Each one of us, at some point in our lives, experiences a time when we’re uncertain of our own value; not just to others but to ourselves. When most people think of the word “value,” a monetary concept probably comes to mind. How much do you make from your job? What is your financial worth? How much real estate do you own? That’s not the kind of value I’m referring to here, although money does play a role in the concept, as you’ll see shortly.
I’m mostly referring to the value we place in what we value as individuals, or “self-value.” More behavioral than emotional, self-value is different than self-esteem, which is more about how we feel about ourselves when compared to other people. Self-value has more to do with how we behave toward the things we value, including people.
If you’re going to “value” something, you have to do more than just think of it as important. There must be an inherent appreciation of its characteristics and qualities, good and bad, while investing the time to nurture and maintain your association with it.
In order to truly value something material, you must accept everything about the object and appreciate all of its inherent characteristics. If, for example, you value muscle cars, you probably enjoy far more about any one vehicle than its financial worth. Your value in the vehicle rests in a full appreciation of the machine’s components, handling, paint finishes, and so on. Much in the way someone might appreciate a piece of fine art, or chef’s signature creation.
The same is true for the people in our lives as well. When we place a higher value in others, we do the same for ourselves. And, conversely, when you devalue others, your own value suffers as well. Here is an example.
Suppose someone who you employ is not performing as you expected. First, you need to evaluate if the expectations were clearly laid out at the beginning. Does he or she know what you expect from them as well as they knowing what to expect from you? If it was not clearly defined at the beginning, a misinterpreted expectation can cause you to devalue each other.
Additionally, when we place and express value in those around us, our own self-value increases. Plus, this behavior is generally reciprocated in many ways. When people realize their valued with you, they are more cooperative, more open to change that might originate from you, and allows you to more fluently communicate with those who might have been resistant otherwise.
So how do you get there? How do you go from being less self-focused, to more able to value the things and people around you? Personally, I think most of it can happen by just lifting your eyes from the floor and be more aware.
We have a terrible tendency today to live our lives in a bit of a vacuum. Part of that is caused by technology but also our society. Modern Americans are isolationists and self-segregators. We tend to gravitate to what’s easier, what’s mostly like us and what we’re used to, rather than put in the time to appreciate differences.
Literally and figuratively, we walk around with our heads down and faces in a screen, so we miss a great deal of what’s going on around us. How are you supposed to value what you never even see? There is no value on the Facebook post you just shared or in that two-hundred-thousandth cat video you watched on Instagram today.
For our lives to have value, beyond money, we must embrace differences, explore new opportunities, and be open to fresh experiences. It’s hard, I won’t minimize that, but it can be done. You have to want it and commit to it and sacrifice for it.
To value anything outside yourself, and in turn, giving your own life more meaning, you have to commit to a higher standard of physical, emotional and professional well-being. Nothing of value is easy. But you have to start by honoring your own values, keep your eyes open and be wary of those people and things that cause you to devalue yourself, and, above all, be compassionate.