Self-worth: what does the word mean to you? The dictionary describes it as ‘confidence in one’s own abilities,’ listing alternative synonyms as self-esteem and self-respect. It’s a sign of respect for the self if we value and esteem ourselves.
A dear friend, Lilian, once told me that the value we assign ourselves is the value people will assign us. That the weight and value we assign our loved one is the same one the world will allot them by extension. That if we say mean things about those we love, if we treat them badly, we open them up to the world for the same criticisms and putdowns. Luckily, she meant this as a positive in the way she had observed me value my son. This has stayed with me since, and will guide me to the end of my days as concerns those that I love.
I have learnt not to put myself down, but to instead toot my own horn, to sing my praises and dance to the tune of my songs. I experience it as a most ‘unchristian’ thing to do and I certainly wasn’t raised that way; modesty was valued above all else in our home. But you quickly learn in the corporate world to sing your praises when the Annual Performance Review comes up, for you will be called upon to toot your own horn, and if you don’t, you’ll have only yourself to blame when that bonus and/or raise doesn’t measure up.
I know Maya Angelou had said it before, but Lilian phrased it differently and it hit home: people will believe what you tell them about yourself, so say nice things only. I was one to drag myself through the mud in the worst way possible. I saw nothing good about anything I did, and I found a way to discredit and downplay successes or any good deeds. For the larger part of my life, my self-worth has been terribly distorted owing to parts of my upbringing.
I’ve worked hard to overcome this image and it’s only in the last few months that I am now starting to fully believe I am worthy of love, of attention, of successes. That’s the thing about a leaking cup, filling it is an exercise in futility. I’ve been working hard this year to build my self-confidence, to accept that I am brilliant, that I am beautiful, I am lovable, I am worthy. It’s an inside job and a self-taught lesson that no amount of external love can teach.
Just this May, I had a life-changing experience with a colleague friend with whom we had an instant connection; her name is Renee. As we weaved our way through the world’s largest tulips flower garden in Keukenhof Amsterdam in the Netherlands, we were talking about spirit animals, something I had trouble with since learning of the concept because I felt my personality depicted an animal I did not like much, and I shared this with her. She looked at me and vehemently shook her head out-rightly refuting my suspicions –‘banish the thought!’, she admonished.
And then she told me how she viewed me, how she ‘experienced’ me, how she esteemed me -it was very different from how I viewed myself, what I thought I projected, how timid I felt inside as I navigated life. Instead, she saw me as confident, composed, assured. This is when she gave me the gift of a panther as my spirit animal. Here was someone I valued telling me she saw me differently than how I viewed myself, valued me higher than how I valued myself.
In my self-worth discovery journey, my life splits to before and after that encounter. She gave me a gift that has changed how I view myself, how I carry myself, what I believed about myself. I walk taller, my demeanor is calmer, a quiet confidence accompanies my every action, and my step is assured. I know who I am and I’m certain of my worth.
I have ways to go on this beautiful journey and I am enjoying every new discovery of my superpowers as a confident woman.
And what about you, what’s your story? Where have you been? What have you learnt so far? Let’s walk together side by side along this beautiful path to self-discovery.