Welcome to Time Travel Tuesday, where I go back to something somewhere on my blog.
A reader’s comment on a post from last week sent my brain into overdrive mode. Sometimes I pick at things like they are a new bone; gnawing at them, burying it, walking away, going and digging it up to gnaw some more – until I crack it and get to the marrow of the thing.
Here is an excerpt from the comment that I received:
“…By gauging what you deserve, demonstrates your self-worth…. There, some thoughts to tinker with.” – PiecesofBipolar
And so I tinkered.
Authenticity is valued only when one surrounds themselves with those who value that which is authentically you. When your authenticity destroys the sanctity of others carefully crafted hedges, you become invisible; or worse yet, a liability to be silenced. We see this clearly throughout history, but it goes on in families every day, completely unremarked.~Me
Self-worth, it is such a difficult subject isn’t it? What I think is valuable about me might not even appear on the radar of those who find me important. Among my friends, I’m not sure the same qualities are valued from one to another. What represents ‘me’, to them in their minds? Two of my friends are vocal about what they value in me; the others not. But those are external inputs into self worth, which implies an internal thing.
To those very close to me, it is no secret that I have great difficulty with this topic. I think if everyone is honest, we all do. It is talked about enough that we should all be quite well informed. But we’re not. To ferret out the foundations we have to climb into the way-back machine and find out what we first received rewards for; find what was valued by others that helps us grow our own worth.
I think, but cannot be sure, that if we lived in solitude all of our lives, we would inherently know our value as relative to that limited world. I mean, if we couldn’t hunt and get food, in our dying breaths we could surmise, “I suck at hunting.” We don’t live in that type of world, where only we measure value against concrete things.
Our internal worth starts as a little pile of feedback loops we collect all throughout our lives.
I can tell you something I value about myself that external parties have disliked from as young as I can remember. I am rebellious and a questioner; the tosser-out of ‘Why?”. The status quo holds no value to me and is up for examination at any time. I’m not a crowd follower. From childhood I was punished for rebellion. Recently my parent’s methodologies came up for discussion and it went something like this:
At an extended family gathering, my mother was expounding on their method of punishment on me at the dinner table – a switch across the hands if I spoke without being spoken to, if I spoke with food in my mouth, or if my ‘attitude’ was unacceptable. My mother proudly proclaimed “It is these things which made you who you are today.” I remember the punishments, but I cannot recall precisely what I was punished for. I jokingly said in passing to my mother and her enthralled audience, “What, complete suspicion of authority and a rebel often with no cause?” In all fairness, I believe I was born that way. The punishments that exceeded reasonable in my youth, when partnered with the sexual abuse, probably reinforced those aspects of my personality. All they did was drive the natural curiosity underground where it continues to live in me today. Outwardly compliant? Why, yes. Inwardly? Not so much.
Later during another visit, my mother raised the topic once again with the pre-qualifier of “Your spirit had to be broken, so that you would be compliant, and it worked.” I understand this as a parent, because we want our children to be publicly presentable, agreeable on outings and the like. I am not against corporal punishment; it has its place and I used it on my daughters. I was very careful though, in its application and duration I simply do not remember ever thinking that I had to ‘break’ my children’s spirit.
In school I was an excellent student. Teachers adored me, and valued what my family did not – my mind. I basked in that approval. While the social aspect of school I found difficult, the learning part was wonderful. Around sixteen I went AWOL for a semester; skipping school, getting high and basically screwing up. I regained my course with no outside help and graduated early.
Around this time of my life I would meet people that knew my parents and hear quite often “Oh, I didn’t know you had a daughter!” I have heard this for a very long time, and still do from time to time. My younger brother was a childhood model and is a fabulous musician. He is also the projection of the things my parents value most: physical attractiveness, limelight and musical ability. I don’t recall ever feeling jealous of my brother, although I was accused of it for years by my mother. I do remember being annoyed at having to always have him around and to care for him. It’s not the favored thing when you have a sibling ten years younger getting in the way of what you think teens should be doing for fun, you know? 🙂 He is a terrific writer and an accomplished musician whom I like to spend time with. We’ve recently run into some problems in our relationship and I’m hoping those can be repaired.
Further along in life I was told by a marital counselor that I was not ‘submissive’ enough. Hmm, seems a recurring theme here possibly. Again I was facing corrective actions. This time it was my spouse and also involved physical ‘punishments’. Alas though, I was no longer a child, at least outwardly. What neither my parents nor my first partner ever took the time to discover about me is that despite having an iron will, when treated well I have no qualms about bending it for others. But under a heavy hand and disparagement, I turn into a silent, fuming and patient thing that will eventually break with those relationships.
Oh, and they never knew it outwardly, compliant and all that you see. I’ve improved in that arena. Learning to voice what I truly feel for the most part in many areas of my life. It is a painful process, and I often have the tact of a sledge hammer. I’m trying to get it out of me, and in mounting that effort I sometimes lose sight of the impact on others. I say of myself often that I need a backspace key for my mouth. o_o
The things my family valued during my youth were not my gifts. I was relatively smart – grades, school, teachers and gifted classes proved that on paper. No one cared though. Compliance was valued, and I was not compliant. Appearances were valued, and I was in my thirties before anyone ever told me I was beautiful. I have a decent singing voice, but never wanted to compete in that arena with my mother, a professional singer. Musical talent was valued, and although I had that and proved it with first chair success, it was I who cast that aside out of…can you guess? Yes, rebellion. Rebels often end up hurting themselves more than those they are rebelling against. It just takes us a while to realize it.
This is a long trip to tell you – I don’t know yet my self-worth, one of only three of the issues addressed in the originating comment. I am still trying to discover those things for myself. Wild child-likeness of spirit, gentleness of heart, keen intellect, an eye for natural beauty, delight in almost all things musical, an affinity for words and the sharing of them, pragmatism and logic when needed for others, sometimes empathetic to a fault and I’m learning to be a good friend. That’s about all I have in my deck so far. But, I can’t manage to pile those up on some kind of virtual mental scale and then on the other side, visualize what I ‘deserve’. I’m a little stuck there. I don’t know how to look at a person and say “I do (or don’t) deserve you.”
How do you measure YOUR self-worth? What do you value about yourself that others historically have not? And, how long before you’d starve in the wild? (just seeing if you’re still paying attention!)
‘Till next time, food for thought that you don’t have to catch on the hoof 🙂