This post is about understanding our worth. It is the second post in a series about reconnecting with love, remembering our intrinsic worth, and letting go of self-hate. You can read the first post here:
In my last post, I suggested that many people have a difficult time loving themselves because we are often taught that self-love is a bad thing. So we do not learn thoughts and practices that help us become good friends with ourselves.
In addition, patterns of self-hate are a consistent part of our culture. They show up in patterns of perfectionism, control, judgmental attitudes, overworking, addictions, eating disorders, and rage. They show up in any behavior in which we try to prove our worth, control the world to make us feel good about ourselves, or numb painful feelings of unworthiness.
Patterns of self-hate are such a common phenomenon in our lives that we often do not even realize that we are exhibiting signs of self-hate. Or if we do, we just think that is the way it is.
But we were not meant to get stuck in patterns of self-hate. We are meant to understand our worth.
One of the most important ways we do this is remembering our true nature, which is love love, wisdom, creativity, and compassion. I call it our Wise Self. Another way to think of this true nature is to think of it as our baby nature. If you look at little babies, they are not born hating themselves or people or despairing about life, although young children can certainly develop these tendencies.
Instead, little babies want to be close to their caregivers. They want to give and receive love; to explore the world; and to develop mastery over their environment. And little babies love to enjoy peaceful and happy feelings that come from sleeping, eating, playing, and snuggling. Little babies also love to mirror the feelings of the people around them. They are sad when their loved ones are sad and happy when their loved ones are happy.
In all of these actions, babies show seeds of goodness like love, compassion, creativity, and wisdom.
That’s one of the reasons we love babies so much. And the more we love babies, the more these seeds develop and blossom.
It is possible to think of this original baby nature–and our worth–in both a non-religious and a religious way.
If you are not religious, you can think of the seeds of goodness in us as some of the basic structures of our emotional and intellectual life.
When our emotions are functioning in a healthy manner, they allow us to celebrate good things; grieve and mend bad and broken things; and stay away from dangerous things. Healthy emotions also allow us to connect with other people and to develop a sense of confidence, autonomy, and adventure.
In the same way, when our intellect is healthy, it allows us to determine what is true and false, good and bad, just and unjust. This allows operate critically and creatively in the world to solve problems and create new and better ways of living. Healthy emotions and a healthy intellect consistently operate in paths of love, creativity, compassion, and wisdom.
If you are religious, in addition to these points above, you can think of these healthy emotional and intellectual structures as the light of God present in everyone.
God is the ultimate source of love, creativity, compassion, and wisdom, and so it is no surprise that these beautiful gifts shine brightly in the people and things God creates. This light is what is magical about human beings, and every person has this magic.
These healthy emotional and intellectual tendencies, or light, or magic (whatever you want to call it) are a natural part of our baby nature. What we often forget is that we were all babies once, and we all possess this original baby nature full of this goodness. We can never lose this originally good nature, although we can forget about it or cover it up.
That is what often happens as we get older.
Through distorted messages we hear from the people around us or from our own human foibles, we often forget our original baby nature. We lose touch with the goodness inside of us. When this happens, we become disconnected from our purpose, from inner health, and from all the best things in life that we crave so deeply.
And when this happens, we don’t recognize ourselves. As a result, we don’t understand our purpose, and we begin to question our worth. The longer this process goes on, the more we feel alienated from ourselves and the people around us. We feel cut off from love.
And that’s when we start to develop unskillful emotional and intellectual habits like perfectionism, self-hate, control, self-numbing behavior, etc.
What Do We Do about This?
Of course, we cannot heal our problems by hating ourselves more, which eventually causes us to hate others, too. We can only heal our problems by remembering our true nature and reconnecting with the seeds of goodness in us, which allows us to connect with ourselves, with each other, and with the Divine (if we believe in the Divine).
When we do this, we reconnect with Love.
When we reconnect with Love, we remember that we can never lose our dignity and worth as a human being. This dignity and worth is our original baby nature, but I also like to think of it as the Wise Self.
When we reconnect with our Wise Self, we learn to love ourselves unconditionally. And we create the perfect conditions to heal, nurture, and cultivate the strength of our Wise Self.
This is the life we were meant to live. The purpose of our lives is not to be better or do more or prove our worth in some other way. The purpose of our lives is to honor our dignity and love our Wise Self unconditionally so that we can become who we already are.
If you would like to read more about how to connect to the Wise Self, you can keep reading.
If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing on social media.
You might also like these books:
Published by shellypruittjohnson
My name is Shelly Johnson, and I am a writer and philosopher with a Ph.D. in philosophy. One of my primary personal and philosophical interests is how we can learn to love ourselves and each other better in order to cultivate personal and political resilience. I teach ethics and a variety of other courses at a local college. I am the author of the blog Love is Stronger. I am also the author of three logic and critical thinking books for high school and middle school: _Argument Builder_, _Discovery of Deduction_ (co-author), and _Everyday Debate_, published by Classical Academic Press. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
View all posts by shellypruittjohnson
19 thoughts on “Step Two: Understanding Our Worth”
I agree and disagree.
I come from a culture and family of tough love, where honesty is mandatory, tough conversations are not avoided, performance is expected, and praise is earned. It did affect my view of myself, but certainly not in a bad way.
I was an honor student all my life, and have a pretty good career setup at the moment. I made sacrifices to have the life I do at the expense of luxuries other people prefer to have over freedom. I am happy with myself and my life, and my self worth. This is true whether I’m having a month of success or a month of failure.
I base my self-worth instead on the effort I put in. If I failed and threw my whole effort behind it, then I am disappointed but my self-worth is unaffected. If I failed and knew damn well I didn’t try very hard (which I don’t recall has ever happened in adulthood), I would be very upset with myself.
I do believe our value and self-worth and what we value and how we value it will depend on how we’re raised and how we internalise things. There is no one size fits all. I’m sure my methods don’t work for everyone, but they definitely work for me!
To each their own! ?
Thanks for commenting, Alexis. I am really happy for you that you have a strong sense of yourself and are happy with your life and the values you have. I don’t feel like it is ever my job to tell someone the way they are doing their life is wrong. I don’t think I could ever know this. The only thing I can really know is my own experience. What I experienced was many years of valuing my performance over my unconditional worth as a human being. For me personally, this caused me great self-loathing, anxiety, and despair. Learning to value myself as an end in myself really helped. So, I guess I write posts like this for people who have suffered like me. Peace to you, Friend.
Beautifully written. Your words reach out and help so many! ?
Today, your encouragement means so much to me. Thank you, Love!
You are so welcome!