I can’t actually remember what caused me to start thinking about this or why. Maybe one just has a moment of quiet reflection when we get to a certain age, an examination of our situations and ourselves. When I say one, I mean me. I do.
I’m one of the luckiest people on Earth; I’m a white male, born in a first world country. Everyone else had a less fortunate start than me, apart from other white males born in first world countries of course. I was born with a head start over most other people and what did I make of that?
This is the point I think I will be making. What is the value of us, our worth? How is it measured? By whom? Who sets the standard by which we can feel our life has been worthwhile, a success? It’s a work in progress until the day we die if you think about it.
The milestones along the way are mere yardsticks, where we measure our success against other people, if we are that way inclined. Certainly other people will be forming opinions on how much our lives matter, how successful we are. They will measure you by their yardstick, which isn’t the same as yours necessarily.
I often wonder how people define themselves; it troubles me when people define themselves by their relationship to other people, or the people they used to be. You can read a lot about a person by the stuff they say about themselves, in profiles on social media for example. ‘Devoted wife and mother or partner of an amazing man, or woman.
I know of an amazing woman, active on social media who despite being a talented actress, author, mother and business owner, described none of these things, but was defined by who she was married to and what she used to do. I often see people who refer to themselves as ex-something, something they used to be. Ex-servicemen spring to mind.
I’m going to digress for a moment on that. Veterans, ex-servicemen or women in the current age are regarded with extraordinary reverence and will most likely be defined by that service for the rest of their lives. Without wishing to diminish their efforts, because I understand better than most having once worn a military uniform myself, I don’t like the virtual saint like status bestowed upon these people.
They applied for a job, which happened to be in the military, they chose their occupation. You’ll often hear the phrase, ‘they fought for their country’. No they didn’t. Fighting for your country is when the invading hordes are massed at the borders ready to take your property and subjugate your population. Flying in a jet transporter to do battle in someone else’s country to enforce the will of your Government upon a tyrannical regime ruling in a manner they disapprove of but who pose no actual threat to your borders or way of life, is not fighting for your country. That’s just doing your job as a salaried member of the armed forces.
But these people are regarded as though they took up arms to fight for the very survival of humanity itself. Stop it, they chose the path they followed. You may find that an objectionable view. Tough luck. The soldiers in the armies of the West weren’t forced to fight. They chose to. They are defined for life and bestowed with added value as human beings by other people because of a decision they made. They are not reluctant heroes, forced to defend a belief system. They are successful applicants for a dangerous job.
Now where was I? Yes, our worth. Everyone breathing has a value as a person, it’s the extent of that value and what they make of themselves which dictates how other people see their merit, or value and how they see their own value, or worth. Does it matter how other people value you? Or how you value yourself?
Clearly the Latter is the key as those that place any value upon your worth, will be using their own measure, which is not the one that matters. It’s how you feel about what you’ve achieved, what you do, who you are that dictates how you feel about yourself, your self worth.
What’s the difference between worth and value? You are of value when you are born; how you live your life decides your worth.
I guess my point is, if I have one. Is that your value, your worth shouldn’t measured in stuff or by other people. But you have a responsibility to yourself to make your life worthwhile, by your own measure. Don’t define yourself by the value of others around you and what they have, they are not you. You are unique. Never ever say, it’s only me, or it’s just me when you are talking to someone. You are an amazing person in your own right. Not a just, or an only you as though you are not of any consequence.
I go back to the military thing, let’s say you were doing things overseas where the wild things live and you were kidnapped and threatened with your head being cut off on the Internet. The people in charge of your country of origin would take steps to free you, successfully or most likely otherwise, because you are a person, not because of what you do for a living or who you knew with money. The fact that you are breathing means you are a person of value. What you do to make your life worth something is up to you.
So, how do we decide what we are worth? What value was our life? My family, well some of them, think that by writing stuff down like this, I’m being ‘a self indulgent prick’. Seems I’m not supposed to write my thoughts down, I’m supposed to keep them to myself. To hell with that, if you think I’m being self indulgent, don’t read it.
I’m 50; I have no assets to show for a lifetime of being quite clever and good at stuff. I have no assets because of decisions I made. I have nobody to blame but myself for the financial situation I find myself in rather than the situation many yardsticks might find acceptable for a man of 50. Many would say I’m a failure; some have because I’m this age and have few assets. These are people who measure success in life by accumulating things and financial security. Which are very important but have eluded me entirely because of decisions I have made, some good, many bad, some risky, some not so much. Nothing befell me though, I made this, I chose it.
I spent some time processing that, judging myself by the success, the assets that others my age had accrued. I should certainly have more stuff. I don’t but I’ve seen a lot of things and been a lot of places. I have some creativity and wisdom I would have not gained had I settled for the picket fence, made sound financial decisions on things and taken the sensible route. I face an uncertain future. I have another 15 years or so of statutory working life to put together some security, buy a house, make a home.
I judged myself harshly and let others tell me I was a failure, because I hadn’t met the standards of what other people felt was an acceptable showing for a life lived so far. The harshest criticism and judgement came from my own family. I have little to do with them as while being the quickest to judge, they are in no position to do so.
I’m good with the space I occupy, I contribute things that enhance people’s lives and mine has been interesting so far. I don’t have much stuff right now, but it’s not over yet.
You? Only you can know if you feel you are worthwhile, if you feel you are not, have you taken ownership of your life, or do you let the lives of others define you? Have you taken any steps to realise your dreams and be the things you wish you could be, because if you haven’t and feel unfulfilled. It’s on you. Don’t blame others for the things you can change. Don’t let others dictate your value. You decide what’s important to you, you decide your value and demonstrate your worth by what you do. Not by the association with or the judgement of others, who aren’t you. It sounds a bit Dr Seuss, but only you are you, and you choose what you do.
Put simply your value is intrinsic, you are born with it. What you do of value, which dictates your worth, your self worth, is up to you and only you get to decide the value of what matters to you. Don’t let others decide what defines you. Because you are worth it.