In a culture defined by what we have and what we do rather than who we are, many of us have struggled with the notion that we are worthy based on experiences which began in childhood. What makes us worthy? Being smart? Having a good job?
Achieving by social, academic or parental standards is often perceived as success. Why do so many achievers still struggle with their own self-worth? Why do those people who have hit every standard of success externally suffer in the prison of their own sense of worth? In a country as affluent as the United States problems with self-worth are epidemic, yet self-worth is not much of a problem in impoverished countries where no one has much in the way of material worth.
As we all struggle with our self-worth from time to time, I believe it is important to remind ourselves that we are all worthhealing. Experience is the best teacher, except when the experiences are invalidating, negative or viewed as failures. Children depend on others to help them gain a sense of self-worth, but no set of adults can assure that they will be able to make children feel worthy.
What can we do to improve things for all people? If we realize that we are all worthy of healing then we do not have to stay stuck in the mud of unworthiness. It only took me 60 years to feel worthy, clearly I was not in the accelerated class on this issue. Self - love need not be sacrificial or based on external measurement. It is the interior work we do that gives us the ability to see we are worthy. Having a belief system to serve as a frame of reference is critical. Everyone’s belief system is highly personal, be it science, quantum physics, religion or simply the belief that there is “something” we don’t know. Not knowing can be a belief system. As Bob Dylan would say “you gotta serve somebody.” The good news is you get to define what that is for you.
“The road to hell is paved with good intentions” is an often used phrase to explain how one has made an error in judgment. Worth is determined by intention, not necessarily the flawed thinking behind that intention. I heard this phrase often as a kid and it did not seem quite fair. Honestly, I am pretty sure my stated intention may have been no more than a defense for my behavior. Authentic intention is in our self-talk, our dreams and our desires. My intention, simply stated is to be a plus in this world not a minus. I want to be of service, helpful, responsible, kind and loving, but I often have behaviors that place me in that minus category. How many pluses does it take to be worthy? I say only one…the desire to be kind and loving.
What about the times I intentionally hurt someone with hostile judgments or actions? We must all keep our own tally sheet. The possibilities for redemption I begrudgingly admit are endless. I don’t want a guy that abuses animals or people to be able to feel good about himself, but that would deny the power of redemption. I want to be forgiven, so I must forgive even the worst of mankind. I don’t believe children are born and in the nursery you can spot the serial killer, the dog fighter, the rapist, or the next Saint. We are all a mixture of genetics and experience and how we end up as adults is less predictable than who will survive cancer. I cannot set the bar for anyone else, but I can look in my heart and determine what my intentions are or were. If I ask the question, I am mindful and I am worthy.
Charlotte Mabry, Ed.D., is the Founder of Worthhealing.net, a therapeutic approach to understanding our feelings and behavior about money, www.worthhealing.net (website may still be under construction). This is a new program that will start in 2014. For now you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (615)210-5803 cell.
Charlotte is a graduate of the School of Healing Arts, has studied Gestalt Therapy with Irv and Miriam Polster and wrote her dissertation on Locus of Control. Charlotte is also a founding Partner of Mabry-Calvin, LL.