The Sweet Spot of Self Worth

Everyone gets a ribbon, good enough is good enough, we can’t grade, and there are no winners or losers. It was a great social experiment, but as many of us who grew up with learning life is hard and unfair and difficult predicted, it failed. If you don’t believe that turn on the evening news or read your social media feeds. Personally these days listening to the news, watching people fight on Facebook, seeing the protests going on makes me want to slap people. And I know I am not alone in that reaction. I feel like as humans, and especially as females, we have lost the plot when it comes to discussions about equality, harassment and political correctness. We have gone from intellectual discussions on the barriers and how to address them to emotional ridiculousness where ever indiscretion is a reason to ruin a person’s life, even if it was 50 years ago, and people march around in pink genitalia hats. It is easy to pawn this off on entitlement or millennials or liberal vs conservative, but there is a much deeper issue at play right now, self-worth syndrome. We have created a generation who was never taught to value themselves, their efforts and the hard work it takes to achieve and as a result the only way to matter is to search for validation externally and when it isn’t found it must be society’s fault.

I will apologize up front, much of what I am about to say will sound like this is a female only issue. I don’t believe that. The examples are easier to point out related to women, because that is what the news has focused on, but I believe this is now just a part of the human condition. Gender, intellect, physical challenges and economics can amplify the situation and make it appear selective and women are more likely to talk about their feelings around self-esteem and inadequacy, but this mindset is pervasive across all demographics.

I know there are those who will immediately write off what I am saying as me not getting it because I am white, I live an upper middle class life, I am heterosexual and a million other reasons why I won’t get it and what it is like to be held back by the world, but I hope you will try to hear me out. My life has been far from a cake walk. I was bullied in school, I grew up in a dysfunctional family with an extremely abusive father, I am Jewish, I am a female, I am fat, I live with a disability. I get it more than the check boxes about me on a census tell you. But for all I have lived through I have always maintained that how I handle what life hands me is about me not about the world or the other person. I am a fighter, I am stubborn as hell when I need to be and I don’t believe in taking the easy road. It’s how I was raised and what was expected of me growing up. I am glad I was taught to lose because it taught me to work harder to win. I am glad I had teachers who failed me because it taught me to be a better learner. I am glad we kept score in softball and had outs, it taught me to play harder. I became a believer in my own strength. I learned that to matter to the world I had to first and foremost matter to myself. Those lessons are being missed and what we are seeing around us now is the result.

While I in no way condone abusive behavior of any nature and believe there should be consequences for these behaviors, I hear something very different in the “Me Too” movement. I hear a large group of people searching for someone else to say they matter, when they don’t believe it themselves internally. These same people highlight what others have done to hold them back or put them down instead of recognizing they have never developed the inner drive to stand up and rise above and be more, and that is sad. And worse than the sad reality is that it will never solve the problem. This is part of why we hear so much protesting and complaining but no one coming forward with practical solutions or recommendations. The movement and many others right now are searching externally for internal completion and no one but you can decide you have real value. The momentary gain of getting someone fired, or their tv show cancelled or winning a lawsuit is much like eating cake when you are depressed. It feels better in the moment, but an hour later you are back to the same place.

I see the same thing going on related to removing Civil War monuments or Black Lives Matters marches. The cry for how our ancestors were harmed or equality is as much a search for belief in inner value as it is a social statement. And just like the Me Too movement, we can remove every remnant of the past, we can write ever equality law and force bakers to make wedding cakes and dictate pay rates but it is not going to change how one person feels inside. External validation does not fill the hole inside anyone for more than a minute.

I am always struck by people who allow their significant others to treat them as less than they should. That was actually the genesis of this blog post. I am living in a community now where I have a lot of married friends and I too often find myself stepping back and thinking “why does she let him……….”, and much like when I questioned why my own mother let my father treat her so poorly, the answer always comes back to self-worth. How we feel about ourselves completely dictates how we let others treat us and what we feel is acceptable. Someone who sees themselves as valuable and worthy will not allow others to treat them as any less. On the flip side those who have not found their own merit will always be at the mercy of others because they need to please to temporarily find value.

Instead of focusing on straws and protest and vitriol, it is time we as a society started to focus on what can we do to heal the insides of each other. How can we raise children who find their own self value but understand there is a line between that and narcissism? How can we help adults who don’t believe in themselves decide they are worthy of their own love and the love of others? And how do we hold others accountable without making our own challenges their fault?

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