*Before you begin reading, be aware that this isn’t a story to entice sympathy. My only wish is to pass on knowledge.
Value [‘vɶl yu]: worth, merit, importance (n)
Part l: Searching for Value
I have imperfections. Real, debilitating imperfections.
I’m a chronic avoider, and not only do I avoid people and situations that make me uncomfortable, I’ve used my poor ability to communicate as a crutch for continuing this bad habit.
Naturally, it’s a “genetic” condition. I come from a long line of avoiders and poor communicators, stemming from years and years of religious fanaticism, unhealthy relationships, abuse, and unstable perceptions of self-esteem.
Don’t worry! I wasn’t abused nor neglected during my upbringing. Not at all. I know my parents love me and each of my siblings, and they did their very best to raise us to be kind, respectful, caring individuals.
We were just deprived of something we desperately wanted: verbal validation of our self-worth. We wanted to hear “you are important”, “you matter”, “we’re proud of you”, “we love you”, but these verbal confirmations of efficacy were few and far between.
I mean, it makes sense why this happened. Despite my father being the quiet breathing soul of our family, using his wisdom and intellect to keep us grounded, and my mother being the compassion beating heart of our family, using emotions to keep us together, they both came from families of avoiders and poor communicators, and being exposed to this type of upbringing, they unintentionally continued the vicious cycle of avoiders and poor communicators.
Want to know what happens to a family that lacks expressiveness!?! Despite being deep down loving & caring people, they develop weird quirks:
- My older sister has the tendency to be a domineering competition-seeker, challenging those in opposition of her.
- My older brother, at times, is an introverted recluse, speaking only when spoken to.
- My other older brother tends to be a homebody, constantly needing mother’s approval.
- I am “forth and forgotten” absentmindedly moving to the beat of my own drum and using travel to further avoid problematic people and situations, but labeling it as “seeking simplicity”.
- My younger sister is a confrontation-adverse artist, lacking the gumption to go after success.
Yet, my family is in no way unique. Who doesn’t have “The Domineering One”, “The Recluse”, or “The Mama’s Boy” in their family?
Me: “Our family is weird and we suck at expressing our true feelings.”
My father: “Congratulations! You just described every family in the world.”
Here’s the problem: We are searching for validation in the wrong places, and so, our weird quirks (i.e., our behaviour) are overcompensating for our lack of self-worth.
Of course, it’s natural to seek affirmation of one’s worth from one’s parents. Everyone does it intentionally or unintentionally. Yet if we don’t get enough from them, we seek validation in our other relationships (romantic & platonic). Subsequently, if we still don’t feel adequately valued from our personal relationships, we look for confirmation from our circumstances (i.e., our status, physical appearance, possessions).
This dependency is very dangerous. In extreme cases, this dependency is used to control marginalized groups.
We will never find our value in an extrinsic source.
- Do you have less value because your parents don’t affirm your self-worth? [No, you don’t.]
- Do you have more value because you’re in a romantic relationship? [No, you don’t.]
- Do you have more value because you have children? [No, you don’t.]
- Do you have less value because you don’t get along with your coworkers? [No, you don’t.]
- Do you have more value because you believe in a deity? [No, you don’t.]
Our value is not defined by our relationships.
Here we go again:
- Do you have more value because you travel? [No, you don’t.]
- Do you have less value because you don’t look like a model? [No, you don’t.]
- Do you have more value because you’re the CEO of a multi-millionaire company? [No, you don’t.]
- Do you have less value because you don’t have the latest iPhone? [No, you don’t.]
- Do you have less value because you failed that math test in 6th grade? [No, you don’t.]
Our value is not defined by our circumstances.
We have value, simply because we are.
Contentment [kən’tɛnt mənt]: modest satisfaction; the ease of mind (n)
Part ll: Searching for Contentment
So, we’ve determined that our value is intrinsic.
We repeat to ourselves “I’m awesome sauce” and we go on living without insecurities.
Ha. Easier said then, done. Amirite.
We’re feeling awesome sauce until someone prettier, smarter, richer, cooler, funnier, [insert insecurity-causing quality] walks by.
Oh dear. We need to reel in our high expectations and put them in check.
Society has a prescribed recipe for success, and until you achieve this ideal, you will never experience true happiness. Hands up if you’ve thought any of the following: “I will be happier when I’m 10 pounds thinner”, “I will be happier when I make more money”, “I will be happier when I’m in a relationship”, “I will be happier when I’m more outgoing”, “I will be happier if I look more like (insert idolized person).”
Prepare for a sh*t storm of dissatisfaction, my friend.
Here are the problems:
- Comparing ourselves to society’s ideal is bullsh*t. Even if we get closer to this ideal, it will always change, making it an impossible goal to achieve.
- Pursuing happiness is bullsh*t. You will never be happy simply because you think you don’t deserve to be happy. You haven’t earned it yet. You devalue yourself for not having the prescribed attributes. And thus, your circumstances will always disrupt your emotional balance, creating an endless cycle of unhappiness.
Recently, I wrote down a list of “What I Want in a Relationship”, which should be rightfully renamed a list of “Unrealistic Expectations that [I Think] Will Validate My Association with a Romantic Partner”.
I had 10 seemingly well-thought out items on this list, ranging from “someone who I can create common goals with” to “someone who is hot AF with Class A style and eyebrows on fleek” (half kidding about the latter (｡•̀ᴗ-)✧ ).
OMG. Don’t. Ever. Do. This. It ruins relationships. Trust me.
I created my own recipe for happiness. I thought, “Until all 10 items are checked off my list, I will not be truly happy in my romantic relationship.”
I’m an idiot.
So if I meet someone who only ticks off 9/10 items, oh too bad! They will NEVER make me happy. *pushes them off a cliff.
See the danger of putting your happiness in the hands of others!?! It puts extraordinary pressure on your [potential] significant other, and will surely leave you in a hysterical mess.
Now, take a moment and ask yourself, “Am I content?”
Wait. Isn’t contentment a synonym of happiness!?!
The difference: Happiness is a fleeting feeling that ebbs and flows like the tide.
Contentment, on the other hand, is constant state of being.
Seeking contentment requires the simple act of admitting you’re satisfied. Your fundamental (physical, emotional, psychological) needs are being met, your expectations are in check, you deal with problems calmly & fairly, you love others simply for who they are, and you do not feel compelled to desire more. Life is good. Just as it is.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pursue your goals, have new experiences or try to be a better person. Not at all. It just means when new opportunities come around, remember that they won’t add or lessen your value, but instead, just be grateful for their occurrence. Likewise if new opportunities don’t come around.
Moral of the story: seek a constant state of contentment in yourself rather than happiness.
And don’t forget: You’re a person of value simply because YOU ARE.
Kaeru Domicile Café: A place of comfort. A place of contentment.