Sunday, April 12, 2009

What am I worth?

"You are unique in all the world"
- from the movie "Artificial Intelligence"

If you were to envision self worth as a wheel and you cut that wheel in half, one half would be what you believe about yourself and the other half would be how you allow yourself to be treated by others. Each half would be constantly readjusting to align with it's other half. A positive view of yourself would guide you to require positive treatment from others and that positive treatment would in turn, reinforce the positive views of yourself. A negative view of yourself would guide you to accept ill treatment and that ill treatment would in turn, reinforce the negative views of yourself. This is how the two halves mutually reinforce and strengthen each other.

So if you find yourself in the ‘negative view of yourself’ camp, how do you shift into the positive view of yourself camp?

The first step is to understand how you developed a negative view of yourself. From the book “The Self Esteem Workbook”:
The research is very clear. If you want to have self-esteem, it helps to choose your parents well. Children with self esteem tend to have parents who model self esteem [...] are loving toward their children, expressing interest in the child’s life and friends, giving time and encouragement (p. 19).
Of course, there are no absolutes. Some children may have had their self esteem damaged through bullying, molestation or some other type of abuse by people outside the family. But for those who were raised with damaging interactions from within the family, the wounds can be especially deep and long lasting.

The next step is to begin to expect and require good treatment from others. You may feel uncomfortable doing this at first, because you don’t feel entitled to positive treatment yet. Do it anyway. If you know people who insult you and then say “just kidding,” politely ask them to stop. If you know people who make decisions for you or who borrow and then don’t return, politely ask them to stop. By requiring positive treatment, you are sending a message to your brain that “I am worth something.” The half of the wheel (what you believe about yourself) will begin to adjust in response to the new external reality. For those circumstances where you cannot require good treatment (e.g., an unapologetically abusive boss), always say to yourself “I don’t deserve this bad behavior. Their behavior is a reflection of them, not me.” If possible, give yourself some type of reward for enduring this bad behavior.

The last step is to require good treatment from yourself. Since we are only issued this one body, help it to stay healthy by engaging in some type of exercise and by eating healthy foods. Take care of your mind by making time for relaxation and by engaging in activities that you find meaningful (or just plain fun!). If self critical thoughts come into your mind, politely ask that inner critic to stop. Better, replace those criticisms with affirmations, such as “I love myself just the way I am.”

In closing, here are two quotes that speak to the danger of accepting ill treatment.

An insincere and evil friend is more to be feared than a wild beast; a wild beast may wound your body, but an evil friend will wound your mind.

Never allow anyone to rain on your parade and thus cast a pall of gloom and defeat on the entire day.
Remember that no talent, no self-denial, no brains, no character, are required to set up in the fault-finding business.
Nothing external can have any power over you unless you permit it.
Your time is too precious to be sacrificed in wasted days combating the menial forces of hate, jealously, and envy.
Guard your fragile life carefully.
Only God can shape a flower, but any foolish child can pull it to pieces.
-Og Mandino, Air Force veteran, salesman and author

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