I ate a hamburger and fries today.
I also did homework, paid bills, called insurance companies for my parents to battle about prescription drug costs, listened to an LDS conference talk, went for a short walk, wrote a letter to a friend in prison, surprised my mom with something small she's been talking about for weeks, mailed a package to a friend who I felt could use a pick me up, cleaned my apartment, went to the grocery store and while there gathered up some random shopping carts spread throughout the parking lot, and called an older gentleman from my mission who doesn't get out much just to see how his weekend went …. but …. I ate a hamburger and fries today, and somehow, that's all that matters.
Now, I cringe as I write the list of things I did today because I'm by no means Mother Teresa (unless one becomes Mother Teresa just by returning shopping carts scattered randomly around parking lots – then I definitely am :) ) and I feel like someone might read the above and think, "Who does she think she is? How prideful can you get?! – Service doesn't count if it's shared and she's just saying it to get attention …" I assure you, that is not my intention and I am way ahead of you in thinking that it could be and judging myself because of it – ha! I beat you! :). Also, just for your information, last Monday I spent the whole day watching Criminal Minds and Drop Dead Diva on Netflix while ignoring every phone call I got … It all evens out in the end folks, it all evens out in the end . . .
I share the list of what I did today to give you context, so we can see together how insane my mind gets about things sometimes and where I go as I search for value and meaning for myself as a person.
In my last post I mentioned bullying and kindness and how I believe that kindness must be taught to children and adults alike. I believe that through acts of kindness, lives can be changed and many of the dark moments of life can be avoided. However, I also know that more often than not, kindness won't always prevail in our lives, so teaching our children (and while I know I don't have my own kids I can take the Michael Jackson approach and know that "children are our future" and see all the world's children as my own, haha) and preparing ourselves for what to do when cruelty and meanness comes is as important as teaching about being kind. People will be mean; comments will continue to be made about one's outward appearance – maybe you are too skinny, or you try too hard, or you are too fat, too ugly, too pretty, too short, too tall; comments will be made about other aspects of your life – what you chose to eat, what you chose to wear, what religion or faith you chose to practice, do you own enough things, take enough trips, are your children getting straight A's and captains of sports teams, do you have too much money, not enough money, are you a stay at home mom or do you work, and on and on and on . . . .
All of these things can press in upon us until we can't breath, until we are running around trying to be enough; that goal being a mirage in the desert because as soon as we make it to what we thought was our destination, the definition of "enough" changes and off we go again. So, what is to be done? Well, I guess we give up.
Now isn't that inspirational?
But, really, give up – give it all up! We all need to figure out how to give up basing our self worth on the opinions of others – especially if those "others" are people who don't even know us or people who purposefully want to hurt us. It isn’t just about giving up the negative opinions that people can have about us but in some degree, also giving up the positive. Now, someone might read that and wonder what in the world I'm talking about … don't worry, my mind asks the other voices in my head all the time that very same question ;) … just stick with me ...
For as long as I can remember my self worth was based on the opinions of others – if someone said something good about me I was riding high – if they said something bad then I was down in the depths of despair, just hoping that something good would come along to bring me up. It was the worst kind of roller coaster ride, one that had me emotionally all over the map. It started in the roots of trauma with two sentences and has lasted for twenty years. The words have caused more lasting damage than any other aspect of the abuse I suffered at eleven; those sentences being, "You are fat, ugly, pathetic, and disgusting. No one will ever want you."
Those words echo in my head to this day, multiple times a day. I believed them then and was horrified at their truth – I wanted nothing more than for them to be false but each time a hurtful incident happened for me it added power to the truth of those words. So, to survive I searched for my worth in the words of others and placed my ultimate healing in what I saw as an ultimate validation of worth – a husband and children. I told my eleven year old self that it will all be okay, I will make it through middle school and high school and when I grow up and get married I will know I was worth something because to get married meant someone would want me, and then the lie that no one could would finally be proven wrong.
So . . . that was a great rule for an eleven year old and I have to say it got me through my adolescents alive and kicking ... however, if you know me, you know I am not yet married with kids ... oops ... my eleven year old self didn't plan for that ... I can smile now but I can tell you without any hesitation that when that rule came crashing down it created one of the darkest times of my life, a time I am still crawling out of and might be for a while yet to come. As a result, I feel that I need to share what I learned so that I can remember it when other dark times come and so that others can maybe not feel alone in the inner battles they fight with self worth.
Self worth must not be based on the foundation of others words or ideas about who we are. I'm not suggesting we stop allowing others to compliment us or express the good they see in us; I'm only suggesting that we not allow those compliments or words to be the foundation we set ourselves upon. Our foundation must come from within and that takes work and conscious effort. The work is battling the voices of others and allowing ourselves to take charge. If only there was a way to do a before and after picture of our souls? What would our daily focus be if that were our goal instead of seeking the validation that comes when we try to align our lives with the outward standards of society and the world in which we live? Because, at some time or another, all will fall short of those standards ... That doesn't mean I can't strive to keep myself physically healthy but it does mean that health isn't just physical – it's mental, emotional, and spiritual as well – and the before/after shots I'm striving for will now come from those last three areas and will be pictures only I can see.
The dictionary defines self worth as: "a feeling that you are a good person who deserves to be treated with respect." I believe all people deserve respect, even people who have done "bad things" and if I can believe that about others how can I continue to hold back believing that about myself? I can't. That leads me back to where we started: I ate a hamburger and fries today. I did all those other things but what was on my mind basically all day and what I allowed myself to judge myself on was eating that stupid hamburger and fries. I felt no self worth and even became a bully to myself, saying awful mean things and reinforcing the message that I've let rule my life for far too long. So, I give up. I let that be what happened and I soak in the silliness of the stupid hamburger and fries defining my worth for today and tell myself that I'm a good person, who deserves to be treated with respect.
I don't have all the answers and in fact, I fail more days than I succeed at this self worth game . . . but what I do have is determination - just ask anyone who has ever played against me in a friendly board game, on the soccer field, or even in a "friendly" debate about which exit will get you to the U faster, Beck Street or 4th South (obviously it's Beck Street) . . . I don't like to lose . . . so, this self-worth game will continue until I win and I hope yours' will too . . .