A Measure of Self-Worth (Is it like a Pig in a Poke?)

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 🙂

 ~SE

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  19 comments for “A Measure of Self-Worth (Is it like a Pig in a Poke?)

  1. July 29, 2014 at 9:17 AM

    What a well thought out and well written piece. I know the brakes that having a younger sibling put on my teen years as well. You make some very intelligent and perinent points. Best>KB

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 29, 2014 at 9:27 AM

      Thank you for your kind words KB. If I’m honest, the responsibility I had to take for him probably kept me out of trouble often, lol!

      Like

      • July 29, 2014 at 10:18 AM

        I had a 7 year old sister and a 1 year old baby brother whose diapers I had to change for two summers when I was 13. I began being the built in baby sitter when my sister was born. >KB

        Liked by 1 person

        • July 29, 2014 at 12:33 PM

          Historically that is the norm I think, but I don’t think many of us like it just because that is so. My parents worked nights and I often kept my brother alone all night. That was scary for me, particularly when we lived remotely. Other times grandparents would keep us, or we’d sleep at the Holiday Inn while my parents played. But he lived, so I guess I did okay 😀 And so did you…

          Like

  2. July 29, 2014 at 9:19 AM

    Reblogged this on The Mirror Obscura and commented:
    Another piece well ‘self-worth’ the reading. Take the time. >KB

    Liked by 1 person

  3. July 29, 2014 at 11:51 AM

    I can relate to the self-worth issue and I have to say here that you are an amazing talent.
    Thanks for the food for thought.

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 29, 2014 at 12:36 PM

      T, I think many, many can relate. And not just people from trauma backgrounds. It is bandied about so much, but really I don’t think we stop and think it through. Or realize we may be laboring under false constructs about what has value.
      I am, as always, humbled by compliments on my writing, so thank you.
      And hey, don’t chew on that food for thought with yer mouth open 😉 (hugs)

      Like

  4. July 29, 2014 at 11:26 PM

    Boy, change a few things and parts of the post could be my life. I’m 51 and not sure what if anything people value in me. I was a curious child, always wanting to know what was around the corner. If I did this with this what would happen. At 5 yrs. old I would take Dixie cups and tin pans, mix dirt and Turtle Wax together to see how quickly the bottom would fall out. I did not become a chemist, worst subject for me in school. Actually the only area I excelled in was Journalism. I can’t say I was the best writer on the team but my passion for writing came thru. I would work till midnight to meet a deadline, what ever it took. I had the chance to write sports for the local paper, probably one of my greatest accomplishments on the outside. I’m proud of myself but don’t put that in my list of values. If I looked at myself hard, I would say I’m still very curious, can’t learn enough. Yet it could also be because I was told I was stupid all the time, maybe that’s what drives me, feeling inadequate, I didn’t go to college, not the smartest kid, my grades were enough to get me by. Where I excel is my heart, I survived the abuse, I’m tough, determined, feel empathy. I was a great caregiver to my grandparents. The caregiver in me extends to the people I talk with everyday. I’m honest with people, I open myself up to help others. I don’t know if anyone else values these qualities in me. I know what I value in others and it’s rarely something you can see. It’s what comes from their heart. I value you for your honesty, for allowing others to take for your experiences and learn, you are thriving not just surviving. It was great to go in the way back machine, I love the little chemist in me. Hugs my Sister, 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • July 29, 2014 at 11:32 PM

      LOL! Love the Turtle Wax and dirt 🙂 Biology in HS and College were the things I enjoyed most. Your value shows in your heart and concern for others, all of the time. S.U.C.K.A Hugs back LFTL…

      Like

      • July 29, 2014 at 11:56 PM

        Okay, I’m not quite with the times. I have no idea what the letters stand for. I think sucker is the first, but cluesless. It shows I don’t text or a little slow! 🙂

        Like

        • July 30, 2014 at 7:14 AM

          LOL, I came up with it during a conversation with AI –
          Survivors
          Unite
          Courageously
          Kicking
          Ass

          Happy Hump Day 🙂

          Like

          • July 30, 2014 at 11:25 AM

            No wonder I was clueless on the meaning! Have a great day. All the damn drugs are fucking me up bad. I hope this isn’t my life for the next 18 months. I’m using all the mental capacity I have to answer e-mails. Its time for my mid day drugs, today is the shot day. Why would they make a drug in shot form can’t they put it in a pill? Right now I’m so drugged I don’t know if I could even draw the right amount in the syringe. I’m at the beginning of my journey with Lyme but I already know it sucks bad. My husband may have to do the shots, when you this stoned you really don’t need to handle needles. Thanks for letting me dump on you. I’m still getting my head around what is happening in my body. My brain, actually my whole body but it likes my brain more. It’s a virus the looks like a spiral pasta, it is so smart it can cover its self so the microscope can’t see it, the doctors think you’re finally well but the bastard is there. Then you start again with more aggressive drugs to run the bastard out of town. Fun! Fun! 🙂

            Like

            • July 30, 2014 at 11:59 PM

              Oh my! I hope you feel better soon LFTL :/

              Like

              • July 31, 2014 at 1:01 AM

                Soon is about 16-18 months away but as long as I’m moving forward I’m good. Lyme is one those diseases that gets much worst before it gets better. What it doesn’t know is I am one tough BITCH and I will not lay down in defeat. 🙂

                Like

  5. July 30, 2014 at 12:22 AM

    As I sat in a teacher training today, I really paid attention (sometimes)…anyway, I would perk up when I heard other teachers sharing about teaching kids positive self-talk, and how most of us, can easily generate a list of what is wrong with ourselves, but not what we do well. My eyes are open and I am looking for the changes around me…and the “buzz topic” of the day? Teaching kids to be writers…hmmmm……I believe I hold some passion in this area:-)

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 30, 2014 at 7:19 AM

      Thank you for being a teacher! I hope you’re not wrestling with ‘Common Core’ issues :/ It is a fine line between teaching honest self-worth and then over-inflating kids and not preparing them for the real world. Give those creative little minds lots of pens and paper, I know you’ll do a fab job with it 🙂

      Like

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