In Search of Worth

This week I read a LinkedIn post from one of my connections whose close friend had taken his life.  He said that awareness alone was not enough.  The time for action had come.  It got me thinking about what action could be taken and what contribution I could bring.  My thoughts instinctively landed on self-worth.  And so, I went on an exploration about worth and how it impacts your ability to step out into the world as well as your mental health, well-being and sense of self.

Worth Defined

One distinction I discovered was the difference between contingent and non-contingent worth.  Contingent worth is conditional, “I am worthy if I do this task well.”  Non-contingent worth is a sense of inherent self-worth no matter what I do.  “I am worthy, because I am.”  It is this non-contingent, or inherent, worth that seems to be the factor that is most essential in your ability to act in the world, well-being and mental fitness.  Non-contingent worth is unconditional.  It is not dependent on success, nor diminished through failure.

Non-contingent Worth

Non-contingent worth is also where compassion and forgiveness reside.  I can see that I am not perfect and accept my imperfections in the context of feeling worthy simply by being myself.  I love myself unconditionally.  And therefore, I can love others unconditionally too.

Perhaps we are all born with this feeling of unconditional self-love and love for others?  Maybe this is the natural state?  Certainly, when I look at nature, I see unconditional love everywhere.  And with it, I see unconditional self-worth.  The feats of daring animals perform as they fly long distances, leap through trees, dive to great depths and thrive in extreme conditions is a sign of that worth.  As is the rest and self-care animals give themselves.  I also see it in the presence of a young babe or the relentless effort of a child as it learns to walk.

Contingent Worth

Often, it seems, this natural state of being is practised out of us, as our parents and teachers demonstrate that they do not love us when we behave a certain way.  As I am judged, so I begin to judge myself, and soon that unconditional love for myself is replaced by judgement, fear, doubt, worry, anxiety etc.

Soon, my sense of worth is determined by external forces.  The social norms that say this is right or wrong play a role in shaping how I see myself as worthy.  “If I work hard, I am worthy.”  “If I make a lot of money, I am worthy.”  “If I do not get that promotion or I get poor exam grades, I am not worthy.”  Contingent worth is based on criteria that I have adopted from society (parents, teachers etc.)- if I fulfil the criteria, then I am worthy.

Crumbling Self-Worth

Inevitably, I cannot consistently fulfil those criteria.  If I can, I am constantly in a state of worry or anxiety that I cannot maintain these criteria.  Or I think I can maintain those criteria, until something happens that shows me that I have been deluded that these criteria can be maintained.  At any of these points along the way, my contingent worth is at risk of crumbling.

Being Worthy

What makes it contingent is “if”.  What if there was no “if”?  What if I am worthy regardless of the money I make, the grades I get, how high up the career ladder I rise?  What if I am worthy regardless of where I live or my profession?  If that is the case, we are looking at a whole different landscape for worthiness.  And if worthiness is unconditional, then it simply comes down to “being”.

As a coach, I can unconditionally love my client.  Therefore, I create a foundation that allows the client to find that unconditional love for themselves.  I hold a space for unconditional loving.  The very fact that they exist, that the client is alive, means they have worth.  It is inherent- in other words, worth in an intrinsic part of being.  I am, therefore I am worthy.  A tree, bush, snail, cat, whale, mountain, ocean, a person with ADHD, autism, dyslexia or physical disability, an Olympian, CEO, billionaire or child in a slum- they all have inherent, non-contingent worth.  Simply because they “be”.

Internal Validation

How different would your life be if you felt worthy? Not based on some criteria created by unknown ghosts from the past you never met who said it should be so.  But based on how nature intended.  So that you listened to the inner voice of wisdom that guides you to your highest potential.  A potential that keeps evolving as you evolve.  How free would you feel?  What would you create?  How would you do things differently?  How would you show up?  How would you view failure and how would you learn from your mistakes?  And how would that inspire the next stage of your development and growth?

Inherent self-worth is not about being perfect.  It is about being on the playing field of life. Knowing that you are not perfect. And going for it anyway.  It is tough to be on the playing field of life if you are always looking for validation from others.  But, inherent self-worth means you do not need that validation to be in action.  It can be lovely to receive, but it is not necessary.

What is necessary is internal validation.  People may refer to this as a “fire in the belly”, purpose, passion, conviction, commitment or clarity.  Whatever you call it, it comes from an inherent sense of worth.  “I feel this is important to me, so I am going to explore, discover, reveal, innovate and create.  I am going to make mistakes, and I will evolve.  I will experience fear, doubt and worry.  And I will also experience fun, joy and exhilaration.  Along the way I will adventure in new lands, meet new and inspiring people, and in turn inspire them.  And create a world that is more loving, tolerant and compassionate than the one I was born into.”

Over to You

What you can achieve when you unconditionally love yourself is miraculous.  You do not need that unconditional love to start.  But, as you experience it more and more along the way, the journey will become more easeful, joyful and wonderful.  Would you like a little more ease?  How would life feel with less self-judgement and criticism?  And more self-compassion and forgiveness?  What would it feel like to be OK with being imperfect?  How would it feel to know you are worthy?  Because you are inherently worthy.  It may require a journey for you to rediscover that.  And that is what the life coaching journey can be for.

Pass it on

Helpful?  Intriguing?  Thought provoking?  Mind bending?  Transformative?  How do you feel after reading this blog?  Do you know a friend, colleague or family member who would feel the same?  Why not send it their way and show them that you acknowledge and appreciate their worth?

Ready to go on a journey to reclaim your inherent self-worth?

Find out how I can support you today.