Worth. It takes me back to thinking about that famous quote from Perks of Being a Wallflower. Charlie asks the professor “Why do nice people choose the wrong people to date?” His teacher answers, “We accept the love we think we deserve.”
Here, at the root of this acceptance is the idea of worth. We act in line with the things we believe about ourselves to be true. Culture screams out this specific formula to being worthy or being enough. If you’re a woman, you have to be pretty all the time. In the workplace, you have to be assertive to be deemed important. You have to be attractive and likable to everyone. If you’re a man, you have to be someone who suppresses their emotions. You have to be strong and easy on the eyes.
In the eyes of our culture, many of us aren’t worth much at all. When we don’t fit the cookie cutter boxes we are “supposed” to, how can we define our worth? How can we define our worth when it’s outside the realm of what culture deems significant?
There are three big lies that we are believing, three parts of ourselves that we are reaching to define and measure our worth: our jobs and academic pursuits, our emotions, and of course, our appearance.
What you do is who you are
The first question that gets asked at parties when meeting someone new is “What do you do?” Our work becomes our definition. The scary truth is once we truly get this amazing career, as a lawyer or doctor or business owner, it isn’t sufficient.
There are honestly so many other ways to go about it. The big ones graduates get lost in is their career. We so easily fall into the lie that we are what we do. In fact, the big contributor to this problem of finding your worth in your career is our parents. When it’s senior year, all the questions come out of the woodwork (not that they’ve been hiding). “What are you doing?” “Where are you working after you graduate?” “What will you graduate with?” “Do you have a full-time job yet?”
As young people entering the workforce, we get so locked in on achievement and success in our particular field, that we don’t really ask any questions. If you’re older, I bet you may be genuinely asking yourself, “If all the kids were gone, if I didn’t have the job I have, what would my worth be?”
Or worse still, you feel like you have this perfect life and yet you’re not as happy as you thought you’d be. You always find yourself trying to get this new thing or that shiny new thing, and maybe then, you’d be happy. Maybe you’d feel secure.
But nothing ever changes.
And you realize, with years of life under your belt, this isn’t where your worth comes from.
How you feel is who you are
So much of what we do depends on how we feel. If I wake up and I feel like I want coffee, I make it. If I feel like getting off the train a stop early to walk home, I do it. If I feel like texting that person back, I do that.
Yet, if you open your eyes to the world around you, people are stuck in their feelings. For the most part, no one wants to go to the gym, so they binge-watch Stranger Things. No one wants to cook a healthy meal, so they order out. No one wants to get up early, so they sleep in and hit snooze.
Delayed gratification – we hate it! We hate waiting, and so we scroll and begin the comparison game, where everyone else’s life is better than mine. We can even get pulled in to posting the photos and getting the likes and feeling the dopamine come rushing in, and then the hit dies. And once more, we feel alone, forgotten, and lost. So we do it. Again. And again. And again.
When our feelings are off, they can be a way to guide us, to tell us what’s wrong, but there are so many instances where feelings aren’t the best guide. When the fiance commits adultery. When the underage kid drinks alcohol. I mean, let’s face it, so many people are feeling depression and anxiety, and while some people have psychological reasons, people are trapped under the weight of these emotions even though from the outside, it seems like life is okay.
If we defined ourselves by our highs and our lows, damn, that’d be deadly. Think about the best moment in your life. Now think about the worst one. If your worth comes from those two points if you measure how you reacted, how you felt, I’m not sure that you’d come away with something positive.
What you look like is who you are
This one I’ve kind of briefly mentioned above. In a world full of Instagram models and influencers, the main focus is how we look. Our appearance is what everyone sees before we’ve even said a word. While I believe we should all groom ourselves, there is this ideal of beauty set up by society that seems so impossible to reach.
You have to be thin enough, but not too skinny. You have to be tall enough, but not super tall. There is this hourglass shape that is deemed universally attractive for women. For men, you have to have muscles and be in shape, but too many muscles are not so pleasing for the eyes.
You need well-fitting, nice clothing, and clear skin.
It sucks for kids in the throes of puberty to scroll online and then compare themselves to people they’ll probably never meet. It sucks in a worse way for people who don’t really have time to focus on all that – as they’re working to provide for themselves and their families and they don’t have the budget to buy clothes every month.
What you do, how you feel, what you look like, those things don’t define your worth. It’s up to you to find out what defines your worth.
For me, my worth is found in the One who died and rose for me.
Where does your worth come from? Comment below!