"Irwin, tadpole, the real measure of a frog's wealth is how much he's worth when he loses all his money." Now he was talkin' my language! Since I don't have any money to speak of I was eager to learn just what kind of wealth I could possibly have to worry about.
The dictionary defines self-worth as "The sense of one's own value or worth as a person." This goes for frogs, too. According to Dharma, we all have many ways that we can value ourselves and assess our personal worth, but some are more valuable than others.
Self-worth vs. self-esteem; these words are often used interchangeably and knowing the difference is one of the most important ways we can improve our self worth. Many psychologists believe that self-worth should be less about measuring yourself based on external actions and more about valuing your inherent worth as a person...or in my case, a frog. Self-worth is more about who we are than what we do. There seems to be a problem in today's society, with more focus being placed on self-esteem than on self-worth. Self-esteem forces us to measure ourselves against others when, really, we should be paying attention to our own intrinsic value. Competitive cultures tell us we need to feel special and above average to feel good about ourselves. The problem is, we can't all be "above average" all the time. It simply doesn't work. Dharma explained to me that when we choose to compare ourselves to others, we set ourselves up for disappointment for there will always be someone else is who is richer, better looking, more successful, happier, etc. And if we do, occasionally, find one golden moment, we can't hold on it. Studies have shown that when we base our self-worth on external factors, it can be detrimental to our mental health. Our accomplishments are important to acknowledge,as we build our sense of self, says Dharma, but we must look at, and learn to appreciate, the unique qualities that make us...us. Because we are each unique that, in and of itself, should give us inherent value. We shouldn't be rating ourselves. We should simply just BE ourselves. That is enough.
Although this all made good sense to me, I did have a question for my wise friend and mentor. "So, Dharma, how do I go about building up my net worth of self? I think I'm like most other frogs...I compare myself, and my accomplishments, to those around me." He gave me some valuable advice. The first step, he told me, was to stop comparing myself to others and evaluating my every move. In other words, I needed to start challenging my critical inner voice. It seems that our critical inner voice is much like a nasty coach, constantly nagging us with destructive thoughts towards ourselves and others. This internal dialogue can only undermine our sense of self-worth and even lead to maladaptive behaviors which, then, only make us feel worse. It's a never-ending and vicious cycle we can easily get caught up in.
Dharma explained that the best way to foster self-worth is by practicing self-compassion. There are three steps to becoming more self-compassionate that we can all adopt.
1. Acknowledge and notice your suffering. 2. Be kind and caring in response to suffering. 3. Remember that imperfection is a part of the human (and definitely the amphibian) experience and something that we all share. He also suggested that we add more meaning to our life by taking part in activities that we feel are important. Helping others always leads to improvement in our sense of self-worth. Generosity is good for us.
We can act on principals, in ways that we respect, is another great way to foster self-worth. It is important for each of us to make a concerted effort to maintain personal integrity. As Dharma always reminds me, "When our actions don't match our words, we are more vulnerable to attacks from our critical inner voice and less likely to respect ourselves."
After our lesson was finished, I had lots to think about. Dharma, as always, left me with plenty of inner work to do. I am a creature of habit and change isn't easy for me. But I know that if I want to truly love and appreciate myself, I need to put in the work. Life is about the journey, after all, and for each of us the journey will always include a few unexpected twists and turns. On my journey, beginning today, I am going to quit paying so much attention to what others think and spend more time developing my individual and truly unique talents and interests. How about you? What personal changes and challenges do you need to face head-on? I'm excited to begin this new phase of my life and I hope you, too, are excited by your own journey...today and every day.
After all is said and done, I may not have any extra money but, at the end of the day, I know I am still a very wealthy frog. And that is something I CAN take to the bank.