Looking at ways we’ve learned to value or devalue ourselves
Self-reflection is important because through it we discover how we came to be who we are now. We see, too, where our self-esteem is ‘firm’ and where we’re still ‘wobbly’ and scared to push out on it. Through it we also realise where our movement outward has been compromised.
Most of us have spent the first half of our lives trying to satisfy society’s expectations and ways of measuring us. As children we searched for our value in society and read in the numerous positive and negative interactions, what we felt our worth was. So if we were sidelined, not chosen, rejected because of not being good looking, clever, big, fast, fashionable enough, it wounded us. We had been measured and found wanting. And what was done to us we did to others.
Looking back we can see how we were taught to see ourselves as adequate or not. We were measured and valued in different ways. This was according to our behaviour, our actions that were approved or disapproved of, what people spoke over us as being ‘us’, our age, birth order, where we stood in the social hierarchy, whether we were favourites or not, our looks, cultural differences, brain or muscle power – among other things.
This picture of ourselves, this having to prove we were valuable, was formative, and was received throughout our growing years in our families, schools and wider community. We can still see its power in how we view ourselves now.
At the beginning of our lives we were unaware that how we looked, and moved outward into the world was lacking in any way. We can hardly remember how that felt, how it was to be free to engage without judgement and fear. That is why we now need to take ownership of ourselves, to stop behaving automatically, playing the social game. God is inviting us to realise our inert and absolute value, but we must start taking steps to authenticity. We need to choose to disappoint those we’ve always just pleased. We need to risk being real even if it makes others feel uncomfortable. This isn’t an easy process, but we have to learn as T.S. Eliot said, ‘To care and not to care.’