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Earned Worth

One of the greatest hidden sources of unhappiness for many of us is a suboptimal sense of self-worth. In a world that often takes for granted all our good deeds but is quick to point out our mistakes, it’s easy to see how this can happen. Our brains keep us safe by looking for two things: change and negativity. A speeding car, not a parked one, draws our attention because of the potential for danger. Negative-appearing events (“that guy looks angry… let’s steer clear”) also alert us to be wary. In contrast, the same good deed done twice is old news and gets less attention.

While we often choose to seek out the good, our auto default switch seems programmed to the bad. News channels take advantage of this, knowing that crimes and catastrophes will get our attention. As kids at home and school, and later as adults on the job, we may get a compliment the first time we do something well. But after that, it’s expected and, with the well-meaning intent of making us better, parents, teachers, and supervisors focus on our deficits.

All of this can result in our learning to play it safe; aiming low and going after things we are told we should want. Even when it’s far from our true calling.

One way to build self-worth? Contributions.

Make contributions (offerings) to the world in small, daily ways (most of us already do) and notice them. Give them the value they deserve. Psychologist Rick Hanson calls this “earned worth.” I like the word “offerings” better than contributions because it highlights a critical point: we are only responsible for our half of the good deed – the offering. We have no control over how it’s received.

Earned worth means we take control of building our self-worth through our good deeds – it’s not dependent on others’ valuing it. It sounds strange because of course we want others to value what we do (and, therefore, us) but we can’t put our value in someone else’s hands. It belongs to us. And when our sense of our value is secure – not dependent on the opinions or praise of others – we are free. Not only to follow our true passions, but also to care about and give freely to the world, relieved of the fear of rejection or disapproval.

Two other tools of self-worth construction are gratitude and appreciation. We appreciate our good acts when we take the time to notice them. A gratitude and appreciation journal is great for that. We use gratitude when we feel thankful for the good. For example, “I was blessed to be able to help that person carry their heavy items out to the car at Lowes today.”

We (a) noticed and appreciated that we did something good and (b) we were grateful that we had the ability to do it.

Sometimes the depression of a person with chronic illness and physical disability isn’t just because of their condition. It’s because they grieve the loss of their reduced capacity to give. Sometimes the sadness of the lonely isn’t just because they don’t get the love of another. It’s because they have no one to give their love to.

If you are so inspired, I encourage you to take the time today to:

Two other tools of self-worth construction are gratitude and appreciation. We appreciate our good acts when we take the time to notice them. A gratitude and appreciation journal is great for that. We use gratitude when we feel thankful for the good. For example, “I was blessed to be able to help that person carry their heavy items out to the car at Lowes today.”

We (a) noticed and appreciated that we did something good and (b) we were grateful that we had the ability to do it.

Sometimes the depression of a person with chronic illness and physical disability isn’t just because of their condition. It’s because they grieve the loss of their reduced capacity to give. Sometimes the sadness of the lonely isn’t just because they don’t get the love of another. It’s because they have no one to give their love to.

PS: As you may have noticed, I love teaching and training (as a personal trainer and health coach) and consider it my purpose (the reason I’m here).

As another step to reach more folks and make it sustainable, I’ve created a business website: www.kenwoodwellness.com. If you’re feeling it, I’d love to have you check it out. For feedback, for learning, or if you think it would help you or someone else, contact me for a consultation.

Cheers and high fives to making this a happier world together!

¹ Danner,D., et al. “Positive emotions in early life and longevity: findings from the nun studyNational Center for Biotechnology Information (May 2001). Web. Accessed 29 April 2020.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of All Unrivaled. Any content provided by our contributors/bloggers/authors are of their opinion and are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual or anyone or anything. This article is for informational purposes only. Consult a physician before performing any exercise program. It is your responsibility to evaluate your own medical and physical condition to determine whether to perform, use or adapt any information or content on this website. Any exercise program may result in injury. By voluntarily undertaking any exercise or program displayed on this website, you assume the risk and any resulting injury. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of information in this article, the author and All Unrivaled cannot be held responsible for any errors or omissions.

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