"To have a healthy sense of self-worth our self-esteem and self respect have to be in proper balance. Self-Esteem reflects how highly we regard ourselves and it mostly derives from our sense of our natural attributes. Self-respect has a lot to do with a retrospective assessment of ourselves and our actions. Therefore, self-esteem is more about knowing what we’ve been given (for ex. beauty, natural talents). Self-respect is about looking back on what we’ve done with our gifts." (Excerpted from Dr. Simon's article "The Spirituality of Self-Esteem and Self-Respect")
In the past few years I have been questioning my self-worth a lot.
It's always been a challenge for me to find a balance between my self esteem and my self respect. There were areas where i had a lot of both and others where i completely lacked them.
In my mind self-worth equaled my performances, so school has been my rehearsal stage pretty much my entire youth until I've moved into the next phase of my life and entered the work environment. Once there the focus has moved from grades to overall performances such as showing up prepared at every meeting, providing articulated and well thought answers for every question, meet all required due dates, talk and act with extreme professionalism and juggle multiple tasks with grace and calmness. There was no space for errors or imperfections and anything less than excellent would throw me in a vortex of self beating and depression. Of course I would look at other people through the same lens so my judgment of their worth would be based mainly on their performances (though I was much more compassionate and understanding towards their mistakes....go figure).
Success at work has always felt like the easiest task to achieve. People around me appreciated my efforts and merit made me progress quite quickly feeding my self-esteem and self-respect, so I thought performance is what you are supposed to measure yourself against. On top of that, the vision I held for myself seemed to be in line with what society considers the greatest achievement so when i got pregnant with my daughter i started to have conflicting thoughts about how to handle the maternity leave and fear became my predominant emotion.
At the time I thought it was due to the fact that parenthood was a new experience for me, but reality is that my sense of self worth was strongly tied to my work life and being removed from that environment meant being left with my true self.
Life has many creative ways to knock you off your feet and if you are not insightful enough to understand what's the reason behind that you end up living a life of struggle and misery.
When my daughter was born my motherly instinct kicked in causing a major identity crisis.This teeny tiny baby meant the world to me and leaving her in the hands of a stranger scared me more than anything else so I decided to quit my job to take care of her, but as the days passed by my self worth got weaker and weaker so when she turned 10 months I succumbed to the pressure of my self criticism and started to look for a job.
Just around that time my marriage started to capitulate so when i went back to work another identity crisis kicked in and I didn't seem to be capable of acting as the person I once was. Lack of focus and motivation made me become unreliable and untrustworthy and all the qualities that once made me a good employee were nowhere to be found. Pride and perfection left the place to a sense of shame and guilt and my self-worth crushed helplessly.
Once love and compassion become the criteria you measure yourself against you realize that you don't need anybody else's approval to feel good about yourself and you no longer need to prove yourself worth anything. Our inner critic is often our worst enemy and only when we learn to transform it into our best friend we are able to listen to the voice of our Soul and follow our true passions and desires.
Yes, passions and desires should be the motivation behind our choices but most of us believe that that is the illusion of the fools and the recipe for disaster. Financial security and sense of comfort is what drives most of our actions and when we are asked to face our fears and walk towards the unknown we feel so challenged that we prefer to ignore the call of our Soul and sacrifice our true happiness.
"Your brains is designed to make you safe but your Soul is designed to make you soar. When you get to the edge your brains will always tell you to step back because you might fall, or because you fell before or because you saw someone else falling before your eyes. But some day you've got to listen to your Soul. Most people stand at the edge of the cliff and watch other people fly and they wonder what is it going to be like when they jump, without ever jumping. And I am here to tell you "JUMP!" because only 3 things can happen:
1) You are either going to jump and fly, or
2) You're going to jump and fall on something soft, or
3) You're going to fall down hard
Either way you are going to get back up, because you already know you've got what it takes to get back up. Your greatest fear is not that you will fall, is that you live a full life without ever flying. Give your dreams a chance." Lisa Nichols.
I've listened to these words over and over again while driving, walking, shopping, in the hope to find the courage to put them into practice. For now I'm still standing at the edge of the cliff scared like a bird who never flew before but I know it's just a matter of time. Sooner than later I will open my wings and explore the world on the other side of my fears.
Wish me good luck!