March 17, 2018
Having recently had eye surgery I am reminded of a quote from Harper Lee about the value of reading: “Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.” Breathing is an essential part of our living. Without it, we have no life. Harper Lee was correct, though, because we often overlook it. It is so much a part of our living that we forget its importance. Self-worth is much the same way. Until we love ourselves, we do not allow ourselves value. Unless we first love ourselves, we have no true self-worth.
Joybell C. is an author, writer, and community developer. She also sits on the board of the Scientific Journal editorial board. A native of Baltimore, Maryland, she also is excellent at keeping the focus off of herself and very much on her work. She is, I believe, a great example of someone who values herself and her work and knows the difference between the two. “Life is too short to waste any amount of time on wondering what other people think about you. In the first place, if they had better things going on in their lives, they wouldn’t have the time to sit around and talk about you. What’s important to me is not others’ opinions of me, but what’s important to me is my opinion of myself.”
During the liturgical season of Lent we tend to go back to our roots, so to speak. This series is about cultivating a better self, growing a better being. One of the best writers on this subject is Shannon Adler. Shannon Adler is not some great scholar or a cosmopolitan literaturist from a distant continent. She is a regular woman with the same challenges in life we all face. What is so great about her is her ability to make lemonade from life’s lemons. She knows her self-worth and that gives her the courage to see beyond the hurdle and stay on track.
What I have described as self-worth, Adler would probably call dignity. She has quite a few definitions for this: “1. The moment you realize that the person you cared for has nothing intellectually or spiritually to offer you, but a headache. 2. The moment you realize God had greater plans for you that don’t involve crying at night or sad Pinterest quotes. 3. The moment you stop comparing yourself to others because it undermines your worth, education and your parent’s wisdom. 4. The moment you live your dreams, not because of what it will prove or get you, but because that is all you want to do. People’s opinions don’t matter. 5. The moment you realize that no one is your enemy, except yourself. 6. The moment you realize that you can have everything you want in life. However, it takes timing, the right heart, the right actions, the right passion and a willingness to risk it all. If it is not yours, it is because you really didn’t want it, need it or God prevented it. 7. The moment you realize the ghost of your ancestors stood between you and the person you loved. They really don’t want you mucking up the family line with someone that acts anything less than honorable. 8. The moment you realize that happiness was never about getting a person. They are only a helpmate towards achieving your life mission. 9. The moment you believe that love is not about losing or winning. It is just a few moments in time, followed by an eternity of situations to grow from. 10. The moment you realize that you were always the right person. Only ignorant people walk away from greatness.”
Self-worth is not something we can purchase, no matter how many times we try. It is not the latest fashion or snazziest vehicle. It is neither the biggest house nor the most friends on Facebook. It is not even guaranteed if you repost that blurb on Facebook or Twitter or share your latest and best snaps on Instagram. It is, as Adler says, “the moment you realize that you were always the right person”, that “happiness was never about getting a person”, and that “no one is your enemy, except yourself”.
What do you see when you look in the mirror? I did not ask what do you think you should see but what DO you see? I think selfies are so popular because we are striving to see ourselves from the eyes of another. We seek to see what the objective eye of the camera sees. Of course, we are interpreting that vision through our own eyes so it still is blurred but we continue to try, taking picture after picture.
I recently came across a picture of our family pet taken when said pet was just a tiny baby. It was his first day with our family and the picture was taken at the pet store as we purchased the necessary items to become his caregivers. “Goodness!” I thought. “If I had known I looked like that, I never would have walked out of the house!” Needless to say, I thought I looked less than desirable. Yet, we had been approached by an animal rescue group, an international group, to adopt said pet. Clearly, regardless how horrible I thought I looked, someone thought I looked caring and responsible.
Perception is everything when we view a reflection of ourselves. “You can be the most beautiful person in the world and everybody sees light and rainbows when they look at you, but if you yourself don’t know it, all of that doesn’t even matter. Every second that you spend on doubting your worth, every moment that you use to criticize yourself; is a second of your life wasted, is a moment of your life thrown away.” C. Joybell C. speaks a great truth in these statements. “It’s not like you have forever, so don’t waste any of your seconds, don’t throw even one of your moments away.”
Writer Elizabeth Gilbert makes an important point that we often forget: “Never forget that, once upon a time, in an unguarded moment, you saw yourself as a friend.” For most of us that time was when we were children. Children have this undoubting talent for embracing life, embracing passion, and finding joy. We need to tap into that part of ourselves we think we have outgrown and embrace it, reflecting a zest for life and ourselves.
“Let’s tell the truth to people. When people ask, ‘How are you?’ have the nerve sometimes to answer truthfully. You must know, however, that people will start avoiding you because, they, too, have knees that pain them and heads that hurt and they don’t want to know about yours. But think of it this way: If people avoid you, you will have more time to meditate and do fine research on a cure for whatever truly afflicts you.” This advice, written by Maya Angelou in her “Letter to My Daughter”, is right on track but very hard to do.
Value yourself to live honestly and realize that if someone doesn’t share the value you bring to the world, you probably do not need them in your orbit. Be yourself – honestly and joyously. You have value. You are worth having value. Most importantly, in the words of Malcolm X, “We cannot think of being acceptable to others until we have first proven acceptable to ourselves.”