I see so many people struggling with self-esteem, self-worth, and just simply trying to feel good about themselves. Even if others love you and have a positive view of you, you can still struggle to feel confident, and have love for yourself. Many of us measure our self-worth based on how much we accomplished in a day or maybe even in our lifetime. We have a mental or physical checklist of all the tasks we want to accomplish in a day or a week. It always feels good to check off a completed task on your checklist. But when we don’t get much checked off, self-esteem can take a hit.
Recently I was working with a stay at home Mom (this is not a post about stay at home Moms vs. Moms who work outside the home!) and she was struggling with feeling of value. She said that she struggles to get the dishes done, clean the house and get the grocery shopping done. She cried. She expressed that she felt of little value and self-worth. I said to her that some things simply can’t be measured. For example, her children might be able to focus better and learn more in school, knowing that they are coming home to her. She cried again. But this time it was a cry of feeling worth and value.
So much of what we do, and the impact that it has on others, simply can’t be measured. You might be a role model at work or at home, or even to your friends and family. You may have just supported a friend who is going through a difficult time. You might be someone who others know they can talk to in time of need, or count on for an enjoyable day spent together. That probably was not on your checklist – yet being a supportive friend is immeasurable. Being a loving parent, whether you work at home or away from home, can’t be measured. Being a loving spouse or daughter/son can’t be measured.
It took me a long time to recognize and understand that much of my work as a therapist can’t be measured. Of course, I see people gain insight, grown and make changes in their life. But I never know when growth will happen, and I certainly can’t measure what might happen in one session, it is a process over time. Just like the day-to-day impact that we have on others is a process over time, and often so subtle that we don’t really notice. Those interactions that you have with people every day can’t be measured.
Some of the most meaningful and life changing events happened to me based on just a single thing someone said to me. I bet that wasn’t on their checklist that day! Here is a good example; I hadn’t gone on to college after school and at the age of 27 found myself newly divorced and re-assessing my life. I shared with my boss that I was thinking about going to college and she said “I don’t know why you wouldn’t”. It was that statement and her show of support which gave me just enough of a confidence boost to believe that I belonged in college. I had never done well in school so I struggled to believe that I would do well in college, and yet I continued my education as far as I could take it. Of course, continued support from my new husband allowed me to thrive. I guess you could say it can be measured by my college degrees, but what can’t be measured is the worth and value that support, and belief of my value, provided me.
I work with someone who struggles with depression and physical pain, and yet he manages to take care of the apartment building he owns. When I asked him why he does it, he said he does it for the people who live there, he wants to take good care of them. While he can measure the physical work that he does, he cannot measure the safety and security that his tenants must feel, knowing that they have a landlord who they can trust and who cares for them.
So take the time to think about what you do that cannot be measured, and recognize your value and worth. I know it is there. Try not to focus on what tears you down but on what builds you up. We can always see our challenges and work on self-growth but part of growth is also recognizing what builds us up.
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