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The Source of Our Worth


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This is something I have been thinking a lot about latelly. I would really like to hear all of your opinions on this subject. Where does our worth come from? Are we born with it? Do we get it when people love us and care for us, does that give us worth? Do we get it from God? Where does your worth come from? Is it built into us as a little child when our parents and other important figures in our lives love us?

I'm really trying to figure some things out here, so I really hope lots of you will put your two cents in! :)

Thanks...Amy.

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I believe it comes from simply being born. We are born worthy of love, honor and respect. Unfortunately sometimes we come to associate our worth with the value others bestow on us, in how we are treated and come to believe we are worthy. I do think being loved, held and cherished may help us to see our own worth. It creates the environment to allow the freedom of discovering self-love, but in the end I think how we feel ourselves worthy has to come from inside, where it was all along. I struggle with this still, from time to time. I feel my own self worth by doing good for others, though I must learn to recognize that the gift of my worth is not in the act itself, but it my ability to connect with my own giving, loving self. A good question and definitely an important one.

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I don't think we can really get our sense of worth from external sources in the long run. For a time we might think we can, but this won't make us whole. Now if you are talking about instilling values, family members in our lives can teach us those by example. I like to think that we are born full of potential and through life's journeys and through loving others, we tap into that potential. Think of a light that hasn't been turned on yet. Someone else may come along and turn the switch, but the energy used to light the lamp was already there.

Those are my just personal beliefs, though, and what seems to fit best for me. What fits best for you, TBITH? It's an interesting discussion.

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Well, maybe I am thinking more on a global or universal perspective. There are people included in certain castes in India whose jobs it is to sweep the streets. Just because one is born into this certain caste, they are destined to be street sweepers and are not afforded any other opportunities. Yet, they say that these people have an internal happiness because they accept their fate. Why are they less worthy? There are people who have loving families and friends and spouses and there are those who do not have any of those things. Why are the latter less worthy? There has to be a reason that some people are not loved, even by their parents, and then not when they grow up, either. Other people must perceive them to be unworthy of them or they would be loved or cared for by someone, right? Is it just coincedence that so many people are walking around this world completely alone, or is it because nobody thought them worth of their time, love, etc...?

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Why are they less worthy?
I don't think they are...Different cultures may create circumstances that can only offer such employment as life's work, but the type of job held doesn't make anyone less worthy in my mind.

There are people who have loving families and friends and spouses and there are those who do not have any of those things. Why are the latter less worthy?
I wouldn't say they are less worthy. I don't think attaining something or not attaining something measures our worthiness for it.

There has to be a reason that some people are not loved, even by their parents, and then not when they grow up, either. Other people must perceive them to be unworthy of them or they would be loved or cared for by someone, right? Is it just coincedence that so many people are walking around this world completely alone, or is it because nobody thought them worth of their time, love, etc...?
I'm a fairly strong idealist, so I believe all human beings to be equally worthy of being loved. People may be born into situations where their caretakers are unable to show them love, but this doesn't mean they aren't worthy of being loved. It means life has handed them some difficult situations and experiences. Some individual's struggles may at times keep them from giving themselves the opportunity to be known and loved. But I do firmly believe that we are all very worthy of such love.
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We are all worthy because we are born and because we are Gods children. No one is less worthy than another. The reason why children for example grow up without being loved and cared for is that the parents usually are emotionally/spiritually/mentally,verbally, physically or sexually abusive, they may have parents who are alcoholics, mentally ill or with other disorders. Parents who are not abusive or ill would love and care for that child so the child would know it is worthy of love and respect and in most cases bring this into the adult life.

Abusive people never see others as worthy of love and ill parents dont have the ability to take care of the child which is another reason and its not the parents fault they are sick. There are so many reasons and sad thing is that abusive parents in many cases has been abused themselves in one or another way. Not always, but often. It follows generations.

Edited by sadgreeneyes
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I believe most of us are born with it to a large degree, but how we are raised and treated can have a massive effect. My partner's parents divorced and she was in her fathers custody and he remarried. Her Dad and step Mom has a son. There was a marked difference between their treatment of her brother and her. Over time along with other complications devastated her self esteem. She felt unloved and unlovable, simply a burden to the people who should be the ones who loved her most.

I lost much of mine in a similar way. My ex-wide when we were together was always right and hence I was most often wrong. Realize I am unconventional and so I do things differently than her and most people. Over the 16 years of our marriage that eroded my self-esteem. I knew I was a good parent and partner, but on an emotional level I didn't feel it. It took a lot to get over than and it still lingers.

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So, are we born with self-worth and lose it here and there when people abuse us and treat us bad? There has to be some explanation for those "normal" people who have family and friends who love and care for and support them. Are they just luckier than those who don't? Does it come down to fate and destiny?

Are you talking about our feelings of self-worth or our actual self-worth as a human being? Because our feelings involve our perceptions of ourselves. There can be low feelings of self-worth that are affected by the treatment of others. What comes to my mind is resilience and what you give power to. I don't like to think that we are powerless to our own emotional health and well-being. Sometimes, I feel, we can help to create our own destiny. At least as adults anyhow...Again, just my opinion and thoughts on this.

Does any of this discussion apply to you in any way, ToBe? Only if you are comfortable with sharing...

Edited by IrmaJean
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So, are we born with self-worth and lose it here and there when people abuse us and treat us bad? There has to be some explanation for those "normal" people who have family and friends who love and care for and support them. Are they just luckier than those who don't? Does it come down to fate and destiny?

TBITH,

It sounds like you're getting closer to the answer. The problem is - we can't control fate. I've been thinking about that a lot lately. I'm trying to think of life as one big long lesson. We each have our own truly unique experiences. Martin Luther King wasn't particularly lucky, being born black in his era. He even went to prison for his beliefs. But in the end, I'd say if I could do something as amazing as he did, I don't think I'd feel "unworthy". So, perhaps you can create your own "self-worth" even if it got taken away from you along the way - by doing the best with what life doles out to you.

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I just can't help feeling like there is something missing within me. The ability to love and be loved because it has never happened. When you don't know how to love or be loved, where is the self-worth? Something is missing in this equation and it cannot be "whole" without it. Am I making any sense?:confused:

What does wholeness consist of, anyway?

Edited by tobeistohope
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I just can't help feeling like there is something missing within me. The ability to love and be loved because it has never happened. When you don't know how to love or be loved, where is the self-worth? Something is missing in this equation and it cannot be "whole" without it. Am I making any sense?:confused:

This sounds very painful for you, TBITH. :)

Are you saying that you have never experienced love in your lifetime? What about your feelings toward family members and friends? A pet? I am not familiar with your background, so I hope I am not writing anything that might be painful. What about your feelings for your therapist? Are you not learning to love with him? Can you identify within yourself loving feelings? When you feel positive feelings about your therapist, what qualities do these feelings bring up in you? Some thoughts for you to consider...

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TBITH,

I feel like I'm in exactly the same place as you. IJ basically said what I was about to say. The two most powerful "love" forces I have felt was when my first daughter was born, and recently with my therapist. I often wondered whether it is better to love or "be loved". I find the former far more powerful. It gives you energy, hope, joy. I can't really tell if anybody ever loved me. I know that I felt invisible and second rate to my parents, the most important people in my life when I was a child. The tough thing is that if we've had no feelings of self-worth for as long as we can remember, it's harder to fix.

I've been reading some interesting stuff lately at www.guidetopsychology.com/spirit and www.guidetopsychology.com/bpd.

What I'm basically getting out of it is that Psychoanalysis is all about learning to love. And the first step in that is to "feel loved" first, which should have been your parents' job.

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I was not loved as a child by my parents, I was abused instead. Yes, of course my children love me, but that is automatic. You don't have to have worth for your children to love you, they just do. It seems everywhere I go, I am on the outside looking in. Other people are loved by at least one person, but it never happens for me. I'm talking about real love. You know, when you really matter to people, whether it be family or others.

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I'm sorry about your childhood, ToBe. I'm sorry that you weren't offered nurturance and love. :o All of us deserve that. You deserve that.

It sounds as if you are making an association between self-worth and being loved by others. What of self-love?

What do you feel when you look at your children, TBITH? What parts of you come to life when you see them smile, hear them laugh, watch them grow? Try connecting with your loving self and know that you have love to offer. Those are your gifts and part of you. What qualities do you have? Are you caring? Funny? Kind? You might try offering some gentleness to yourself. Treat yourself kindly and acknowledge your own attributes.

Another person's love doesn't give you self-worth, ToBe.. Your love for yourself, your acceptance of yourself, your appreciation and respect for yourself...that is where your self-worth is. I'm sorry that you spent your childhood in an unsafe environment which left you feeling unloved. :) You are very worthy of being loved and cared for. Maybe the time has come to learn how to love yourself. What do you think?

Edited by IrmaJean
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Hi Amy

This is an interesting question. Where does our worth come from? I think it comes from a little bit of everything and the circumstances of our lives. Sometimes good and sometimes a feeling of bad self worth.

I think it can be inside of us with greatness from excelling at certain things to being a victim of a situation or who has suffered a loss that could lower our self worth.

I guess though the most thing that came to my mind was that if you never experienced "loss" of any kind, I think that might help create the inner peace and acceptance some experience unlike others who have lost many things which in turn can create a lower self worth. I think there is an acceptance and peace that comes from within...

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TBITH,

I think I may have been a little unclear in my prior post. I meant to suggest that you seek out a psychotherapist/psychoanalyst who, if they are good, will listen to you intently without judgement, acknowledge your feelings, make you feel like they care, "see you", and in whom you can feel faith, hope and trust. Basically, what you didn't get from your parents.

I got this from my current therapist and in three weeks I almost feel like a new person. People who know me have commented that "something is different". One said, "The edge is gone". Another said she "Found me intimidating, but does not any longer". I know I have a lot of hard work to come, but this initial experience has given me a lot of hope for the future.

What do you think?

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Linda--I think you are on the right track.

Athena--I have been seeing a very good therapist for a year now. He has done everything he is supposed to do. Very non-judgemental, caring, etc. We have been working on a lot of stuff and I decided to take a break for the holidays and resume in January. It is only in this last 4 mos. or so that I have figured out that I have been having so much trouble all my life because I have felt unworthy all of my life, after a childhood filled with abuse. I haven't really talked to my therapist about it yet, I suppose we will pick it up in Jan. We just got done with some very intense sessions.

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It is only in this last 4 mos. or so that I have figured out that I have been having so much trouble all my life because I have felt unworthy all of my life, after a childhood filled with abuse.
I think you made a key distinction here that is very important. You have felt unworthy. Having an abusive childhood perhaps led to this distortion attaching to your sense of self. I do think your therapist can help you with this, ToBe. I hope that opening up about this with him can offer you some relief. Best wishes.
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TBITH,

It sounds like you are making some good progress. This "unworthiness" stuff can be tricky. While I was doing both paid work and parenting work with no time to think, I pretty much would have said that I did not feel unworthy. But being off for a year to recuperate from burnout and have time to deal with a multitude of crises has given me a little time to reflect on life and this "unworthiness" issue has recently come up a lot for me in therapy.

One thought, if you are feeling your progress is too slow, as I suspect you might be since you have brought up this topic here, have you considered increasing the frequency of your sessions?

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The initial question is interesting. The nature nurture question. How much is genetic, how much is environment?

I know when I was born and had a huge family I was told I was very energetic, happy, friendly. Then after the car wreck I got shy and introverted, never was the same.

As for being loved. Being loved by your children is not given. Lots of kids hate their parents. But it sounds like your children adore you :)

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One thought, if you are feeling your progress is too slow, as I suspect you might be since you have brought up this topic here, have you considered increasing the frequency of your sessions?

I can't really increase the frequency of my sessions because of financial reasons. But, I do plan on working on this stuff in January when I go back.

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