For years my self-worth was based upon what everyone else thought of me and that pattern began all the way back in my childhood with me constantly seeking my mother’s approval.
Truth be told, whenever she disapproved of me in some way, I ended up not liking myself that much, which in turn caused me to feel next to no self-worth. But on the contrary, when she did approve of me in some way and would vocalize that, then for at least those few moments, I’d feel some sense of value for myself. This is what began a decades long pattern of me looking outside of myself to everyone else in this world to define my level of self-worth. Thus, whenever I accomplished anything and felt proud of myself for a short period, if someone else didn’t like my results, say a boss, or a friend, or anyone for that matter, I’d beat myself up, feel like a failure, and lose any sense of self-confidence that I might have begun creating for myself.
For example, early on in my recovery from addictions, whenever I’d do a lead in front of others, even if I felt good about what I had said and had done the best I could during it, I’d always ask people afterwards if they thought I did a good job. If even at least one person made any sort of negative remark, I’d usually lose all sense of self-worth I’d found for myself after finishing that lead. When I finally broke free of the last addiction that had been controlling my life though, something changed within me. It was then I truly saw for the first time in my life this illusion that my self-worth needed to come from others. Ever since, I’ve been working on shifting out of this, but recently, I ran into a dilemma that made me see how I was still looking outside of myself for that sense of self-worth, except now it was in a slightly different way than before.
How this realization came about actually is tied to my ongoing health issues. For the past bunch of years, they’ve limited me in so many ways of being who I once was. That athletic, outgoing, and vibrant individual who was always more extroverted than introverted, has rarely been able to emerge given the level of pain and limitations I’ve had to endure. This in turn, has led me to believe I don’t have much value on this planet and am just a waste of space. Yet, my therapist helped me to open my eyes recently and see that my self-worth isn’t based upon the things I do externally, it’s just in being.
WHOA!!! (Mind exploding…)
Yes, that’s pretty much how I reacted when the light bulb first came on in her office the day I comprehended this.
This world in general makes it so very easy to believe that one’s self-worth comes from their accomplishments. Accomplishments like earning a high position at some job, achieving a six-plus figure salary, acquiring expensive possessions, becoming moderately to majorly famous in some type of way, travelling much of the world, saving lives, having a life-long intimate partner, volunteering, etc., etc., etc.
There are countless things many of us push ourselves to gain, day in and day out, hoping that with each we get, we will acquire more self-worth. But in the end, the pursuance of which only makes us all nothing more than overachievers looking outside of ourselves for self-confidence.
This is precisely what’s pushed me to sponsor more and more people in recovery. It’s what’s driven me to perfect my house year-round with its gardens and holiday decorations. It’s what’s compelled me to examine tons of self-help books and seek the help of countless guides and gurus. And it’s what’s propelled me into being that type of guy who pursues one task after another, hoping with each that I might generate that self-confidence, that feeling that I matter, that I am somehow of value in this world.
Yet, with these health limitations that have been more high than low in recent months, I haven’t been able to pursue anything even close to what I once was, thus lowering my sense of self-worth even more, which is exactly what led me to examine this in therapy recently and discover that self-worth doesn’t come from any of those things I’ve wanted to pursue and achieve. Instead, I’m seeing with clarity now that it really does come from just being, not doing. And you know what, aside from a few months here and there in my life when I had meditated into very deep states that led to me feeling incredible peace from within, I don’t think I’ve ever lived in that state of just being. Rather, it’s always been that state of doing! And it’s been exhausting to say the least.
So, here I am, in a new place in life, one where I can clearly see now that my self-worth isn’t going to come from what you or anyone else thinks of me, or from anything I might do that creates some type of impact in this world either. It’s going to happen from within and I am praying now that God helps me to begin feeling that more and more every day.
Ironically, I’m inclined to believe I’m already on that path and am finding some of that self-worth by me typing these very words. Whether that’s true or not, I must say I’m looking forward now to the morning I’ll wake up one day and simply be thankful just to be alive, just to be me, even if I never, ever become anything more than this: Andrew Arthur Dawson, a guy who’s currently living in Toledo, Ohio, who has a heart filled with unconditional love, and a soul that longs for a life filled with total devotion to God…
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson