Self worth


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The good news is that I’m 46 years old, have a home, have a job, have two beautiful daughters, have the most wonderful fiancée, and have my whole life in front of me.

The bad news is that I’m 46 years old, live in a smallish flat only, have only a part-time job and no career, am not much of a father to my children, have repeatedly failed my wonderful fiancée, and have an entire life of further failure to endure.

Now there’s a glass half full/half empty scenario if there ever was one, right?  Unfortunately, I tend toward the pessimistic glass half empty side of things.  I don’t like it, but I do tend that way.  Since I don’t like it, I’m working on changing my attitude(s).  To that end, I have a satchel full of self-help books next to my bed, in one of which I read this quote earlier today, attributed to Henry J. M. Nouwen:

When our value as human beings depends on what we make with our hands and minds, we become victims of the fear tactics of our world.  When productivity is our main way of overcoming self-doubt, we are extremely vulnerable to rejection and criticism and prone to inner anxiety and depression.”

It’s a quote among many others aiming to illustrate our intrinsic worth as humans, every one of us.  The idea of the chapter is that of unconditional human worth, something that is a reflection of the human core.  The author insists that self-worth, the value of the human core, is completely independent of any and all “externals”.

That struck a chord in me.  Something else I tend to do is compare myself – unfavorably – with those around me.  Those with successful careers, polite and outgoing children, beautiful houses, obvious financial means, and talents.  It’s just too damned easy to look at myself and see everything I’m not, and diminish any value I may have to the world or to some people in it.  See above.

That attitude has many consequences, not least of which is that the wonderful and amazing SSG has to continually reassure me that I’m not loved because of money, or career, or talent, or anything beyond the core self that I am.  When I say continually, I’m not exaggerating.  It’s utterly frustrating and exhausting for the poor girl, who has enough (real) issues to deal with already without adding my distorted and false problems.

In short, I can’t help but assign value to myself (or not) based on “externals”.  Since I’ve no talent to speak of, have no career, and consider myself failing in the three relationships most dear to me, I assign little to no value to my core self.

I have no desire to here delve into why I have that attitude toward myself, but wish only to address it in my current circumstances and consider what I might do to combat it.  Perhaps you reading this are feeling the same things I am and will benefit not only from those combative ideas but also from the notion that you’re not alone and not crazy.  At least not remarkably so 🙂

Anyway, one of the more recent and more destructive bouts with this self loathing happened in the midst of SSG’s move from her beloved home city to another, closer to me by 8 hours.  Much of what could go wrong with the logistical aspects of the move did in fact go wrong, and I took it upon myself to blame myself for each and every one of the problems.  Not surprisingly, I felt bad.  Downright awful.  My subsequent conversations with Claudia were full of that self loathing and self blame.  Understandably so, she’d had it at that point, and told me in no uncertain terms that if I wanted to support her and be of help to her I needed to stop making everything about ME.  My psychiatrist strongly reinforced that idea in a session not long after.  I was absolutely befuddled, as I had not realized that even though I was feeling bad for the pain and suffering I caused others, I was indeed making it all about me and how it affected me.  Oy.

Cue the self-help books that I’d been disregarding for some time.

Were it an animate being instead of a book, it would chastise me up one side and down the other for what I was doing to myself (and to others).  My self-worth, my intrinsic goodness and value as a human, is not in the least tied to what happens around me.  While I feel plenty justified in blaming myself for everything that happened, those with a more objective view see things a little differently.  It turns out whether I have talent or not, have a great career or not, have a positive affect on my fiancée’s move or not,… I have value as a human.  My worth as an individual, and my goodness as an individual, are unaffected by all those externals.

Mine are, and yours are as well.

What this brings me to is that we have to understand that notion before we can move ourselves out of the depression and anxiety that self-loathing bring.  We have to understand and know that we have a pile of self-worth at our inner core regardless of everything going on on the outside.  Every one of us.  Me, you, everyone.  We have to, in fact, be kind to ourselves before we can make that move away from depression and self-dislike.

Another quote I ran into recently sums it up perfectly, this time from Henry Miller:

You can’t take care of other people, you can’t nourish other people around you — whether you’re trying to manage a team of two, or a team of fifty, or even writing for an audience alone in your cabin in the woods — if you’re not taking care of your heart. You just have nothing left to give. You would be depleted.”

© Sid Dunnebacke and A Canvas Of The Minds 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sid Dunnebacke and A Canvas Of The Minds with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


13 thoughts on “Self worth

  1. I have had experiences of people, whose anxiety about being liked and concern about how I was reacting to them was very uncomfortable for me. I think of one person in particular! And the behavior of that person reduced my desire for a relationship,and even a decision to avoid spending any time with her.

    • Oh no! I’m very sorry to hear that. Being on the “other side” of that kind of relationship, I don’t imagine I fully understand your decision, but I am cognizant enough of what I’m doing to know I don’t want to lose out on the relationship(s) I have because of my anxiety. Thanks for reading!

      • Thanks for your response!

        Here are some of the reasons for my reaction,in the situation I referred to:

        Part of it was feeling like someone was attempting to force me into a closer relationship rather than letting something develop naturally. Her way of interacting with me started to feel manipulative

        Part of it was the intense sense of need that I got from her — that she not just wanted something from me, but that she WANTED something from me. However, she was making no effort to develop _other_ friends. It felt like she wanted me to provide something that would fix her life.

        Part of it was that she developed such a strong idea of who I was that she was never even going to see who I really am. Related to that was that she would partly hear something I said, then later tell me that she did or did not do something because she thought doing to not doing something would make me like her more. And that felt creepy. She also did not listen to / believe me when I told her what kind of relationship I was interested in with her, instead she “got the feeling” that I had romantic feelings for her, because that is what she wanted from me.

  2. Sid, I so very much understand where you’re coming from. At least, I mean that what you say here resonates with things I feel far too often for comfort. I’m so glad that the two of you have each other. I’m glad that Claudia gave you what to think about. I once hear a lecture by some famous rabbi about how to have a wonderful marriage: “If you make her happy, she will make you VERY happy.” He said, Find out what makes her happy, and then do it. This takes attention. Paying attention to someone else takes the burden of trying to live off of us. So try this simple solution, and please let me know how it turns out! –Laura

    • Paying attention to her, making it about her and not about me, … yep. Exactly what I need to be doing, Dr. Laura! What I don’t yet understand fully is why it’s so easy to fall into the trap of thinking about how things affect me instead of how I’m affecting situations and people. All the thinking and pondering and mulling will eventually give me an answer, especially if I allow myself to be open to it. The good news is that she makes me happy now, so I must be doing something right at least every once in a while 🙂

  3. an unexpected gift I received this year, without ever intending to discover it in this life time, was that it’s okay to let go of everyone else’s expectations for you … it seems I spent most of my life trying to mold myself into what other people thought I should be, instead of just relaxing into my own skin, and spending my time learning how to accept who I already am … any changes I make after that are because they feel right for me, and not because someone else thinks I should change

    I’m not sure if it’s something that just comes naturally with the aging process (I’m 56), or if I finally hit that place in my life where I’ve reached my tolerance point for failing to meet other people’s expectations, but this past year has been illuminating. I’ve become more content than I thought possible, so my hope for you is that you find some of that in your life, too.

    • Wow. I just have to say bravo! I think you’ve hit the nail on the head, in that I also have spent my life trying to live up to others’ expectations (or down to them), and have failed to consider what my expectations for myself are. What a freeing thing that must be. Reading your comment, I’m making that one of my goals – to start living for myself instead of living for others. Thank you, and I hope you continue to grow in contentedness.

  4. Thanks for your honest post. Only we human beings can think self-consciously…often overly (me too). I believe the basis for our self-worth comes from being created by the God of the universe, made in his own image, and loved by our Father more than we can comprehend. Blessings to you in 2015, Sid!

    • Thank you Lynn! There’s truth in what you say, and I have forgotten that. Losing my way in a crisis of faith hasn’t helped, but time and deep thought will guide me (back?) to the place I need to be. In my case, I believe I’m also loved by my wonderful Claudia more than I comprehend, and that’s going to be a big part of what gets me up to speed on acknowledging my own self worth. Thank you.

  5. That quote does sound very like something Nouwen would say. He’s a good bloke to read, given that he went through a large amount of the mental spectrum and lived to write about it. And he even managed to hang on to his faith as well. I remember reading that for him, he only started to really feel his self-worth when he joined one of the L’Arche communities, and was not able to offer any of his talents such as preaching or being a priest, all he had to offer was Henry, with all his hurts and brokenness. I think that’s what’s more healing than anything else, is coming to the point where we realise that actually, it doesn’t matter who we are or what we can do, the simple fact that we are here on this planet and still breathing is OK. At least, that’s what I gleaned from reading between the lines of “Wounded Healer”, the Biography of Nouwen.

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