How do you achieve a sense of personal value? What I've learned on my journey is that personal value boils down to how you choose to live your life. When I first started my journey of self-love, I had spent the previous years of my life living as someone I didn't value. This way of living was one of the biggest reasons why I was constantly searching for validation and confirmation of value from others. One day, after years of losing myself in others expectations, I realized I didn't know who I was anymore. Not long after that wake up call, I decided I needed to ask myself a few questions. The first question was what values do I look for in others when I decide if I should include them in my life? The next was do I trust myself and could I be trusted to make the right life choices? Then I asked, would it be okay if I failed? What if I made the wrong choices sometimes? And finally, when I discovered my truth, could I live that truth without apologizing for it? The long and short of it is that I'm still on this journey of self-love. However, I have uncovered a lot of inspiration on my journey and I want to share my insights with people who might be looking for their own answers.
I began by weighing the importance of traits I valued in others, and it turns out my answers were easy to figure. Love, friendship, kindness, honesty, respect, forgiveness and loyalty are my most basic values. Then I realized that these are the things that I expect from others, so they also need to be the things I expect from myself. And that before I can ask them of anyone else, I must first be able to embody them on my own. It was then that things became a little clearer for me. In order to be a happier person, to value myself more, I needed to align what I valued with how I behaved. Slowly I began treating myself with the same love and friendship, kindness, honesty, respect, forgiveness and loyalty that I would expect from my closest friends. It wasn't long before I could put into words what I wanted from myself; to establish a firm set of values and personify them. Reach a place where my thoughts, words, actions, desires and beliefs all existed in harmony. Only then could I feel at peace with my life. Finally things had started to fall into place, and from there, the momentum of what I was discovering began to break through other barriers too.
The next wall I had to demolish was the one I had built to separate who I thought I should be from who I really am. To do this, I had to question whether or not I could trust myself. Admittedly, I had to think pretty hard about that one, because when you don't trust yourself, you suspect everything you tell yourself to be a lie. Eventually I concluded that I hadn't trusted myself in a very long time, and a lot of my past had been spent treating myself with disrespect and dishonesty. I had put myself down, lied to myself about my needs, and abused myself until I was too confused to fight back. Just thinking about that behavior, it became obvious that I hadn't been treating myself with love. Now I had to decide if I could forgive myself for those transgressions. It took a long time, but I've come a long way on my journey since then. I'm proud to say that I do trust myself now, because I've decided to offer myself the same loyalty that I offer others, the same love. The interesting thing I found along the way was that the more I forgave, the easier it was to forgive. Now I find it easier than ever to forgive myself for all my mistakes, ones I have made before, and the ones I will make in the future.
This breakthrough led me quite easily to my next question. Could I still treat myself with forgiveness if I failed? Sometimes I still struggle with this, the challenging problem of treating myself badly when I fail. It has been hard to concern myself more with what is right for me than what other people's expectations are. A lot of my personal value was previously balanced on a delicate scale weighing other people's expectations against my own. Needless to say, the weight hadn't been properly distributed. The question now remained, could I discover the right balance, and how would I go about tipping the scales in my favor? Through extensive soul searching and learning, I was able to come to a conclusion which, while it's not an easy answer, is - I'm grateful to say - a simple one. What you think controls what you feel. It’s so simple and yet complexly poetic. My thoughts control my emotions, and I had convinced myself that I was powerless to change what those thoughts were. Fortunately, when this realization hit me, I was launched into action. Again I set out searching my soul for answers and finally I happened upon a technique - thought replacement. It begins by checking in with myself and my thoughts; next I assess what I am thinking; then asking how it has made me feel; I ask if it serves me; if not, I replace it with something that does. The beauty of this is that it is as straightforward as it is dactylic. Unfortunately, it's not a matter of a one, two, three, magic solution. Like poetry, there are nuances to this technique, and I've only just begun to master it.
So what was my next hurdle shaping up to be? It turned out that the next thing I learned was also going to be the most important. It was the act of living life without apologizing for it. The hardest part about this is that there are so many barriers, so many ways in which life tries to make you feel sorry, that sometimes the road feels insurmountable. Maybe you're not thin enough, so you're asked to feel ashamed of that. Or perhaps you're not the right colour, well then you better regret it. Maybe what you love isn't what others agree is important. You had better feel downright chastened for that one. After facing that kind of reproach daily, it became impossible not to internalize it and start telling myself it was what I deserved. But, after learning so much about how to treat myself with value, nothing felt right about that belief system anymore. It had made sense when I was afraid, but that fear - the false evidence appearing real (thanks, Infinite Waters) - was holding me back from achieving my true potential. So I started weighing my values again, I began to reinforce my trust in them. When that happened, I began to be okay with it when things didn't work out and when I clashed hard with other people. In the end, it became obvious that I had nothing to apologize for, I never had. By living my life authentically, I was finally living a life I valued, and in doing so, I'd found the value in myself. Before long, it didn't bother me when someone's values didn't match mine, and I wasn't sorry for it. Because I now knew that the differences between us are what give our world its value. And honoring them is the only way I can think of to allow myself and others to live fully and joyfully.
The best part about this whole journey has definitely been the friends I've made. Through loving myself and gaining a deeper connection with my truth, I have learned to connect deeply with others again. In the end, the best friend I have is myself. Not only because I'm always there, every step of the way, but because I’ve taught myself valuable lessons I could never have learned otherwise. By spending time caring for and valuing me, it's loosed the energy I need to be able to spend more time caring for others. And at the end of the day, what makes me feel best and most valuable is what I can do for the people around me. Now I choose to live with a deep connection to myself and others, and those choices have showed me my personal value in a way no one else’s approval or confirmation ever could have.