So many people are walking the surface of the earth with terribly low self-esteem. The core of this poor self-esteem is the feeling of not being valued. When we value something, we regard it as having worth to us because it is useful, important and beneficial. And it is this understanding that gives rise to the realization that can change your entire life. The realization is this: Value is entirely based on needs. Sit with that for a minute while I explain how this understanding can change your self-concept.
When you were young, you came into an un-awakened society. In an un-awakened society, there are collective social and cultural values. And when we value one thing, we usually condemn the opposite. For example, self-sacrifice may be a social value, in which case selfishness is condemned. To the opposite, winning may be a social value, in which case considering someone else’s best interests is condemned. We deem one good and the other bad. In order to keep the social order, we socialize children by training them to behave in a way that is acceptable to the society we live in. We indoctrinate children with our social and cultural values and reward them when they adhere to those values. We punish children when they demonstrate behavior that contradicts our social and cultural values.
If we want our needs to be met, survive in society and have a chance at feeling things like love, belonging, contribution, and safety, we only have one option: We need to adopt the values of the society we are born into. The disapproval and punishment we are met with as a result of not adhering to a societal value is painful enough that you will avoid it in the future at all costs. In response, what you do in order to avoid it in the future is that you adopt the social value and you make it your own standard for yourself. This is a problem if any of those values become standards that oppose your own truth or your own unique being. For example, a child who is born a scientist into a family that values art is going to adopt artistry as a value and therefore standard for himself or herself. It is a standard that he or she will consistently fall short of and therefore, he or she will feel low self-esteem.
To understand the concept of values being entirely based off of needs, imagine that you are driving down the highway when you see a man running into the middle of the road as fast as he can to retrieve a ladder that has fallen out of the back of a truck. Think about the different reactions that this situation could elicit. One driver could be absolutely furious because the man caused him to swerve so as to not hit him. One driver could thank God for his bravery because by risking his own life to run out on the road, he could potentially be saving the lives of anyone that might be unable to avoid hitting the ladder.
If this man has a wife and children, they may feel betrayed because their husband and father would choose to risk his life without a thought to the pain that would cause the family. A police officer may see this man as stupid and be upset that he didn’t call the authorities when he had to deal with a ladder on the highway. A news anchor may want to feature him on the nightly news as a hero. All of these reactions were entirely different. They were different because they had different needs, different past experiences, and therefore very different values.
Values are determined by needs. If I need to get to work on time, I’m going to value an efficient highway and I will be angry at a person who gets in my way. If I need to stay safe, I will value anyone who makes sure the road is a safe place to drive. If I need my husband, I will value any act that keeps him with me and devalue any act that could take him away. If I need to feel like I am in control of public safety, I’m going to value people following the rules and get angry at anyone who risks their own life. If I’m a news anchor who needs a good story, I’m going to value a story about a public hero.
Beliefs, rules, and values are formed in response to needs. These become the foundation of your standards. Examine your beliefs, rules, and values through the lens of, “every one of them is created in response to a need of parents, culture or society at some point in time.” You adopted their values, beliefs, and rules so as to be accepted and loved by them. The things they taught you became your “shoulds” and you didn’t even question most of them. But beliefs, values and rules change when needs change.
When it comes to the concept of self-worth, the first thing we need to do with it is to throw it away. “Worth” is a completely abstract concept. You cannot objectively determine the value of something. Worth has no basis in reality because it’s entirely subjective. The criteria created to determine a person’s worth is entirely dependent upon the society he or she is born into.
Think of it this way. The quality of being present is worthless in a society that values doing. The quality of external beauty is worthless in a society for the blind.
Now I am going to tell you something that I never want you to forget. Perhaps the reason that you feel like you have no worth or value is because the very real qualities which you came in with (qualities that would have held infinite value to other people) were not considered valuable to the people that comprised your family or the culture or society you were born into.
For example, if you were born with artistic talents but landed in a family that valued the quality of scholarly intellect above all else, they may not consider your gifts valuable and therefore you would have received the message that you were not valuable. However, if you would have been born into a family of artists, your gift would have been instantly recognized as valuable and therefore, you would have felt as if you were valuable. The sad reality is that you can be born into a society, culture or family that is incompatible to you because your own innate value is not in alignment with their specific needs and therefore values.
I often tell a story about a horse who feels really bad about himself. This horse lives with a car dealer. The car dealer loves cars, he loves making lots of money and he loves to go fast so he needs something that can go over a hundred miles an hour. The horse watches him wipe the cars lovingly for hours with diapers. The horse hears him talking about how much horsepower the car engines have and he realizes it would take 140 of him to equal one of those cars. He hears about how much money the man can sell the car for and he realizes that someone would pay much less money for him than the cars. The horse decides that he doesn’t have value. He is worthless. But is that actually true? One day, the horse ends up being driven in a trailer to a farm. He thinks he is being given away by the car dealer because he has no value. However, when he gets out of the trailer, he sees a man standing there with a huge smile, excited to see him. The new man spends hours brushing his coat. He overhears the new man bragging about how perfect his conformation is. The new man needs a horse he can soar over a series of jumps on, which is something a car could never do. Suddenly the horse realizes that there is someone to value everything in this world. It is simply a matter of being in the right place with the right person who will recognize the needs that you are designed to meet.
So many of you grew up in households and still may live in communities or cultures that are no different than this horse living with a car salesman. But it is just as much BS that because you are being treated like you are treated, means you have no value as it is for the horse to make how he was treated by the car salesman mean that no one will value a horse.
Think about what your parents need and why. See if your innate talents, tendencies, nature and interests are something that they value. If not, what do they value? What needs make them value those things? Are you a match to those needs or not? For example, let’s imagine that your mother does not value your tendency to tell it like it is. She values social etiquette and politeness. The reason is because she has the need for people to see her as a good mom, which can only happen if her child is well behaved. A person who tells the truth is very valuable to many people and in many social circles. But it is incompatible to her need of keeping up the appearance of being seen as a good mom. Essentially you need to realize that their valuing or lack there of, is not about you at all, it’s about their own needs. Money is worth a lot to most people. But in a time of war, when needs change, suddenly money can become worthless in that country overnight.
Worth and value is completely subjective, variable, often irrational, and dependent upon circumstance. For this reason, true human worth is impossible to determine. Another way of looking at value, rather than to say that value doesn’t inherently exist is that value is inherent in all things, but that value is not going to matter in certain situations or to certain people. Try to accept that it is pointless to try to get someone to change their needs. It is a much better strategy to find someone who has a need that is compatible to you. And it is a guarantee that you will be seen as valuable to someone. Who might that someone be? If value were entirely based on needs. The most important question to ask yourself is: Who needs me?