First, let my express my holy-shit-it’s-less-than-a-month-before-i-turn-40! realization.
Okay. Got through that.
Second, today’s post is brought to you by a writing prompt posed by my friend Sarah Lee (@SarahSoNovel). She commented, “I’d like to hear your thoughts on where your (specifically) or our (universally) value tends to come from, where it should come from, and anything else you’ve learned about it. That can be done in 5 minutes, right?”
Well, that’s easy. My value comes from the number of views I had on my last blog post (thank you for those, by the way), how my hair looks today and whether or not that cute guy checked me out when I walked past him on the sidewalk, the amount of my paycheck, the number on the scale, the cleanliness of my apartment, whether people respect me, and how many friends will show up at my birthday party in just less than a month…
On any given day, I’m prone to assess my value from an array of unreliable data. Facts and figures that I pick up from the world around me and apply to myself; a propensity to turn on negative tapes in my head if something goes wrong; negative things other people might say about me. As a female, I believe I’m more prone to these things than a man. I have a lifetime of anecdotal evidence that leads me to believe that the need in myself, my friends, and my female students to be told who we are…or more accurately, to be given permission to be who we are…is quite strong. Often, the most talented ladies I know are plagued by self doubt about their abilities and whether their voices have value. I struggle with all of that myself.
Part of our value assessment problem is that as we grow, we are conditioned to look to outsiders to give us messages about who we are. Grades, magazines, boys, religion…
I was a straight A student. I was a rule follower who never did anything to get myself in trouble. That was my comfortable “good girl” identity and I was praised for it. And I was proud of it. I thought I had tremendous value because I was a follower of the rules (I come by this personality trait naturally…still have it). I thought I had tremendous value because I had the “right” religion and way of being in the world. And I thought that I would get everything that I wanted because “you reap what you sow” and all that. But when the rules didn’t lead to the life I expected and everything felt like it fell to crap, it made me question whether I was really of value and if I had anything to offer the world.
But is any of that where I believe my value actually comes from?
Let me climb up to the peak of the highest mountain and shout…
I actually believe that every human life has value just because that human life exists. Just because. I don’t always act like I believe this…but I do.
I believe this because I believe that humanity originated from a place called LOVE. I am a person of faith who believes in a divine presence I call God who imbues worth to every human being just because that human being exists, regardless of their past or their present circumstances or what they are capable of accomplishing in the future…or even if they believe in divine presence at all! I am a Christian, so I believe that this God sacrificed himself to show everyone that he loved them exactly as is. (Some days I believe all of that literally…and some days figuratively has to be enough.)
I believe that each of our stories, no matter how clean or sordid, no matter how happy or sad, have tremendous value.
I also believe in personal growth and examination but not to the degree that I beat myself up for who I am right now. I believe there is purpose and value in investing time in this life I’ve been given to becoming the best version of myself and to helping others to do the same.
So though I still care about the unreliable data floating around me from time to time, I am getting better and better at not letting any of it define me. I am coming more and more to be able to embrace the simple truth that I am valuable simply because I am.
And what’s crazy about that to me is that as I’ve come to this more peaceful way of being in the world where I find my value in being rather than doing, it’s making me more free to go back to doing. I’m gaining more energy and focus to ‘do’ all of things that have been important to me all along…because they are lighter and more fun and no longer hold the weight of telling me who I am. I am finding it easier to use my voice because I care less and less about what anyone but me says about what they think of me and who I am.
Did that answer the question?
(This post is a part of a series called 40 Before 40. 40 random thoughts on the 40 days before I turn 40 years old. If you have a post suggestion, send it on. Creativity is collaborative and I’ll take any writing prompts you want to send my way.)