Inherent Value and a Change in Motivation
I have been spending the past week trying to understand some things and I think they are starting to click into place in a form that is tangible enough for me to write about them, so I might be a little over-zealous in writing these posts in the next week. I apologize in advanced if I get too over-zealous and become annoying.
One of the things that has been settling in this week is the idea of self-worth. It is something I've been working on coming to terms with for much longer than a week, but this week it has been one of those underlying concepts that I've been trying to make sense of. Tonight a conversation with my sister about an article on confidence brought my understanding of this idea out of a state of feeling into actual words.
There are many different aspects to the idea of self-worth, but what I have been learning about this year is the idea that everything in existence has an infinite amount of value simply because it exists. It doesn't mean that all things, people, or actions should be treated the same; but that there is an inherent sense of value in the fact of existence at all. On an abstract level everything has infinite worth and on a personal level, because I am a "thing" I also have infinite worth. The value of all things is inherent. Whether we recognize that value in ourselves or anything else is not.
Value is inherent. Recognition is a skill. What is inherent can't be changed. What is a skill can be developed. So here is what I have been learning:
Whether I recognize my own value or not does not detract from the fact that I am valuable. Whether I recognize another person or being's value does not detract from the fact that they are valuable. Whether someone recognizes my value or not does not detract from the fact that I am valuable. Whether a whole society agrees on the value of a person, object, or other entity or not does not detract from that person, object, or entity's inherent value. What it does do is change the way we interact with what is around us.
So I can choose to recognize my own self-worth or I can choose to undermine it. No matter what I choose my actual value will not change, but my relationship to myself and others will. If I am constantly undermining myself I will experience the pain of feeling worthless. If I feel worthless I will relate to others as someone who feels worthless. This will most likely create an image of worthlessness which they will pick up on and that will reinforce my own initial belief that I am worthless. The cycle will then continue.
However, if the reality is that I am not worthless then my decision to live as someone who is worthless is my decision. Which means it is an action I have continually chosen to make. It also means that it is an action I can continually choose to unmake. The idea of the "illusion" in all the spiritual and esoteric things I've been reading and listening to suddenly makes sense. The illusion is that I can do something to change my own or someone else's value. The reality is that I can't. I will never be worth more or less from an existential perspective no matter what I do or don't do, but my experience in life will change depending on the choices I make. If I choose to foster uplifting, quality relationships then I get to enjoy a life filled with uplifting, quality relationships. If I choose to believe I'm useless then I get to experience life as someone who believes they are useless.
This new perspective is a relief to me because I used to think that I had to become a "good" person in order to have value. I thought that if I made a choice that didn't make me a "good" person then I would become worth less and diminish myself. When I thought like this every choice became overwhelming because the implications of them echoed endlessly.
Without forming into fully understandable word these kinds of thoughts would flood through me and cause me to feel terrified and paralyzed:
If I watch this movie am I misusing my time? Am I promoting ethical beliefs I don't agree with? Am I supporting an industry that promotes an unfair distribution of wealth? Am I taking too much advantage of the fact that I have the money and time to watch a movie? Shouldn't I work more instead? Shouldn't I give away the money instead or use it for something practical? Shouldn't I suffer because that's what I deserve?
These are the kinds of thoughts that have tended to clog my mind for years. Everything I do from this mindset is wrong. No matter what I choose it is wrong because the implications could be something negative and if I believe that negative implications detract from my worth, then every decision takes away my value.
From the new perspective that I am practicing my choices don't have anything to do with my value (or anyone else's). They only have to do with my experience. I can choose to see a movie or not. It might challenge some mis-guided value of mine or not. I can choose to accept that challenge or let it go. No matter what I choose, I will still have worth, so I can be freed from the stress of trying to prove my worth and make choices based on the kind of life I want to live instead.
As a sort of side note, it also means that I can be less egocentric. If my value is not related to the choices I make I can choose to do things based on motivations not linked to how I see myself. It doesn't matter if my giving money to a person who asks for it means I'm an "enabler" or not. If I have extra cash and want to share it then I can, if I don't then I don't have to. Whether I do or not will not change my value as a person or theirs. It might have an effect on both of our experiences but it won't make them good or bad or make me good or bad. If I am free to make my choices without running my sense of identity through them first then I can make them sincerely based on factors that aren't caught up on judgments of myself or others. I can listen to someone else without thinking about how they perceive me, etc. I can choose to be less selfish if I want without worrying as much about my motive because my identity isn't based on whether I am being selfish or not.
This mindset is still really new for me. So I still find myself panicking at least once or twice a day, thinking I've done the wrong thing and the world will come to an end (not really thinking that but feeling like it). I still have to remind myself frequently that there is no "wrong thing." If I don't like something in my life I can choose to change it, if I don't want to change it then I can keep experiencing the same consequences.
There might still be some details to straighten out in my understanding of all of this, but so far I really like this new paradigm and I'm going to keep doing my best to practice it. :)
Thank you for reading. I hope you have a great day or night... or both.. :)