Sometimes I find myself wandering through daydreams filled with love, abundance, and adventure, relishing in the joy of it. Sometimes when I feel a longing for a fantasy to become reality, I have the thought, “who am I to have this wonderful manifestation?”
Who am I not to?
I have no doubt I hold space for other people to nurture even their wildest dreams, whether they are friends, family or clients. It feels more natural to believe in the best outcomes for the people I work with, before I can apply the same faith to myself.
But why hold myself to a different standard than most everyone else? This question had me drill down to the core of my self worth.
Conflicted feelings of worthiness and appropriateness of desire are not uncommon for people who were raised with an overwhelming notion that we are needed to support others, but our own personal needs were secondary. This narrative helped construct our identities, and even gave us a foundation to build self esteem.
Self esteem is based on what we think we can do. So our shining ability to help, support, or take care of others can contribute to high self esteem. And since there are many things we can do, self esteem is departmentalized. It is very common for someone to have different levels of self esteem for separate areas of their lives. If I think I am a very good writer, then I have high self esteem there. At the same time, if I flub during attempts at public speaking, my self esteem is down in the dumps in that light. Both can co-exist simultaneously.
But the very idea that my self esteem can depend on so many things (including external validation and comparison) that could change suddenly, tells me how unstable it is. Self worth, however, is less variable and its roots can run deeper.
Self worth is about knowing I have value just as I am. Feeling good about the fact that I am here living and breathing. No matter what happens around me. It is acknowledging the potential I carry just walking the earth, and considering the ways I can make an impact. Self esteem can contribute to self worth, but the two are not interchangeable. A strong sense of self worth leads to an openness to new ways of thinking (including about our identities) and increased resiliency when responding to the craters in the road.
Is it possible to believe I am worthy, simple as that? Not that I deserve more or less than anyone else, rather that I simply deserve to have what I ask for?
It is when I consider the following:
- We are all created equal.
- I am not separate from the collective.
- I am part of the collective good.
- What is good for me is also good for others.
I’m going to venture that this will resonate particularly for those in care-taking roles or service-oriented careers. We gravitate towards taking care of others because altruism feels good. Maybe helping others feels purposeful. Maybe we were raised in families that required us to take care of others. Maybe we understand that to belong increases our chances at thriving. Sometimes these reasons lead to cultivating a mentality that to put myself first is to be selfish.
But I think most people I know who fall into this category have realized with some grueling life experience that if our own needs are not met, we become less able to take care of others. When we are harried, stressed, and hanging on by a thread, our ability to discern and make decisions is impaired, and we could do harm to those depending on us. And when we ask for support, we invite others to do good and feel good.
When in a bind, try keeping it simple:
Be kind to others = Be kind to yourself
Equality is a fairly simple concept. I believe that what I have, everyone else should be able to have as well. Turn it around. If I believe you can have everything you desire, then I need to believe the same for myself, no matter what. We can all have it. This is the only definition of equality.