the same kind of punishment. There is another way to respond to mistake, by correcting and forgiving.
Personal guilt or shame is the realization of some shortcoming, some mistakenness, and an accompanying shame and loss of self-esteem because of it. When we confront our sins and mistakes, and we believe in judging and punishing rather than correcting and forgiving, we make ourselves irreparably broken, we make ourselves worth less — we suffer a damnation that runs contrary to the power within us that heals cuts and broken bones. We wound ourselves.
Imperfect as we are in this imperfect world, we all make mistakes, just as we all suffer injuries in the world we endure. The natural process within us is to heal and recover when we are injured, not just with the wounds to the body, but to the mind and spirit as well. When we stumble and fail in some way, the natural process is to heal, just as the cut or broken bone heals, to recover and be whole again. And as healed bones are stronger than they were before the break, so are we more than what we were because of what we’ve suffered and survived. When we fail in some way, as long as we understand it and work to correct it, life or God forgives, and we learn, we heal. Feeling guilty, ashamed, irreparably flawed and therefore less, is like believing in a world where cuts and broken bones do not heal. It’s crazy. Life is forgiving and healing for those who accept it.
You are of great worth just as you are, warts and all. Any imperfections and flaws can be healed when they are revealed to you, because life forgives your mistakes and lets you be whole again, just as it does when your body heals from an injury or illness.
Guilt and shame are mistakes. Believe you are worthy of forgiveness, that it is your birthright to heal and get better. That is the nature of all living things and you know it.
Some people have a gut feeling that they were born with inherent flaw, a defect that makes them worth less. They are ashamed not of what they did, but of what they are. For those who think we should judge and punish, this belief in a congenital state of imperfection causes a big problem. They think they should be punished not for what they did, but for what they are, worthless. They end up thinking that some newborns are worth less than others, that even newborn babies should be punished. How sick.
For those who believe that their “birth defect” makes them worth-less, who may think they are worthless and deserve to be punished for what they are, I have a story. It is a true story.
Some years ago, a group of doctors-in-training at Temple University were presented with a patient to evaluate in a class teaching diagnosis. The man in the wheelchair and hospital gown was thin and had the trademark lop-sided grin and spastic posture and carriage of a person with cerebral palsy, a central nervous system disorder due to a brain injury, and a common birth defect. People who have suffered this kind of brain injury can often have disabling physical and mental impairments.
After the medical students correctly diagnosed the man with cerebral palsy (CP) they suggested he might find some useful and therapeutic activity in a sheltered workshop for people with mental retardation, and they moved on to the next part of their class in a lecture hall.
The students were going to be treated to a guest lecturer, professor and chairman of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Dr. Thomas Strax. Dr. Strax was also the current President-Elect of the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, an expert in the field of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. The young medical students were looking forward to being tutored by someone of such great expertise. Imagine their surprise when the thin CP patient appeared in a shirt and tie and lab coat, and introduced himself as Dr. Strax.
Thomas Strax, MD, indeed had CP. He was the first student with a developmental disability to go through the New York City School System, and was trained in medicine at the New York University School of Medicine. He became a professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, but the most important lesson he had for those young doctors that day was this: “We see what we are looking for. We look for what we know. What we don’t know, we never see.”
It was a good thing that Thomas Strax knew he deserved a blessed life. If he had known only the nature of his defect, and nothing more, as the medical students did, he would have been lucky to be trained in a sheltered workshop, if that. In another era, he might not have ever left the house of his birth.
“We see what we are looking for. We look for what we know. What we don’t know, we never see.”
Regardless of your giftedness, if you are sure you know you are defective, all you will see are defects. If you don’t know you are blessed with gifts, you will not look for them; you will not see them. Know that you are gifted and worth more than anything that can be measured. Only then will your eyes eventually be opened to see it.
How did Thomas Strax know he was not a defect? How did he know he was gifted?
You are challenged to decide what you believe about the nature of life that lives at the center of your being. It is an energy that is your essence, a power that causes you to be. Some think of it as spirit, and another word for spirit is genius; another is God. It is an energy that beats your heart and dreams your dreams. It heals your cuts and cures the common cold if you give it a chance. Its nature is life itself and all the wonders that spring from it. This is what you should know. Know that there is greatness and well-being in you. Look for it, and in time you will see it.
Are some people born with sin, defective, worth less than others and undeserving? Don’t believe it. No baby is born without value deserving of loving compassion, reverence and loving kindness. None are born deserving of punishment. We, you, were born worthy, innocent, with value beyond measure, and we deserve none of the suffering due to our circumstances. We have suffered because of what we are born into, but we did not cause that, and we deserve healing from that suffering. The sin is that all babies do not get the love and healing they need, never learn of their precious worth, but that certainly is not their fault.
WHAT ABOUT OUR TRAIL OF SINS? SURELY, WE PAY A PRICE WHEN IT WAS OUR OWN FAULT.
In our world of cause and effect, there is no escape from the outcome of a mistake. You pay the price for some of yours, you pay sometimes for someone else’s, and sometimes someone else pays the price for yours.
Have we made mistakes? For sure. Sometimes big ones, enormous ones with enormous consequences that can seem unbearable to live with. But if you can let go of the judging and the guilt, and be part of the healing and forgiving, you can know the unlimited worth of your existence and bring it to reality.
Know the truth that you are worth more than anything that can be measured by income or fame or worldly possessions. You’ll see it only when you believe it, when you know it.
“We see what we are looking for. We look for what we know. What we don’t know, we never see.”
YOUR WORTH IS BEYOND MEASURE
You are a child of the Universe, a child of God, made of the same stuff, the same energy, the same spirit it is made of, with all its properties and potentials, ready to be realized as you know more and more of that truth.
Who is worth a lot? Who counts?
Some are rich and some are poor.
Q) Who’s worth the most? A) The one who helps. The one that helps the frail, the elders, the children, the flora and fauna, the planet and the people. They are the ones that count. All the rest is window dressing. You are precious. Make yourself count.