Saturday, April 30, 2011

How do you define your value?

This has to do with self-esteem. It has to do with how you measure yourself compared to those around you and, more specifically and far more importantly, against whom you choose to compare yourself. What metrics are you using to establish your self-worth?

There is a very peculiar thing happens to some of us. We define our value using the wrong metrics, and our entire self-worth falls apart. The worst culprits are:
1.     possessions
2.     youth
3.     beauty

The problem with defining your value by your possessions is a layered one. First, there is no limit to the sheer amount of possessions you might strive to acquire. You could never collect every classic car, nor could you possibly own every racehorse, every vacation home in every city, every diamond, or all the designer shoes. There will never be a limit, and when you define your value by your possessions, there will simply never be “enough.” Secondly, there will always be someone with something cooler, bigger, faster, shinier, newer, etc. With so many of these things falling under subjective evaluation (do you have the nicest mansion or does your neighbor? Whose trophy wife is prettier?), you will always fall short when compared to somebody. Lastly – and most importantly – I think we all know that it is highly unlikely that having these possessions will make you as happy as you think those who already have them are.

The problem with defining your value by your youth, on the other hand, is an obvious one: you’ve already lined yourself up for inevitable failure. Being mortal human beings, youth is something that escapes all of us – we are meant to age, to grow old, to mature – and if we cling to fleeting phases of our lives and base our self-esteem on things that are, by their very nature, meant to fade away, we will always think we’re worth a little less today than we were yesterday. When you base your worth on your youth, you render yourself nothing more than a depreciating asset. You set yourself up for unhappiness.

The problem with beauty is that it’s subjective. The world has billions of people, all with unique features and mannerisms and assets, and you could never possibly be “the most beautiful.” (I say this realizing that there are many competitions out there that promise to assign that very title, but when I see the winners, as beautiful as they are – and they are! – I can’t help but think of all the other beautiful women who may have also won but never even entered the competition.) There is no single scale for beauty. It comes in countless forms. Just like the problem with possessions, there is never “beautiful enough.” There is no limit, and there will always be another woman who has a bigger smile or prettier eyes or smaller waist or fuller hips or longer legs or better hair.

Do not define your value based on things that could be lost or taken away. Certainly don’t define it by things that will most definitely fade over time. Doing so sets yourself up for nothing but unhappiness. Base your value on things that are designed to increase over a lifetime, and you will always perceive your self-worth to be higher today than it was yesterday. You will find life to be a fruitful experience, and that time delivers a great deal of satisfaction rather than disappointment. Value yourself – and others! – on their wisdom, their philanthropic efforts, their contribution to society, their relationships with others. And throughout your life, focus on these metrics and forget about the empty ones.

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