First, a story.
For as long as I can remember, people have been telling me how smart I am.
I know, I know. That sounds like an obnoxious thing to say, but wait for the rest of the story. I swear I’m not a jerk.
When I was nine, I was put into gifted classes. When I was ten, I was moved from fourth grade math into fifth grade math. When I was sixteen, I enrolled in International Baccalaureate classes. I graduated with hundreds of hours of community service under my belt and in the top ten of my graduating class.
My entire life, I was told how exceptional I was. Then, when the senior year award assembly rolled around, I didn’t win anything. The other people in my IB classes won scholarship money and awards and I just sat in the front row like a big old dope. I was gutted. I’d applied to a ton of scholarships. I’d worked so long and hard, often imagining that very day, the day I’d be recognized and awarded for my efforts, but it didn’t happen. No one recognized me. The world seemed to be telling me I wasn’t exceptional.
Though it really sucked, I learned a very important lesson about myself that day. I was placing my self worth in my academic success.
So often, people find their worth in their relationships, talents, or appearance. They hand over the reins to their self-confidence and allow something else to tell them whether they are worthy or not, and that is not okay. So, here is a bit of advice from someone who isn’t a professional, but who once tried to find self worth in all of these things.
1) Your relationships aren’t for your happiness
One of the most devastating ways people find self worth is in their relationships with other people. Time and time again, people will let you down. They won’t always mean to, but someone will cancel plans with you last minute, your parents will yell at you, or your significant other will get angry and say something hurtful. These are all normal parts of life, unless you are finding your worth in these reactions.
If you are only happy when your relationships are perfect, then I’m afraid to say you won’t be happy for long. If you are only with your significant other because of the way you feel when he/she buys you flowers and showers you with praise, how are you going to react when you get in your first fight? Your happiness is no one else’s responsibility but your own. If you place that kind of power in someone else’s hands, they will fail you, and you will be disappointed.
2) Success won’t make you happy
We see an example of this when we look at Hollywood. How many stories have you read about huge stars committing suicide or checking into rehab because of their drug addictions? Does that sound like happiness to you? Did their success give them everything they needed in life? No! Yet, we still expect to be happier once we get that promotion, once we make more money, once we buy that newest technology.
No amount of success will ever satisfy you, because there will always be someone one step ahead of you. There will always be someone with a newer phone, a better job, a bigger house. Your successes have to be for you. If you can arrive home everyday knowing that you did your best, even if it wasn’t perfect, and be okay with that, then you are in a healthy place.
3) You are more than your appearance
Let’s get one thing out of the way: even the women on the cover of magazines don’t look like the women on the cover of magazines. They have an entire team of hair and makeup artists, perfect lighting, and a healthy dose of Photoshop to look like that. So, expecting to live up to that standard is crazy.
Now, I personally think there is something to be said for taking care of your body. Eating right and exercising can make you feel amazing (because endorphins, duh.), but hating yourself because you aren’t a size 2 is bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S. God loves you no matter what, which means you should love you no matter what.
Nowadays, I find my worth in being a child of God. In knowing the Creator of the Universe knows every hair on my head and what’s in my heart, and he still loves me. Sure, I fail some days, as we all do. I get upset when my stories get rejected from literary magazines and when I diet and exercise, but still don’t see any progress. The point isn’t that you need to be perfect; it’s that at the end of the day you realize you aren’t, and that it’s okay.