I am shocked that I could live almost 50 years on this beautiful planet and escape answering this pivotal heart question until rather recently. The truth is that I was so blind to the answer that it took a friend’s chiding to get me to see what I could not. While I was busy propping up my life with good deeds and service to family and community, my wise friend Cindy could see that, underneath, I had little or no sense of my own value.
One winter afternoon a few years ago she decided to provoke me with a challenge. She was taking my girls for an outing and as she pulled away in the car she yelled, “Tell me you’re worth it!” I don’t even remember what the declaration was for. What I do remember was that the words stuck like rocks in my throat and I filled with a lethal mix of shame and anger. My reaction shook me. Cindy was saying something good and positive about me, trying to get me to do the same – and I couldn’t. I glared at her, angry in the moment because I felt exposed in front of her and my kids. I finally coughed up the words, but they fell to the ground, false and hollow.
This one event exposed me to myself. Epidermis gone, I could see the infection. It was time to do some work; to search for deeper “trueness” about myself. This encounter forced me to have to look more honestly at my own heart. The funny (and embarrassing) thing is that I am a trained clinical social worker with an advanced degree. I have made it my life’s work to see, understand, and know people. Self-esteem was a topic covered in half the books on my bookshelf. I should have known the depths of my own lack, but I fooled myself into thinking that I was no worse than anybody else. It was time to take my own heart more seriously.
We are all wounded. If you think you aren’t, ask yourself why you freak out, overindulge, or freeze every time (insert your trigger here) happens. The degree of wounding varies, but none of us have escaped the cruelty of life. Some of us have known it more deeply than others. For these people the wounds are often buried under years of carefully crafted survival skills and justified self-medication – whatever the flavor. Others escaped with less damage, but the wounds are there.
The problem with wounds is that they usually have a message attached to them. Not only do they hurt in the moment, but a toxic message lingers even after the skin has healed. Your dad yells at you for your poor performance in the game and the lingering message is, “I don’t have what it takes.” Your mom repeatedly ignores you, giving her attention to other things and you hear, “I’m not worth your time or interest. I do not matter.” Your boss goes around you and promotes your less qualified co-worker; the message, “I am not valued or respected.” The wound may heal but the scar remains.
The long term impact of wounds is that they can subtly erode our sense of worth. The lingering toxic messages corrode our self-image. They can even alter the way we see the world. A girl settles for a guy who mistreats her because she has concluded that she is not worth a better choice. A man gives up on his life’s dream because he fears he is nothing more than a wage worker, an average Joe. You really want to change your life, but bottom line; you’re just not worth the trouble. The corrosion changes the landscape of our minds and leaves us believing lies. These lies and the others we accumulate from our culture and well-meaning but misguided teachers alter the value we place on things. For instance, we live in a culture that esteems fame and fortune. Our wounding leaves us desperate to feel valued and be noticed so we buy into the lie that things will give us the happiness we seek; fame will fill the void. Yet the reality is that satisfaction and happiness are rooted in a peaceful soul and cannot be gained through things or fame. ”Stuff” only enhances a healthy life, it does not create one.
So what do we do? First we have to be honest with ourselves. We have to see the holes in our thinking. We have to identify the false beliefs and replace them with truth. Truth is a liberator, and knowing the truth will set you free. We are often afraid of the truth. We don’t want to look too closely into our own souls for fear of what we will see, but it is vital to our well being to do so. In reality, an honest assessment of ourselves proves less painful in the long run than the exhaustion that results from the energy it takes to hide from ourselves. We must see the truth in order to make positive change.
Seeing my own lack of worth initiated the difficult but life changing process of looking at the wounds and messages that I carried. I sought help and counsel. I used my spiritual resources. I waited, and over time the truth was revealed to me. Underneath it all I was convinced I didn’t matter – a lie that had been reinforced in my life over and over again. This lie had deeply altered the way I looked at the world and my expectation for myself. Oh, I had a good facade going on the outside, so convincing that even I believed it, but on the inside, I believed I wasn’t even worth the space I was taking up.
Changing how you feel about yourself takes far more than positive thinking. You must dispel the lies you believe by seeing and accepting the truth about yourself or the situation. Ask Truth to shine a light into your soul and show you what lies you have adopted. Look for Trueness in every situation in your life. For instance, you may look and find that you are self-centered. It is important, then, to look more closely and see what wound made you feel you had to take care of yourself so exclusively. What motivates the belief that you are more important than others? Once you have chased down the lies, you must replace them with Goodness toward yourself. Unearthing lies is a repeat process. We come to a point where we can deal with a lie and we work through it. Later we may see another. We tend to unearth only what we can handle at the time.
After you have dealt a blow to a lie by exposing it to the light of the truth, then it is time to do some repair work. You have holes in your soul that need to be filled and what you choose to fill them with is critical to your future. The most effective repair treatment we have found is to begin to seek Beauty, Trueness, Love, and Life-giving things every day. These are healing elements that you can depend on. We have detailed information about them in the free Field Guide that you can download from this site. Replacing the lies with these things will build a better space for your soul to rest.
Your sense of worth will change as you see the truth, work through it, and build up Goodness in yourself. As you become more aware of the Wonder and Beauty around you, notice and receive the Love that is coming your way, bathe in the Trueness about yourself and others, and practice Life-giving things – you will find that you feel more grounded and anchored. You will experience a growing sense of peace and satisfaction. The Goodness you invest in yourself will trigger the flow of Goodness from your own soul to others. You will find that you are, in fact, full of the greatest untapped natural human resource. With this Goodness you can change the world, and that makes you someone of unlimited value!
A “Good” Idea:
Matters of the heart are foreign to most of us and it takes some time to digest material that relates to the deepest part of our being. If this post has resonated with you, come back in a few days and read it again. It will help to ponder these things and let them sink in over time. You are worth it!