Personal worthiness is a slippery thing to put a finger on. Animals don’t have a sense of intrinsic worth and neither do babies and children. My cat doesn’t question his worth as a being, he just lives his life sleeping on furniture meowing for food and running away from my toddler. My dog doesn’t equate her worth as a being with how many treats she gets on her walk or how much time we spend petting her. My son doesn’t have any sense of personal worth, all he knows is that he wants to explore new things, climb on everything and sing the itsy bitsy spider.
When is it that we gain a sense of our being as having worth, or more importantly, lacking worth? When do we start to equate more friends, new clothes, grades at school, body shape, physical performance and a myriad of other things with our intrinsic worth as people? When does an A in school make us worthy to walk on this earth while a D doesn’t? When do we start thinking that having a certain body shape or size make us worthy of love?
I don’t think that we gain a sense of personal worth as we age, but that we always have a sense of personal worth. I think that my cat, my dog and even my toddler know that they are worthy of everything the world has to offer them, so they act as if there is no question of worth. I think that as we age we encounter circumstances and people that for some reason give us the idea that we may not be worthy, or good enough. I know that this will never happen to my pets but I will be watching my son closely to see when he starts to question his strength and abilities when trying new things but also his worth as a person.
I don’t know exactly when I started questioning my value as a human on this planet but by the time I was 6 I had a clear sense that somehow I was lacking. I wasn’t a good enough daughter and was somehow failing my mother. By the time I was 8 I was certain that I had done something very wrong at some point in my tiny little life because there was so much pain, uncertainty and fear in my life. I didn’t ever have a sense that I had worth as a person but I did have a distinct absence of worth.
I can’t even tell you how many branches these thoughts have taken or what the first event was that got me thinking about being “less than” but I can see threads of this sense of lacking throughout my life. I wasn’t smart enough to do well in Biology in Grade 11, I wasn’t good enough to be picked for choir when I was 18. I wasn’t strong enough to stand up to my bullies in Grade 7. I wasn’t sick enough to be placed in inpatient care. I wasn’t talented enough to draw. I wasn’t flexible enough to be a ballerina. I wasn’t kind enough to protect a friend. I wasn’t big enough. I wasn’t brave enough. I wasn’t thin or tall or fast or funny or calm or assertive enough. I am not enough.
If you take a look at your own thoughts across the course of your life you may find a similar system of “not enough” threads weaving themselves through the years like a spider web. What you may not realize is that with each new thread the spider web gets more and more intricate, trapping you more securely in it’s gripss. When you keep telling yourself that you are not ____ enough you eventually see yourself as not enough, not only as a swimmer, student, child or friend but as a person. Suddenly you lose your worth as a person on this planet and you lose your power all across your life.
Just the other day I was pricing out fixing some cloth diapers for someone and grossly undercharged them. My husband was visibly upset that I had undervalued myself and my work so much. I told him that I knew I was doing it but couldn’t bring myself to ask for more money and didn’t know why. He stated very plainly ” because you don’t think you’re worth anything.”. That one sentence hit me in the chest like a pile of bricks. You’re right. I don’t think I’m worth anything. I thought I was over this!
I thought that by stopping my self destructive habits, recovering from my eating disorders and taking action towards leading a better, healthier life that I had reestablished my worth but the spider web still has me in it’s tangles. I may have come back from the brink and realized that I was worthy of existing on the planet and taking up space in the world but I still don’t think that my time, my talents or my thoughts are worth anything. I am constantly sending out feelers into the world asking and begging people to confirm my worth either through the cost of my services or the time they choose to spend with me.
This feels like a strange post because I’ve identified a HUGE issue in my life and don’t have a clear resolution or “5 steps to success” strategy to share. All I have is the knowledge that I still struggle with my worth as a person and the desire to change the way I see my self-worth.
So what are my next steps? I will charge what is fair for my cloth diaper mending services. I will stop sabotaging my efforts at improving my health through eating better and exercising. I will speak my truth regardless of whether or not I think I will be judged. I will run my yoga workshop and know that if no one comes it is not because of my worth as a person. I will continue to try and wiggle free of my spider web and prevent the spider from encasing me in self doubt any further. I will do my very best to teach my son that he is worthy of everything the world has to offer throughout his life. I will teach him that even if he isn’t strong enough to lift up his Dad or fast enough to outrun the dog that HE is enough. I will keep telling myself that regardless of my shortcomings in social situations or athletic performance I am enough. I am worthy. My time, my talents, my body, my mind and my thoughts are worthy. I am worthy.