This week is all about learning how we can stop attaching our self-worth to the achievements, outcomes and expectations we have about our lives and how to stop feeling worth-less whenever life doesn’t meet these ideals that we have been taught to believe define our worth.
You will find that some of these attachments are not about being a parent at all. We often blame our new life, our child’s behaviour or some other parenting event for our stress, depression or anxiety, but when we dig a little deeper we find that it is usually something very different that is bothering us that needs to be addressed.
At the bottom of it all is what you believe these events mean about you. These incorrect beliefs are what make you feel bad about your life.
Let’s continue to look at the different way we do this:
From the moment we enter our schools we are taught to define ourselves by what we do, what we are and what we have. Society likes to put people into categories and focus on achievement and how we can make life go right, so very early on we learn to define ourselves by how we are fitting in with society.
We may have grown up in a rich area where people had a lot of possessions, were well off and the kids at school always had expensive things. We may have come to believe that this is what we need to have in our lives and give to our children, so if circumstances arise where we are no longer able to have these things, we begin to feel worth-less because of it.
Upgrade: Worth comes from existence. That’s it. Whether we have expensive things or not, our worth comes from how we are learning and growing in life and how our knowledge and our existence contributes to the lives of others. Having money and things contributes to having an easier lifestyle, being able to buy more things and keeping the economy functioning, but equally having very little amount of money helps you to appreciate things that you do get to have, helps you to respect money and feel rewarded when you get what you have been striving for. You can help your kids learn more about the value of a dollar and the value of hard work, determination and the self-confidence that is gained from being able to buy what you have worked for.
Both of these scenarios hold value to your life. Either one of these scenarios contributes to your life in a beneficial way and contributes to the lives of those around you. It all depends on how you look at it!
Being a ‘good’ mother
From the moment we find out we are pregnant and we are given our bounty bags full of information about pregnancy and having a child, we are bombarded with how to get parenting right. We see huggies commercials that show us how we should feel so happy and in love with our child and what is the right way to feel. We hear stories where parents are exposed when they have done the ‘wrong’ thing. We here endless documentaries telling us about new research on how to do this or that with your child in order to make them happier, more confident, smarter, healthier, more attractive etc. All of this information is educational, but often it compounds into parents feeling like there are so many things that they need to do in order to raise their children in the ‘right’ way, that if they make even one little mistake or see their child unhappy due to something that could have been prevented, they wind up feeling like a bad parent.
The attachment of everything going right in parenting in order to be a good mother, is a very common cause of stress, depression and anxiety.
Upgrade: To upgrade this one, we need to look at the whole reality thinking model. The reality of being a parent is that we cannot control how our children’s lives unfold. They will misbehave as they learn what is appropriate behaviour. They will go through developmental stages. They are learning how to interpret life themselves and you are not the only teacher in their lives. As they grow up, they are also learning off dad, grandparents, siblings, friends and even strangers. These people all have their own experiences that have taught them how to view life and they are all contributing to the learning of your little one. We cannot control how our children perceive life, so we will never be able to control how they respond to it or behave. All we can do as their parents, is educate ourselves as much as we can on how to help our children learn to deal with life whenever issues come up, and pass on our knowledge to them.
However they are experiencing their life, this is what they need in order for the them to get the learning they need in their journey through life. Every experience they have is valuable to their learning and growing. You will never get life to go right for them all the time, because no one experiences a life without ups AND downs. You are only ever doing what you know how to do and just by existing as their mum and passing on the information that you currently have in the best way you know how to teach it right now, IS you being the best parent that you can be.
Your worth is not attached to the outcome of your child’s behaviour, how they look, how happy they are or how their life is unfolding. As difficult as it is to watch our children go through their lows in life, especially if it is because of a decision that you made, it is a reality of life and you have contributed to some learning that they needed to develop their lives. That learning that they received will go on to influence other people in their lives and help them to be the people they are.
This doesn’t mean that we are going to let life just go badly for them all the time and that we won’t put sensible measures in place to make life as comfortable as possible for them. It just means that if something is happening that wasn’t part of the plan, then you just need to show them the value in it and how to gain an accurate view of the new unplanned situation by teaching them that their worth has not lessened because of this unexpected experience. Instead, try to see how it has benefited yours and their life.
Attachment to labels
Very early on in childhood, we are often given labels or called names that we may consciously or unconsciously continue to hold onto. Labels such as the good girl, the smart one, the responsible one, the popular one, the one that kept the family together, the attractive one, the skinny one or other certain characteristics that we learn to live up to. All of these kinds of labels became how we define our worth, how we feel valuable to the world, so if something occurs in our lives where we are unable to live up to these labels, then we can begin to feel like we are less valuable, that is, worth-less.
On the other end of the scale, however we can also be labelled as being the bad girl, the dumb one, the irresponsible one, the unpopular one, the troublemaker of the family, the ugly one, the fat one or many other names that you could have been given as a child. We discussed how some of these names can affect how we view our lives in the first week of the program.
Now that you know a little bit more about how we attach self-worth to things, you can see that you have attached your self-worth to these things in the opposite way to attaching these good things to your worth. If you had attached being the good girl to your self-worth then you are always seeking ways to live up to this label so that you feel worthy again. If you were taught to believe that you were the bad one though, then you will be seeking ways to live up to that label too. Not because it makes you feel better, but because that is all you believe your worth to be. You only believe that you are a bad person, so you continue to find evidence of you being that kind of person. Through this lens, you will never set your aims any higher, because this label is what you believe you deserve to be. It’s all your brain knows.
Upgrade: The reality is that you are neither a good person or a bad person, you are simply a person who has learnt to view life and respond to it according to the wiring in your brain which has come from all of your experiences to date.
In order to stop attaching your worth to the labels that you have in your mind, you need to continue seeing why you are a valuable person right now! How are you contributing and adding value to another person’s life right now? What are the current roles you are playing right now – mother, wife, friend, daughter, worker etc and how are these roles benefiting someone else’s life? How is your knowledge contributing to how their lives unfolds and the direction it takes? How is your participation in that person’s life teaching them more about life? Also, what are these roles teaching you about life that is beneficial? How is this learning contributing to what you know about the events (parenting, breastfeeding, teaching a child to sleep, dealing with tantrums etc) and also about life (how to love yourself, how to think about the ups and downs of life, how to understand what’s going on with you or those around you).
Whatever person you think you have been taught to be, is not what defines your worth. Just existing and doing what you know how to do defines your worth.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t still be the responsible person, or the organised one or the one that keeps the family together. It just means that you are not completely defined by that label, so if life happens where you aren’t able to live up to that label then that’s okay too because you are still 100% worthy.
Attaching self-worth to how life unfolds, period
The core ingredient to living a happy life is to be able to find your worth in any event that occurs in your life. Sometimes it seems as if everything is going wrong at once. For example, you had a bad labour, couldn’t breastfeed, your child cries all the time, you’re getting no sleep, have very little support, your husband is detached and depressed himself, you don’t feel like you are bonding with your child and you feel like you have completely lost yourself in this new and overwhelmingly different stage of your life.
The reality is that it would be very difficult for anyone to feel happy when all of those things are going on in their life. However, as we have discussed, having a happy life is not about the emotion of happiness. It’s being able to have a healthy view of the ups and downs of life. You aren’t always going to feel happy about some of the things that occur in your life and that doesn’t mean that your life is worth-less.
It simply means that there is a bump in the road. All of these things happening at once is merely teaching you new skills about how to handle things. It just means that there are many things that you need to learn all at once, or you need to prioritise what’s the most important thing to learn first and let the rest fall by the way side.
What is going to stop this situation from ending in you feeling depressed or anxious, is to realise that there are many times in life where we are overwhelmed with challenges that seem to come one after the other. These things are not due to your life being wrong or because of your shortcomings. They are only due to the reality of life that these things happen. Almost everyone in life has or will go through times of difficulty and most come out the other side with enormous lessons in life that go on to contribute to the lives of those around them who they speak to and interact with that are affected by those lessons, not to mention how it contributes to their lives as it continues to unfold..
Detach your self-worth from the events in your life, period. Your worth is intrinsic. It cannot be added to. It cannot be taken away. You are always giving a part of yourself to life. You are doing it right now as you read this program. You are contributing to this program’s success financially, which means it can afford to continue on and help thousands more people who are feeling exactly like you. By learning what’s on this program and applying it to your life, you are learning a different way to think about life and will pass that learning onto your children. As a result of learning this information you will respond differently with your husband, to your children, your parents, your friends and complete strangers in the street. You may even go on to teach people from your experience of depression.
All of this came from you learning something new.
Let go of outcome and life having to be a certain way in order for you to be valuable, because ‘getting life right’ does not define self worth and it does not define a successful life.
If you were to look at the most traumatic experiences in people’s lives that resulted in them hitting rock bottom, whether it was from drugs, a tragic event, an event that nearly took their life, or because of severe depression, being suicidal, you would see that those that bounced back from that were stripped back to basics. Those events forced them to peel back all of those layers of identity, the labels that they were conditioned to live up to, those attachments to things, social class and materialism and they were forced to become real and rediscover what life was really about and how worthy they really were.
You don’t have to reach rock bottom for you to get this learning and pick yourself back up. If you are reading this and you already feel like you have reached rock bottom, then I’m giving you this lifeline right now.
You are valuable, right now! You just have to search for why to confirm this new belief. I know that your worth is 100% all the time, but you need to know it for yourself. It is going to mean nothing for me to just say to you that you are always worthy because you are learning and contributing, because it’s just going to sound like a cliché that you hear all the time.
You have to seek out why this statement is true. Start with your past and look at what you have learnt from the good times and the bad. Look at the many different roles that you’ve played throughout your life so far and how these roles have contributed to the lives of others and to your own life. Look for the skills you’ve learnt, the life lessons you’ve taken, how you have grown etc. All of your past experiences have got you to where you are now. Now look at your current experiences. These too shall flow on to contribute to how your life unfolds in the future. This too shall teach you more about life. This too shall flow on to how others’ lives unfold.
It’s not all bad. It’s just that you have only been trained to see the bad. Now you are training yourself to find the value and to acknowledge experientially that you are always worthy, just by being you.