I was listening to a podcast from Darren Rowse and he made a great point about failure and how we define ourselves as people. Self esteem has been debunked in the psychological community but persists in the popular vernacular. I think self worth is a reasonable substitute to work with for our purposes. We wrongly define self worth as success plus the opinions of others.1
Who Are We?
Often we struggle with our self worth when a challenge to our identity comes along. The loss of a job, the gaining of a couple extra pounds, or the loss of a parent can all affect what value we put on ourselves. Many of us see ourselves as parents, friends, sons and daughters, and employees or managers. These are only parts of who we are.
We may spend hours at the office working towards a big promotion or to loose a few pounds at the gym, only to find we failed miserably. Then we retreat to a place under a blanket, grab a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and watch Netflix for hours on end. This only leads to further self loathing.
What We THINK Self Worth Is
As Darren stated so succinctly, we think self worth is how well we do combined with how other people view us. More followers on Instagram or likes on Facebook is the constant goal. And Facebook and Instagram both want you to aim for likes and follows. It is how they keep you engaged.
Like a heroin dealer pushing small samples to get clients addicted, those simple counts give a number for us to read but are completely empty in the big picture. What happens when Facebook no longer exists? Who will remember your likes and follow count then?
What happens when you fail at something? The house of cards comes crashing down. All those followers are no where to be found to lend support. Don’t believe me? Post that you’re moving and ask who can help pack boxes. Compare how many people show up verses how many people like your post. It is too easy to like a post.
Failure and Success
Have you ever known someone to succeed at everything they try? Maybe. If they do, are they really pushing themselves or just staying within what is comfortable for them? I have failed at many things many times in my years on this earth and I know I will continue to fail in the future. It’s okay. I am not a brain surgeon and no one is likely to die as a result of my failures. If I fail today, I can get up tomorrow and try again.
And what if I succeed? People around me may notice. Lot’s of people notice that Mark Zuckerberg has success. Same with Bill Gates. But we don’t see all of their failures do we? Maybe this is a reason we like tabloids so much; they expose the failures and shortcomings of those we consider successful and beautiful. So we are revelling in the failures of others; not good.
My experiences the last couple years have moved me to a place where I don’t depend on the opinions of others to determine my value. I hope to, as Steve Jobs put is, “Make a dent in the universe.” In a thousand years, no one will probably remember me.
A couple of the things I use to keep perspective are my faith in God, my family, and my Masonic brotherhood. My faith in God reminds me of just how small I am and that I am still loved by a magnificent being beyond my comprehension and understanding. My family reminds me that I will fail and succeed and they will be there to love me. My Masonic brothers remind me of what a good man should look like and help me to live up to the character I need to accomplish that.
We should all stop comparing our lives and how well we do to those held up in the media. Such a presentation is skewed. As a photographer, I try to accomplish this feat by reminding women how beautiful they are without the gym, plastic surgery, and wearing size -20 (I know it doesn’t exist).
What are some of the ways you remind yourself of your self worth, I would love to hear them.