Self worth can often be a struggle.
Your net worth to the world is usually determined by what remains after your bad habits are subtracted from your good ones. -Benjamin Franklin
Do you know someone who struggles with self worth? Have you ever wondered what makes you valuable, special, important, or worthwhile? If so you are not alone. I have the good fortune to work in a field that enables me to meet and really get to know a wide variety of people from every age, stage, and walk of life. I don’t know of any group that is immune to the depressing thoughts that typically surround critical introspection. And with all due respect to Mr. Ben Franklin, I rarely find that a simple mathematical equation is capable of yielding a result that brings about a sense of inner peace.
Why doesn’t Franklin’s approach of a balance sheet for good/bad habits work? Because your habits aren’t what define you. When I ask someone what makes them valuable the most common first response is “I don’t know”, followed by a few good qualities they possess that are transient. For example if the answer is coming from a middle aged male he might say that he has a good job that provides income and benefits for his family. While this is certainly a positive thing, it is also out of his control, will end when he retires, and could even be taken from him at any time.The same question answered by a female high school student may include a reference to her skill in the band or on the soccer team. Unless she plans to make one of these her life’s work they will be all but forgotten in just a few short years.
When we tie our self worth to something we inherently know to be temporary we are opening the door for anxiety and nearly ensuring letdowns as we experience a sense of loss with each change of life.
On the road to understanding a deeper sense of self worth we have to get past our good and bad habits, past what we do, and focus in on who we are. Your identity should include facts that are more permanent, and that are at least somewhat within your control. Let’s return to the middle aged male above who said his job is what makes him valuable. What if instead he answers that he is a Christian, a husband, and a father? These are all things that will continue past retirement and throughout his life. Additionally, they are things that can’t be stolen from him by a downturn in the economy, or a new boss that wants to clean house and bring in their own staff. What answers could the teen girl have stated that would give her a strong sense of value and self worth that the world couldn’t easily tear away? If she were your daughter how might you hope she answers?