Self Worth: Conditions Apply
I heard someone say recently, "I'm afraid my self-worth is conditional." I heard this while I was busy Biore-ing every inch of my face.
I wasn't quite sure what that sentence meant, but it seemed like something I had probably felt, and better than what I actually felt, it seemed like it could make a good blog. I mean, I come from a loving and accepting home, but like everyone else on earth, I am still branded with the warning label that we all have plastered on our foreheads: conditions apply.
The phrase "conditions apply" is the verbal equivalent of "read the fine print." It's a disclaimer. Conditions are rules. But what are the rules? And who made them anyway? Who signed me up for this game?
Crap. I hate it when I have to think about this stuff.
In cases like this when I have a good title for a blog and need a thousand words to line up behind it, I text everyone I know and wait for someone to say something brilliant then give them no credit whatsoever. It's my process.
Typically, no one responds, so I Google. Furiously. I Google definitions and phrases. Often I get lost in a YouTube loop about baby elephants, and days later come back and moan in agony until I get words down on paper.
Today is no different. I just watched the entire coronation of Queen Elizabeth II because I didn’t want to face that my own self-worth is still an issue.
When things get really desperate in my writing, you'll find me pretending I'm interested in the origin of a word. Exempli gratia:
Condition: From the Latin condicere. "Con" meaning with, and "dicere" meaning say. Which turned into meaning "agree upon", then later "agreement", then somewhere the French got a hold of it, probably tried to roll it into cigarette form, and voila! Here we are today.
Can you tell I'm uncomfortable talking about something I deal with every other heartbeat? The Googling continued.
In my research (read: aggressive procrastination), I came across the new love of my life: Carl Rogers.
<note: this is how little I went to class in college...I should know who this is.>
Carl Rogers was a fancy psychologist (well, a famous one, anyway). His whole thing was that for people to "grow" they needed an environment that provides them genuineness, acceptance and empathy. Whatever that means. He said that trees need sunlight and water to grow tall and strong, and we need all that emotional jazz to grow healthy relationships and personalities. Cool.
He pretty much told all the rest of the world of psychology to shove it. He was know for saying something like, "Yeah, ok, behaviorism and psychoanalysis...blah blah whatever. That doesn't mean people are locked into their personalities. We behave the way we do because of the way we perceive things."
Go on, Carl.
He said that we humans want to thrive. It's like the only motive we have...to be the best thing we think we can be given the environment that we're in. We want to feel and behave in ways that are consistent with two things: our self-image, and what we want to be like. The closer those two things are to each other, the higher our self-worth, and less of a piece of crap we'll feel like.
I'm paraphrasing ever-so-slightly. There was a Venn diagram involved.
Ok, so if the way we want to be is light years apart from the way we actually are, we feel like crap. Fine. But how did that happen? Are we born this way? How do we get those two things closer together? Can we learn to grow even if we don’t naturally have the right soil in which to thrive? You know…can we replant ourselves or whatever?
I took a break from watching babies laughing at sneezing puppies, and picked up an Anne Lamott book. She always makes me feel better. She was saying that we came into the world without a user’s manual. And that we’re doing the best we can based on what we’ve learned. This makes sense to me. We all teach what we learn, so maybe we can’t beat up our parents if they inadvertently taught us conditions to worthiness. Anne Lamott also says that she thinks she make Jesus want to drink gin straight out of the cat’s dish when she talks crap about people. And although that has nothing to do with worthiness, it’s really funny and I can’t stop laughing.
Ok. So. We might grow up with a template of worthiness based on a world that just is the way it is. Clearly that comes to a head when you’re a teenager. And no one is ok when they're a teenager. Only now being a teenager starts at 9, and ends at 35. Or, at least I hope it ends at 35. What do we do now? What does conditional worthiness even look like?
Thinking about all of this this is what keeps me pulling up Drunk History episodes on my iPad whilst GrubHubbing DeFazio's "Hangover Cake" on my phone.
Let’s do this like a band aid. What makes my self-worth plummet? Sometimes it’s something little like a friend not texting back, especially when I send a dope-ass meme. Sometimes it’s being in the middle of a thought, and getting interrupted by someone who isn't patient enough to let me finish (this one’s hard because sometimes it takes me a while to get out a thought because my mouth is slower than my brain). Sometimes it’s my weight or skin or hair. If only they were better…where they should be, then I would be ok. I would wear the thing I want to wear if only I didn't look like this today. Maybe I embarrass people the way I am now. Maybe I should just stay home.
For some other people their self-worth is connected to their performance at work. For some it’s their status socially…especially if they think they’re being judged for being single. A friend of mine said, “Having someone with you gives you a certain status achieved at the dinner table.” Amen man.
Some people find their self-worth through validation as a whole. If I do something, tell me I’m good at it, or else I’m not ok with myself. Others feel their worthiness comes from giving sex away. Sometimes it's that we feel like crap if our families treat us poorly…even though we can’t see that they’re suffering too.
The point is, we all have a thing that makes us say, “Yeah I’m ok, but I’d be better if…”
I just heated up a nice hot mug of NyQuil.
When do I get a bat signal for Brene Brown? Brene isn’t the only one to talk about the Not Enough phenomenon, and I’ll happily throw my hat in the ring, but this is actually a step beyond the Not Enough thing for me. I think I am, in fact, “enough.” At least I do now. But is being enough, for me, enough? Doesn’t it sound like kind of a lame way to accept mediocrity?
Back to Carl. Sometimes we use things to help bridge the gap between who we want to be, and what we actually are. The bridge is the crutches we use to get past the hot-lava of our conditions. It's a very high, shoddily built rope bridge with a lot of the slats missing. It wobbles and seems like something out of the climax of one of the Indiana Jones movies. And it's usually made of pills, or sex, or food, or being crappy to people, or clinging to a routine. Sometimes one end of the bridge is on fire too, just for added drama.
What’s wild is that the deeper the separation between who we actually are and who we think we should be, the more we play into the conditions – the worse the conditions become – the longer the scary rope bridge. The more Chinese food we eat in bed. The less we take care of ourselves. The more we drink. The less we go out to meet friends, or we go out to meet friends too much. Then the crap gets deeper, and the conditions get steeper.
I’ve moved on from YouTube to eating my weight in dove chocolate/peppermint bites because I know there isn’t an answer. Well, there is an answer, but it’s not something we can fix in a blog. There’s a lifetime’s worth of self-talk we have to address. So I think today is just about acknowledging that we all have the Conditions Apply warning on our self-worth, at least some of the time, and that it takes a lot of work to shorten the bridge.
I think it takes trust. I hope it takes trust, because that's all I've got. It's looking at the people around you that are telling you that you're not terrible, and believing them at least some of the time. I know they may not have seen the darkest corners of your mind, or know the things you've done behind the bathroom door alone. But if you build trust with the right people, they'll stick with you anyway because they have closed bathroom doors too. We all do. Everyone has a thing...or things...that we just KNOW would be a deal breaker if anyone really saw it. I'm here to tell you that you're not as terrible as you think. Yeah, even that thing that you’re thinking of. Even that.
Maybe my being enough will be ok for today. Maybe this isn’t the best blog ever written. But I did it. Maybe I don’t like the way I look right now, but it doesn’t mean I’m not worthy of being loved (it does however mean that I don’t care about going to a bar in my drinking hoodie). I just wonder what would happen if I gave some of the conditions a rest for the weekend. Maybe I’d actually get more stuff done. I know I’d watch less videos of cats taking down Christmas trees.
But I have been meaning to marathon The Crown on Netflix…