You may have noticed but one of my battles has been with connecting to my value. It took me all of 44 years to discover that the feeling of dread that I got whenever I did something that made me standout was the really the fear of being told that what I had just done/ said /thought was wrong! For me that meant that I had no value or worth! As a result, I have spent 44 years hiding from criticism and judgement in a desperate attempt to hold onto what little sense of value and worth I had. All to no avail because the harder I tried to prove to people that I was valuable by doing what they needed and being the employee that they needed, the more insecure I felt.
It got so bad that dread, that I could not find the courage to go to work and face the people around me, knowing I would have to take the blame and live with that shame and guilt and knowing that I was not strong enough. So I would hide at home, my body finally catching up with the program and providing me with a migraine that meant I couldn’t physically leave even if I wanted to (which I didn’t).
Logically it all makes sense. When your worth is something that is based on what you are doing you can never rest because people forget how brilliant you were yesterday. People expect you to be brilliant and amazing every day and if you aren’t, boy do they tell you all about it, “This isn’t what we expect from you Verna. This isn’t your usual high standard. You can do better.” All words I dread. When the way you acquire value is based on other peoples judgement and approval you are living in impermanence, – trapped by people, knowing that everything you have worked for can be taken away in a moment, just because someone is having a bad day. You know it has nothing to do with what you actually did because you have worked real hard at being better than the people around you, only somehow being good at what you do isn’t really valuable.
This concept of value is hard for people to grasp – especially if what you do is who you are. It is hard, especially if you can’t see yourself and so can only see yourself through others eyes. It can be so hard you get to the point where you can no longer do it and then what ? Then you change or you give up.
When I look back on my world record journey I realise that the fear that held me back and followed me on that journey was all linked to my other-esteem. Everything was harder because I had no sense of self and even less trust of myself. In fact, I wanted so desperately to escape this powerless me that became deepest just so that I would have inconvertible proof that I was good enough! Who can argue with a world record ? Who can argue with a dive that only 4 other people had been able to do ? The problem was that 221 meters didn’t change how I felt about myself at all. It was like turning 21 – you feel exactly the same the day after as you did the day before and the reason why nothing changed for me was that I had DONE an extraordinary thing but I hadn’t found a way to BE extraordinary. That has taken another ten years and a lot of soul searching.
It really started to fall into place when Telana Simpson spoke at the Gibs Woman as Leaders workshop. She was talking about self-esteem (yawn, why did I need to know about self-esteem, that wasn’t my problem at all) and she did it by really connecting the dots. For the first time I heard something talk about other-esteem and how that is handing a remote control to someone and saying, here, tell me if I am good enough and if you say no, you stop me in my tracks. She also gave me a new way of thinking about value by asking us to imagine a child being born. A newborn can’t do anything. They can’t walk or talk or smile or laugh. They just eat and sleep and yet they have value. When I heard that story I finally started to get it! Finally I had a way to see a distinction between what I did and who I was.
But then a friend of mine (who is at the beginning of her own transformation) heard that story and she had a reaction that completely surprised me. She was adamant that it wasn’t true, babies only have value if their parent values them. She argued that this had to be the case otherwise why were babies abandoned and neglected and abused ? She argued that those who value babies do so because the baby is fluffing a need or desire for that person and so the value is in the eye of the beholder and not because a baby is born with value at all.
It got me thinking! Because I now know that my value does not depend on anyone else’s judgement. I no longer need someone to see my value in order to feel valuable and so I was curious as to why I was able to make this shift – especially as I could recognise the place she was in, I had lived it for 45 years. What had shifted for me to be living in this new freedom. The more I thought about this the more I was reminded of something my friend told me – how she was more than her job and how what she does had no value at work but everyone just wanted her to do that and to be that small. Now I value what she does enormously. I can’t do it! I can’t even think it! But for her, it was nothing – even though the people around her valued it.
It started me thinking. If I am unable to see my own value will I ever feel valuable ? Does it matter than if other people value what I am doing ? Does it make a difference if someone I respect and look up to finds what I am doing valuable ? If I am doing something I don’t value, even if I am really good at it and can prove it and even if the people around me value it, do I feel valuable ? Or do I just feel lost and tired and empty and filled with dread ?
To my surprise I realised that when I am doing something I do not value, I do not feel valuable at all!
So this is what I know about claiming back your value. It isn’t about how good you are at what you do. It isn’t about the people around you being able to see your value. To feel valuable you have to be expressing your value in the world. To express your value in the world you have to be doing things you value! To do things you value you have to fundamentally shift how you think about your place in the world!
Just because you can do something and are good at it, doesn’t mean it is what you should be doing with your life and yes, we were all borne with a unique purpose and place in the world. We end up where society and our parents and families and cultures expect us to be, doing something we were never born to do and then we wonder why we don’t feel valuable!
What changed for me ? Why in the space of a year after 2 decades of searching did I finally shift ? I have started to do what I did when I unstuck myself on my world record journey – I have started to do the things that I value, no matter what it takes or hard it is or uncomfortable. I have started to live my value and worht. I have started to own it and value it and the surprising result has been that I have suddenly have value!
I have started to see a place and a space for me in this world and I have started to feel that elusive peace and a boundless joy at being alive. I have started to fall back in love with myself and my life! I have stopped believing what other people think of me and I have stopped trying to fit in – because I don’t. I never have and that is ok. The moment I stopped trying to fit in was also the moment everything started to fit. All it took was for me to stop believing in what everyone else valued and needed and instead to start doing what I value. And yes, I am still living inside a corporate box where what is needed is based mostly on my bosses need and what the corporate needs.
So this is the challenge for all you extraordinary people in hiding out there.
What are you going to do to start seeing yourself ?
How are you going to create and build and reinforce your own self image so that you never have to rely on someone else’s good opinion again ?
When are you going to get so tired and so frustrated and so angry and so depressed that you are going to say No! Enough is enough! I don’t care that everyone says this is how it is supposed to be, this is my life and I am taking it back and I don’t care how hard or how scary the journey is!
When are you going to say, no more! I am going to reconnect to my extraordinary self, the
one that I have buried so deep it is almost not there!
When are you going to Dare to even think it ?
When will you start to Dare to be curious enough to start asking yourself what if ?
What will it take for you to let go of ordinary ?
When are you going to Dare to let go of who you think you are and instead be the extraordinary person you already are ?
What if…… you don’t have to be borne extraordinary ? What if all it takes is a choice followed by another choice, followed by another until that is who you are?