Beauty, status, intelligence, respect, and power: the aspects of life which we covet the most, but the aspects of life which are manifested the least. I often meet people who struggle with self-worth, believing themselves of being unworthy of love, while conceiving of it as some sought after prize which could only be acquired through the persistent effort of a select few who deserve it: the bold, the beautiful, the only ones worthy of its blessing. In our minds, our conception of love resides as an elusive object, if one can even call it such, forever unattainable, and perpetually out of sight, and all of this simply because of our perceived flaws: in our understandings, perfection equals love, but a perfection that’s hardly related to morality, one that’s dissociated from character.
And interestingly enough, when one, or several, of these traits are possessed, their possessors often find themselves longing for missing pieces, hoping and yearning for their saving grace; and, in their quests, their journeys tend to end in misery, with only their shattered dreams left for them to experience some semblance of comfort. Perfectionism, the notion that one has to be perfect in appearance and achievement, is culturally rampant, being sustained, primarily, through compartmentalization; for, as we continually strive for perfection in the forms of beauty and personal success, we sometimes espouse, and to a great extent accept, differing values in our hearts. The most productive sessions I have with individuals struggling with self-esteem are those which afford them opportunities to verbalize their conceptions of human worth, the expressions of the very qualities which make a person valuable and worthy of love. And as you may have already guessed, these manifestations often conflict with their daily desires and goals, for their ideals aren’t their ideals, at least not on any daily, conscious level.
We’ve been reared in a culture, in a society, which instills in us dichotomous beliefs and sets of expectations. On the one hand, we’re taught of the necessity of kindness, hard work, dedication, persistence, resilience, charity, loyalty, and integrity; but on the other, we’re implicitly, and sometimes explicitly, presented with a different set of values, those which inform of us of the importance of financial success, status, beauty, inherent intelligence, and popularity: two sets of conflicting values; two sets of exceptions. And then we wonder why we have a culture of individuals who aren’t able to accept and love themselves. Shocking, isn’t it?…
So, while the first set of values, and expectations, is one which is held, and, when asked, expressed, by the vast majority of individuals, it’s the second one which most of us perpetually struggle with. And while we express our perception that the first set is indicative of love’s worthiness, it is the second set which we chase after, the one that’s more related to luck; and in some way, I suppose, we really believe that only the lucky ones are loved, as far-fetched as it may sound. And, it seems, that if only they can be loved, and only they can be happy, then the rest of us have to carry the burdens provided by our low slots in the pecking order of life; those are our condemnations.
More so than anything else, I love working toward alleviating low self-worth because of the magical moment that’s created when I ask a client to differentiate between their values and their conscious goals; it really feels incredible to hear them say, “Oh my god! Of course that (success, desirability, beauty, intelligence) doesn’t make me worthy of love or happiness; being a good person does!” When that light bulb goes off and they realize that who they want to be isn’t who they’re striving to become, I sit back in awe with them, feeling grateful for that small, but significant, moment shared together in session.
It’s unfortunate that we’re too easily seduced by status and success, perceiving them as ultimate prizes, while persistently forgetting of their illusory qualities, being nothing more than mere mirages of wealth. To be loved and admired by the opposite sex (or the same sex, if not both) is the same as being coveted as a possession, a trophy used for the sole purpose of self-aggrandizement; but, to be truly loved, to be seen and admired for who you are, well that’s something else. The celebrity, the mass affection, the popularity: it all fades in time, because none of it is real, as it isn’t true love. Over the course of my short lifetime, the major piece of wisdom I’ve gathered through, the sometimes harshness of, experience is that the love of one individual who sees you as you are is worth more than the imagined love of a crowd, of individuals who simply want to place you on their mantels.