What Are You Worth?

what are you worthHow is your worth determined?  We live in a society today that tells us what we have, not who we are determines our worth.  Do you have a good job? The right title?  Are you making a certain amount of money?  Are you married?  Do you have kids?

I see this often in my counseling practice.  I used to work at a school in a poor community, where most of the kids would come in hungry because they didn’t have breakfast in the house.  Out of all of the young men on my caseload, all but one wanted to be one of three things when they finished school:  a professional athlete, a rapper or a drug dealer.  They were constantly being fed this message from the media, their peers, their families that this was all they could amount to.  Why could they not be doctors, lawyers or business owners?  Whenever I would pose that question to them they would always respond the same, “I’m not good enough or smart enough to do that.”

I currently work in a more affluent community.  These kids come into my office extremely stressed, anxious and depressed because they got B’s on their report card or might not make it into the college their parents want them to get into.  They may have enough food in their bellies, but the underlying theme is the same…Am I good enough?  Am I worthy?

The problem is that if our worth is determined by outward things, we will forever be a victim of our circumstances.  And guess what?  Circumstances change.  We lose our jobs, go bankrupt, get a divorce, get cut from the team.  Now what?  Our entire world falls apart because that is how we determined our worth. Every time something bad happens, it has the power to set us on this downward spiral to self-pity, anxiety and depression.

Here’s a good example.  A little boy wants to play football.  (Or maybe mom and dad want their son to play football).  The boy does really well all through high school and ends up with a scholarship to a good university.  He plays through college, devoting all of his time and energy to his craft, but he doesn’t end up making it pro (surprise, surprise not many do).  Who is he now?  His entire identity was his football career and now that’s gone.  Major quarter-life crisis!

I think the conversation needs to change.  We need to start teaching our children, nieces, nephews and friends that their worth begins inside. Because when your worth comes from within, you will finally have freedom, you will finally feel at peace.  Instead of focusing on grades, jobs, money, titles, maybe the questions we should be asking are:

Are you kind?
Are you generous?
Are you a good friend?
Are you loving?
Are you forgiving?
What can you do to help others?
Did you make a positive difference in someone’s life today?

Shouldn’t that be what our worth is really based on?  My father used to always say that you should leave a place better than how you found it.  Maybe our worth should be based on that.  Maybe that’s how we begin to make the world a better place.

10 comments on “What Are You Worth?

  1. Completely agree! I love the question “Did you make a positive difference in someone’s life today?” because it does not measure the degree of the positive influence. Small positive differences that occur on a daily basis are just as valuable as big differences.

  2. So true. I seem to find myself in arguments often with people who think that change only happens on a systematic/policy/political basis, more of a top down approach. Most people do not have the power/resources to be making big social changes. It is just as effective, if not more so in some ways, to start from the bottom up. How can you make a difference in your family, friends, community? Every small step helps. You might not even realize how big of an impact you have on those around you.

  3. Another thought provoking post! I am someone who just recently got out of the behavior of living by other people’s definitions of me. It took such a long time to start realizing the woman I truly am, especially after dealing with a lot of negative situations from high school to college.

    It is so important for us to base our worth on what’s inside because once we do that it’s hard for others to change how we feel. We remain confident in who we are and attract people/relationships that match our true selves.

    Great article!

  4. Thanks Gabrielle. I like to think of myself as a recovering people pleaser, so this is an area I still struggle with. But after awhile I got sick of not being authentically me. I totally agree with you that when we remain true to ourselves we attract people who match that.

  5. Thanks Ashley! That’s so sweet of you to say. You have to do your part right? Shine a little light 🙂

  6. Your life approach is awesome, I would agree that our measure for success should be in the positive things we have done for ourselves and others. It seems like nowadays there is a pervasive culture of “what’s in it for me?” It would be nice to see a change.

    I grew up in a similar environment of being pushed into sports and only caring about making a lot of money when I grew up so I could look good on paper, which left me in a huge quarter-life crisis after college, when all of the things I had completely devoted myself to vanished, and were no longer an option.

    In the end, its all about the lives you have touched, inspired, and most importantly, making people feel warm and welcome in a hostile world where love is increasingly hard to find in day to day life.

    Two thumbs up and a smile for this article 🙂

  7. Thanks so much for your kind words. I totally agree that society seems to have a “What’s in it for me?” mentality. That was something I had to get used to when I moved to the suburbs of Chicago, totally different than the small town Wisconsin hospitality I grew up in. 🙂 Keep spreading the love.

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