Click the play button above to hear the author narrate this poem.
I believe that a low sense of self-worth is a major problem plaguing most people today. It often underlies many other problems we face. Without a healthy sense of oneself, we feel unworthy of respect and of good things in our life.
Our society has often taught us to value others and to devalue ourselves. Yet this doesn’t work for the betterment of all society. Unless we truly value ourselves, we’re always looking to others for our sense of value or approval. Consequently, this usually entails trying to manipulate them into “loving” us in some way in order for us to gain a sense of self-appreciation. Manipulation and control are always detrimental to relationships. And needing the approval of others always leaves our self-worth in someone else’s hands.
I, too, had felt the sting of putting others before self, to the denial and negation of a healthy self-respect and self-appreciation. I, too, looked to others for approval, for the first 50 years of my life. I knew the struggle of seeking to find an appropriate sense of oneself, whether or not one had the approval of others.
The thing that turned it around for me was simply accepting, with child-like faith, the belief that I am loved and have value in this world, simply because I exist! From my historical religious perspective, it was a matter of my accepting “God’s view of me” rather than the world’s view of me.
I simply accepted the belief that I have value, as do all people, because I am part of God’s creation, created by Him/Her, as an extension of that Goodness. Nothing I’ve ever done has earned it; nothing I’ve ever done has lost it; and nothing I’ve ever failed to do has lost it. It’s simply that I have worth because I’m a part of that which is intrinsically and inherently Good, as we all are. Period.
I’d assented to that belief intellectually for some years, but knowing something intellectually and knowing it experientially aren’t the same thing. I now feel my worth within, whether or not anyone else on the planet validates my worth by their appreciation of me. I appreciate others’ appreciation of me, but I don’t depend on it, for no one else can know me as I know me. And if they’re not appreciating me, it may simply be because they aren’t appreciating themselves either, so they can’t see beyond their own pain. Put simply, a person’s worth doesn’t depend on anyone else’s approval but God’s.
Once I began to get my sense of worth from within rather than trying to get others to value me from without, I was able to let everybody else “off the hook.” Nobody else had to “value me” in order for me to feel my own worth. This gives me the freedom to allow people to be just as they are, whether or not they include me. And it gives me the freedom to love others, whether or not they return that love. In my opinion, unconditional love doesn’t have to be returned; it only has to be given, because giving is its nature.
This said, my only advice to anyone would be to simply decide you have value by accepting that belief for yourself. That’s really why we want others’ approval—to convince ourselves of our worth. But our worth is a given; only our unbelief keeps us from accepting it.
You can never do enough to please everybody. So please yourself and let those who are attracted to what you are be attracted to you. As you become willing to release the compulsion to need validation from others, you can begin to give of yourself in a way that others will more likely value you. You don’t have to try to be any specific “something” somebody else would want. Just plain “goodness” is attractive to most people.
The problem with trying to “win” others’ approval is that we don’t have our own approval in that situation. And since others reflect back to us what we believe about ourselves, they will reflect back unapproval. Most people don’t act; they react. So they don’t “act” toward you; they “react” to you. When you begin to value you, others will feel that value and respond accordingly.
As long as your happiness depends on something outside of yourself, your happiness is in someone else’s hands. And you can’t control that. I’ve learned that I can give myself happiness by simply doing it, by loving myself as purely and innocently as I would love any other human being, for I am “another human being” to others.
You have value, whether or not anyone else acknowledges it. You are worthwhile, whether or not anyone else says so. And as you begin to live from that perspective, you will begin to radiate a sense of well-being that others will like and want to be around. You don”t have to try to be something they will like. Your own unique version of “goodness” will be sufficient. People will still have preferences and may prefer someone else over you. But they will have a greater sense of appreciation for you as you express a greater appreciation for yourself. Most importantly, you will appreciate you and more easily appreciate others.
I wish I could tell you specifically what you have to do to achieve this, but I can’t. It’s simply a belief that you adopt. And a belief (any belief) is simply a thought that you think, over and over, until you come to adopt it, whether or not it is true. We have many beliefs that aren’t “true,” but because we believe them, they become true in our experience of life. But your worth is one that, I believe, is unquestionably true. You only need to accept it as true for yourself to begin reaping the benefits of it.
Your own eternal self knows that all is well, even if your intellect isn’t yet convinced of that. But you can retrain your intellect by simply changing your mind. That’s how your intellect got every belief it has now—you accepted something long enough that you came to believe it!
You’re OK. You have value. As YOU begin to live from your worth, and not from a sense of lack of worth, you will radiate that worth to others, who, like you previously, are also looking for their sense of worth. As you know your own worth, you also know their worth.
Give yourself permission to value yourself, despite the teachings of our society to the contrary. Jesus said it eloquently when he said, “Love your neighbor AS you love yourself.” Loving ourselves is the measure by which we should love others. Funny how our society has gotten that one backward! In truth, you cannot love others until you begin to love yourself.
I’ve learned that I can be a “lover” simply by loving, whether or not anyone else “loves me back.” I am “in love” whether or not a specific person “loves me back.” I am a lover, period. And a lover loves! And as I love, I get to feel the wonder of that love flowing through me. When water flows through a pipe, the pipe gets wet, too! I’ve learned that as I focus on giving, rather than receiving, I too receive from the act of giving.
You have value. But you must claim your value. When you look to others to validate it, you are, in that moment, not claiming it for yourself. So others have a harder time of claiming it for you, since most of them don’t claim it for themselves either.
Enough of this. You are loved.
Charles David Heineke, 1998
Spread the word. Please copy freely.