You know those times in life when things seem to go to shit… and not only that but it seems like people who you respect are making you feel unworthy. Before you were sure of yourself and your actions, you were pretty self-confident but now it seems you’re doubting everything. It’s like that golden achievement you had just shattered in front of you. How can your self-confidence be shook so easily?
A common occurrence for this feeling in my life has been when I have spent hours putting my heart and soul into an assignment to only get a less than satisfying grade in return. I can remember one particular time in my first year of university when I spent hours putting together an annotated bibliography. I couldn’t get the printer working in the school library so, with just minute to spare, I printed off my work in the wrong format but with good content. I figured I’d get at least partial marks. I was crushed when I got to class to find out the professor refused all assignments that were not in the proper format. I remember sobbing in my car in the parking lot on the phone with a classmate that was trying to coax me back to class. At that time my whole identity was being a good student. A zero on an assignment was crushing.
This feeling however has most commonly come by me when something comes up at work in which my integrity is in question (for example, getting a bad costumer review that your boss questions you about). I believe myself to have very good work ethic so when I get news of a performance review that is less than stellar I get pretty upset.
I think this type of feeling is pretty universal.
I’ve had quite a few wise counselors in my life who have recognized this in me and advised that these feelings are not healthy… Let me explain. Feeling disappointment, upset, sadness in itself is not unhealthy. These are just feelings that naturally come and go in a person’s life. What is unhealthy in this scenario is equating your worth to the things; achievements, papers, art work, work you have completed etc. because (like in these scenarios) when people criticize them, they inadvertently criticize you and take a notch out of your self-worth.
Well this is all fine and dandy but, what the hell!? What am I suppose to value myself on? At the moment I get my personal satisfaction from the work I do. What’s wrong with that? I do good work. I get criticized on occasion but I can take that with a grain of salt. The question is however, what happens if I get sick and can’t work anymore? Then what? Do I loose value?
I’ve had a lot of really great counselors who have helped me through this conundrum. I am now transitioning into valuing myself based off my personal values. So instead of asking myself “Did I do a good job with that client?” “What would my boss say?” I now ask myself “Was I compassionate? Was I authentic? Did I use my integrity in terms of getting my work complete to the best of my ability?” Then when the shit hits the fan I’m not doubting my core self because I act in according to my values. (Well, I mean, I still do doubt myself but it’s not as disruptive). So now when I act I focus on my values and let them be my goal post.
I am currently in the midst of one of these situations. I decided to compose a list of my personal values to keep my focus in the right place. (Here is my current list : authenticity, being true to myself, listening to myself/my body, inner harmony, health, compassion, integrity, community, curiosity, openness, spirituality, synergy, fun, learning, meaningful activities, optimism, pleasure, responsibility to the earth.) So ideally, every action and thought that comes from my body has one of these values as its motive.
And, you’re always going to misstep- that’s life. I recently lost a piece of my integrity with someone very important. The worst part is that I got caught by them. Instead of cursing at myself and feeling awful, I chose to have compassion towards myself and start working towards my values towards integrity. I choose to see myself like a child who had made a mistake. A kind parent wouldn’t harshly reprimand a child who has broken a rule but instead would have understanding, have the child fix their mistake, and help them learn from it.
This perspective shift has had a huge impact on me. It’s kind of a game changer. If you’re even a tad bit interested I’d highly suggest compiling a list of your own personal values. I got the majority of my values off this website https://scottjeffrey.com/core-values-list/ which you might find helpful to get the ball rolling.