Learning to value ourselves for who we really are, not by what we achieve
Most of our lives we’ve been formed around learning not to trust ourselves. “Not your way…This is the way,” is what we have been told. We may have been compliant as children and obeyed, or reactive, doing the opposite. But with both ways we were still reacting to the same external reference point.
It’s a risky business becoming more authentic, letting go of things that no longer fit us and following the things that give us life.
To understand many of the issues we carry it helps to look at how money was viewed in our family, with the breadwinning responsibility usually carried by our father. This is because it is symbolic of the external value we learned to give ourselves and others. It became the way we saw the rich and poor, the ‘brainy’ and uneducated, successful and unsuccessful, as people of more or less value.
If we viewed others like this it followed that we came to relate to ourselves via external measurement also. So we may have judged ourselves as not okay, not good enough when we compared ourselves to others. We may have despised ourselves when we didn’t meet expected standards, thus losing our power and self-esteem. Many of us were shaped by rewards of love from parents and teachers if we performed well. That affirmation was often held back when we didn’t, but this conditional acceptance damaged our identity.
We need to learn to love ourselves less conditionally, to become more true and whole and to reestablish our own inner authority. However, we can’t do it in a vacuum. We need God’s help to look at how we’ve been ‘wired’ and step by step to shift the way we value ourselves and others.
Only God sees us fully and truly and tells us a different reality. He is a generous, extravagant Father, wanting to restore us, loving us unconditionally just for who we are. He is concerned not so much with how we function – though He delights when it’s true to us – but with whether we’re a friend to ourselves and know His presence and emotional availability.