“Respect Yourself and Others Will Respect You.” – Confucius
I remember being a girl at school, walking into the classroom once and one of the girls walking excitedly towards me to show me something in her hand. I of course couldn’t wait to see what it was. She stopped halfway and said ‘you can’t afford it anyway’ and walked away. I remember how cutting I found those words and thinking: ‘I still deserve to see it anyway’. I felt my value was tied to what I could afford.
The scene plays out daily in all sorts of scenarios from the playground to the boardroom because the top five factors people use to measure themselves against others are:
- What you earn
- Who you know
- What you do for a living
- Your achievements
Why we need to measure ourselves against others is baffling because it is never a level playing field, and thus quite a useless measure. Incidentally, none of the above is a pre-requisite for being a good human being, or having a happy life for that matter. The media is full of celebrity stories to confirm this.
Tying your self-worth to your appearance is such a slippery slope. For starters, our appearance changes and no one can have intrinsic value from their inherited bone structure. I have heard women say they feel invisible after a certain age. Ok, so I might not be getting whistled at anymore as I walk past building sites, but when I walk into a room, I know I bring a wealth of experience and knowledge with me, and I dare anyone to make me feel invisible!
What you earn/What you do for a living
This is quite a hard benchmark not to measure yourself by because what you earn and what do can be part of who you are, but not always. What we earn and what we do is often used by others to judge us, but we should not fall into that trap. We may be earning a lot now, and we may have an important position now; however, the one thing we know about life is that it changes. So, if we measure ourselves by this, and life changes, we could end up feeling lost and worthless. For example, following retirement, people can feel lost with no sense of purpose.
Your achievements again are a by-product of who you are. Focusing on the achievements is missing the point. There will come a time when you might be in a nursing home and you can’t have your trophies on the mantlepiece for everyone to admire. The nursing staff might be too overworked to keep going on about your achievements. Are you going to feel like a forgotten piece of relic? Who you are as person is still the same.
Anchor your self-worth in that which is unchanging
The only way to value yourself and build your self-worth for a successful life is for it to be anchored in who you are. So, as you develop and grow as a human being your self-worth can only increase.
True self-value comes from being rather than doing or having.
Self-worth comes from qualities such as being trustworthy, loyal, kind, compassionate, empathetic, respectful for others, and treating all human beings as equals just by virtue of them being a human being.
Next time you want to want to assess if someone is worth associating with, do it because they are kind and not because of what they have or who they know. The playground and the boardroom will be a much nicer place for it.
These are unstable times, job security is a thing of the past, people’s statuses are unravelling, and we are besieged by anxiety. You cannot allow your self-worth, which allows you to have the confidence in yourself to handle what life throws at you, to be anchored in transient status symbols.
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