We place our self worth on a hell of a lot of external factors.
The Facebook likes and comments. The tweet replies. The Instagram hearts. The stats on our daily website visitors. Blog comments. Emails from strangers. Compliments from friends. Praise from clients.
The fact that we cannot possibly go on a 2 week holiday without checking our email or phone because what if someone needs us? Or what if you opened your email, facebook or text messages after that time and not one person had reached out? Not one.
In some form they all tell us how much we’re liked and in turn they affect how much we like ourselves. Our mood of the day.
But far beyond these numbers our self worth plays a game of ping pong faster than a gymnast turns off the beam in our daily lives.
- The clients and customers you have. What are they emailing you? Do they like your work? Are you getting negative or positive feedback? Are they leaving reviews? Can you not seem to please them?
- The boss you have. Is he down your throat a bit lately? Pushing you for more and more? Did you just lose your job?
- When you provide a workshop or give a speech – how many people attended? How many thanked you later?
- The person you secretly are a little bit in love with. Have you told them? And if not, which most of us hold off on, what if you told them and they didn’t say it back? What does that say about you?
- What place you finished at that competition.
- People admiring you for your charity works?
- Are your friends texting, emailing, whatsapping and tagging you? Are you in their status, their orbit, their thoughts? Are they validating you with their words or have you fallen off their planet for a while?
- Does your partner call you beautiful/handsome? Do you feel a teensy, weensy bit crappier when that passes for a few days. Do you feel fully loved and without that how do you feel about yourself?
- The new yoga (insert any other activity) class you’re taking. Why aren’t you as good as everyone else? Who else is noticing?
- Are you getting recognition in your industry? Awards? Do people want to partner up with you? Interviews? Requests?
- How booked in advance are you? Clients and friends for coffee. What the hell does a day look like without commitments? Idealistically you’d like it but really truly, shouldn’t you be working (don’t people need your work) or why are you not with friends?
- Written a blog post or facebook update and then not posted it because of how it might be received? What people might judge you on for those words.
- Failed your last exam? What does that say about your intelligence and ability to learn?
- Do people compliment you often? Can you see a few cheeky eyes-over-your-body silently letting you know you’ve got a figure worth ogling at? Does somebody want to get you naked? Are you being kissed? How long do you spend in front of the mirror? Or conversely, do you avoid it as much as possible?
- How many degrees do you hold? When people ask about your past experience & your education how enamored are they by your answer?
- Have you questioned your entire business or project on the back of a few words from a potential client, current client, friend, mentor or family member?
- What about the people who judge you without evening knowing you? On your religion or atheism, on how you look, on who you’re dating/seeing and the incorrect preconceived notion of why?
- The amount of money you make. Do some people look shocked at your rates or salary? How much does what you charge say about yourself? What if people are simply not willing to pay more for what you make/do/provide?
- How do you feel when you take people to your house? Your car? What do you feel you’re saying about yourself with the clothes you wear? What do you think others are saying?
- The event you turn up to alone. The date you go on. The evening with a new friend. What if it was a flop? What if you feel humiliated? Do they find you interesting? Are you boring? Do people want to talk to you? Will you ever see them again?
- How much do you say no to yourself in order to say yes to others? In other words, how often are you people pleasing? Do you feel like you have to make others happy or try to twist yourself up to meet their needs or requests (there’s a difference between being nice and in line with your own wants/needs)?
You may not say I’m a terrible person. I suck. I’m crap. Or sometimes you may. But what do your feelings tell you? A bit of disappointment? Frustration? Sadness? Embarrassment? Feel bad about yourself? Rejected?
What if we took absolutely everything away. What if it was just you – naked – standing at the ocean. You have nothing but yourself. No external validation. No facebook, instagram, twitter, pinterest or tumbler. No material property. No business or job. You have a couple of days of total stillness. Nobody wants you or demands your time. You don’t have one email or one like. Picture that for a moment.
How do you know how to value yourself?
We all know people who have enormous douchecanoe egos. Often they need the most external validation and are the unhappiest with themselves (but will defend this like crazy if confronted). But even if we try not to let our ego get in the way, we all have one, playing hide and seek within our hearts and minds.
In no way do I have a secret, magical answer to valuing yourself simply by being you. By removing yourself from all external factors. We all like to receive validation. Even without external sources, our efforts show us our improvements and we get addicted to the feeling of what’s next.
It feels good when clients love my work or potential clients reach out with an email because of past work. I like presenting an awesome workshop or having people adore the photos I take of them. I secretly like when my Dad tells me he’s proud of me (despite not ever doing anything with that in mind). And I like all that for a host of reasons – work appreciation – but also as a recognition of the effort I dedicate towards those things.
But how much I value myself, my self esteem, my worth, how I feel about myself deep down, shouldn’t depend on those things and it shouldn’t change because of those things. It should be as minimally affected as possible. If I receive absolutely none of that (which was definitely the case when I started business), and zero social media interaction, I should still value and like myself. When I receive negative feedback on designs, or people don’t agree with my business decisions – that shouldn’t change how I feel about myself. So when I’m humiliated and embarrassed – which are just feelings – do I still like myself?
When all I’ve received is crappy feedback from my work do I still believe in myself?
When I go to an event by myself and I’m all awkward, feel stripped bare and lack the confidence I’d normally exude in being comfortable in my own skin, what am I feeling about myself?
When I can’t place my problems, hopes, desires, dreams, nightmares, fears and anxiety in the hands of any omnipotent being (such as one of the gods) or any crystals or other external forces, how do I feel with my struggles, my responsibility, my actions & the choices I’ve made? In that pure vulnerability, how strong am I really?
When I can’t get into any of the yoga poses, whilst everyone is holding handstands around me, do I feel embarrassed about myself? Do I think it’s worthwhile continuing on? Do I still like myself despite the frustration? Does it affect my mood the rest of the day?
Do I feel I should post this even though if I read it one more time I’ll want to delete it because people might disagree or argue? Or because I have 1,000 other conflicting thoughts on this but there’s not enough space to get them out logically. Or because in 6 months my thoughts might evolve?
When I’m not sure if he likes me, when he hasn’t kissed me, when I’m confused by how he feels – do I still think I’m worthy of that love and like myself even if he never makes a move? Would I tell him I was falling for him and be absolutely OK with how I feel about myself if he didn’t say anything back?
It’s very easy for me to sit here from my little perch. Sure I’ve lived with nothing and I purposely expose myself to those situations, but they’re never permanent. I live in this crazy world where I was born in an exceptionally lucky country that will pick me up if I truly find the deepest depths of the barrel.
If I suddenly had no work and no emails tomorrow for months, how would that affect my self esteem?
There’s also the internal battle in my mind that we are humans. We crave connections. And it’s a beautiful thing to love someone and shower them in love. And that in turn means we’re even happier in those times. But uncoupling yourself from those things and determining the distinction between that as feelings rather than validation, and that as love from others rather than love you have for yourself; therein lies how you like yourself.
And that’s a difficult thing to do.
Feelings come and feelings go. You can feel them and just like you needn’t act on them, they needn’t determine how you feel about yourself.
It’s a constant practice.