Self-worth eh? What’s it worth?

Lately I been, I been losing sleep
Dreaming about the things that we could be
But baby, I been, I been prayin’ hard
Said no more counting dollars
We’ll be counting stars
Yeah, we’ll be counting stars

I highly recommend that you listen to the song. Those  are the opening bars of the song. Listen to it and tell me if you think it’s “play” or “bray” :), also if the song is apt and goes with the mood of the post. And pray what would that be you ask? Oh well, the usual crap that we all go through in life – am I really worth it? Oh come on, don’t tell me you don’t go through this in you life! You’re a superhero or from another planet or what?!

For the longest time my self-worth issues were more or less related to the following:

  1. money
  2. looks
  3. colour of skin
  4. body
  5. intelligence
  6. humour
  7. how loud I was (believe it or not)
  8. my parents and what they did in life (I did need to get a life! but please don’t tell me I’m in the company of one here)
  9. job

You know what the best part is/ was? I never knew that my intense feelings of depression, rage, shame, guilt, anger and pain were ALL related to the “Plate of 8” above! Dang it! Imagine that my Life, yes, my life, a life that I needed to feel so blessed about, grateful about, so lucky and deliriously happy about was reduced to the “Plate of 8”. Today, I felt immense sadness because my expectations on a certain front was completely deflated like air being let out of a balloon. It was then that I started examining why I felt deflated and it all boiled down to, yep, you guessed it, self-worth.

Here I am baring my soul in the hope that your soul can be healed. I hope. I pray. 

a) How much money would make me happy? First I thought “enough to buy me a fantastic home, afford me a couple of trips around the world, a gorgeous curvy beauty on wheels”. I was of course foolish to think that money could “buy” me happiness. If you still think so, all I can do is pity you. If only I had the good fortune to ask myself the question, ‘but why’.

b) Why was it necessary for me to have money? This was a no-brainer. So that I could show off and get the admiration of friends, family, peers and show that I’m worth it. If they could go, “wow, she’s doing well, she’s going abroad, she’s on vacation in the Bahamas, has a couple of huge apartments” it would mean I had arrived. God! Imagine if people “loved” me only because of the externals! If only I had my brain muscle working hard enough to trigger the question, ‘why’.

c) Nope, 

 I am attractive and the Universe has given me features that are mine. It took me a long long long time to realise that I am unique. As are you. I was never ever going to be ‘beautiful’ as defined by ‘others’. ‘Others’ are usually comprising of people like you and me :). Every relationship that I had, I was half-responsible for ruining it as I bent over backwards in being grateful that any man would ever find me attractive. “Oh my God, he likes me, no no, he says he loves me, I must put my life on HOLD and do anything to keep him here because if he goes no one else will Ever love me.” I’m still single, I’ve had my share of relationships, some casual, some serious, but I refuse to be sorry for having been blessed with so many. Because at some point in my life, I paused and examined ‘why’. If you regret your relationships you are regretting being who you are. There, that gives you an answer of where your self-worth lies on a scale of 1 – 5. 

d) I was born dusky, which is an euphemism for ‘dark’. My true friends always said that in a land other than where I was born, I’d be treated as exotic because of the colour of my skin. Oh well! Even as I write this I can feel the emotion choking me and the huge lump in my throat. This is a scar that goes deep. I was always called “black bull” in my country’s native tongue ‘Hindi’. I would see boys sniggering at my looks. I remember in a public pool where I went swimming when I was 9 or 10, I once had a couple of young boys who tailed me to one end of the pool and kept whispering loudly, “let’s see, she seems cute, oh let’s see if she’s cute” and then when I surfaced from the water at the other end, they took one look at me and said, “chheee!”. That, there and then broke my heart in a million little pieces. That, there and then laid the path to my eternal damnation and unhappiness, because that, there and then, ladies and gentlemen, was the easiest handing over of power to the ‘other’ for my happiness. I think it was Confucius who said, “happiness is an inside job”, but I had already taken a tumble through the rabbit hole of “self-worth zero”. If only I had the guts later on in my life to delve into my disappointments and ask ‘why’.

e) My body is a gift. It truly is. It allows me to do things that is a miracle, even as I grow more deeply entrenched into old age. But for the longest time I was driven to be a certain size. I hated the size of my breasts, I hated the size of my thighs, my waist, my back, Jesus, I hated being trapped in my body. Diaries were written about how ugly I was. Tears were shed. Depression was courted. Diets were made and diets were broken. My body was punished. And it obeyed me, no matter what. I love my body today. I still have some cribs, God, yes, but I refuse to live on boiled eggs and water (as I did when I was studying in college), just so that I had a “figure to die for”. What good did it do me? Did I get modelling assignments, did I have amazing boy friends, did I do anything of note because of this ‘body of work’? What, you kidding me? If only I had paused every time to ask why.

f) In our country like in China and many other Asian nations (read “Battle Hymn of The Tiger Mom” by Amy Chua), we are obsessed with how well we do in school or college. And when I say ‘well’, it usually means ‘good grades = brilliant = beautiful child, good child’. The sense of rejection that I felt when I was 9 and in grade 4 because I happened to get ‘2nd rank’ and was thus berated for having been careless to have relinquished my ‘1st rank’ is something that you may scoff at, but only a 9-year old who is dark, plump and not very popular and whose parents were away toiling away in another country, can perhaps hope to understand. If only I had the wisdom then to ask why.

g) I’m not a rib-tickling, laugh-riot, a female Jon Stewart, no. I do have a very loud voice and in my anger (which incidentally is nothing but fear of rejection and an indication of low self-worth) or pain or frustration I can raise it enough to be heard over a din. I am serious by nature though many of my friends tell me that I’m quite funny. Even these characteristics were weighed by me to beat myself about it again and and again and again. It was like the stoning of Jesus, difference being I was stoning myself (and not on Ecstasy or cocaine) for being born me. If only I had the sense and the humour to stop and ask, Why?

h) My parents come from very modest backgrounds – money-wise or education-wise or jobs-wise. That they were who they were was not good enough for me. I questioned myself sometimes why they weren’t ‘better off’. Like shiny, brilliant epaulets that I could wear on my shoulders and show off? Aah, if only I had the modesty and the sensibility to ask ‘why for Chrissakes!’

i) And finally my job. I was never good enough ever. I was a good worker. I was a smart woman. I was talented. But I was conflicted about doing stuff that I was actually not really good at. My heart was into writing. I thought I could make waves in advertising. I didn’t. I did something else in advertising by default. Did I persevere and shine in that field? God, no. Writing was my calling. I pursued it elsewhere. Did I persevere? No, I did not. I was a rolling stone and so I never rose the career ranks. I was a specialist made to do a generalist role. My bosses, mostly women, all of whom I have learnt hell of a lot from, many of whom I am still in touch with, couldn’t really mentor me. I don’t think we really know how to ask for mentorship or give it in our ‘full of crap dog-eat-dog corporate world’.

Today, I don’t earn even a quarter of what my peers and my friends earn. Of course money being such a ‘hush hush’ topic, none of my friends will ever ask me or vice versa ‘so how much do you make’. That is strictly “no entry” but I know. There are dark, lonely moments where only I have approvals for “Entry”, when I look up at the ceiling in the dark and I feel small and full of shit. After all look at ‘xyz’, look at their FB pages, see where they travel, their clothes, their ‘likes’, their popularity, their cars and fancy homes. And they have the looks and the husband the smart children to boot. What the hell do I have?
…thankfully I have stopped to ask ‘why’.

Pause. Please ask yourself why at every stage when you feel bad due to the “plate of 8” or whatever else your plate holds. Go deep. Keep asking why till you finally get to the root of it. And then you will set yourself up for liberation. Liberation from at least some of the chains that have held you prisoner in your own mind, heart and soul. Some may still remain, but you can make your peace with it. Because at the end of it all, you are worth it. Never ever forget that. Money, jobs, looks, skin, humour, fat arse, dandruff, you laugh funny, but who gives a rat’s ass? You are you. Aren’t you?

Pause. Reflect. Question. Root. Release. Liberate. Self-worth. Heal. 

It’d be great if you have a “plate of 8” or if what I just wrote made a difference to you. Peace out!

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