I’m gauging my own self-worth, my own self-esteem. I am trying to answer the question that has been burning inside me for over forty years.
Am I enough?
It turns out that the question isn’t even a straightforward question. It’s conditional, with a lot of but’s and what-ifs? It turns out you must decide what lens you are looking through before you even begin to consider the definition of am I enough.
Dealing with depression wasn’t already hard enough. Now I must figure out what context I am viewing myself in. And why does it take context for me to decide if I am enough?
You will get tired of hearing about the job I was offered.
Yet it is a perfect example of the complexity of deciding how I will look at my own self-worth, my own value as a person, separate from a title. With the title, General Manager, I know exactly how valuable I am. I enjoy and relish the position. I am very good at it. I treat people with respect (praise in public, coach in private) and empower my employees.
Through the lens of me as the general manager, I am enough.
I have found this to be true with any title I carry or have had. I am enough as “father, husband, son, friend, neighbor.” But when it is just me, by myself with no title, then I struggle to know who I am. Without the correct lens to view myself through, I cannot see my own worth. And on the porch, by myself, just sitting there with my morning cup of coffee, there is no lens.
I do not have any way to measure whether I am enough. I cannot see my value. There is nothing to look through, no lens to see how valuable I am to myself. But put in a lens, give me a title, and the value is immediately apparent to me.
This is not a healthy way to live.
I can’t remember when or why I began to think like this, but I can tell the roots of it started pretty early. I have been challenged to think more about my youth and early recollections of not being enough. This may take some work. It has been easier for me to gloss over the tough times in my youth and just remember the fun. And I remember a lot of fun.
But getting my brain wrapped around some of the uncomfortable, tougher times, is going to take my full attention. And based on what I have read and what professionals have told me, it will not be easy or quick. That is depressing to hear.
What I am learning is I won’t be going into the past to place blame.
The process professionals use helps people deal with moving these memories from one side of the brain to the other. There they can be processed and finally put in a box for storage, rather than sitting on the edge of the table, ready to jump at you when you trigger that memory.
Everyone has triggers.
People without depression have less trouble processing their experiences. The two sides of their brain communicate easier. When they experience triggers, there is less sitting on the table, waiting to jump at them. Their brains can label and store most of their experiences without professional help. And so, they do not have to figure out what lens to use to view their self-worth. You should know that I am not going to let go of this.
I am going to work on it until I can figure out a way to see myself as enough. Me, without any titles. Me without a special lens to see me through.
Until then, I can control how I think and speak about myself. I can be less quick to accept blame for something, especially if I know I didn’t do it. I don’t have to be the bigger person and say it was my fault when it wasn’t. I can acknowledge my role in whatever it is and take responsibility for my part. Adults do that.
But to devalue myself to avoid conflict, that is a strategy that has never worked.
It has been part of what has brought me to where I am today. I want to fully understand what has caused my unhelpful thinking in the past. It’s easy to say depression took me here. But how did it happen? How can I stop it from sucking me back in?
How can I understand why I choose a certain lens?
In a professional work setting, I am much, much stronger. I address the uncomfortable, I say what needs to be said, and I can make the tough decisions. In my personal relationships, it is not always so clear cut. That is why I was so focused on running back to a full-time out of the house job. I am good at that, I understand my worth without question, and it is a safe place for me.
Deciding, with the help of all the tools and support groups, to not take the job I was offered feels anything but safe. It feels uncomfortable, scary, and has me facing the unknown. That’s why I made the decision to not take the job even while I was still kicking and screaming that I needed to have it.
It’s safety versus the unknown.
Not having a lens, a context to view myself, is a skill that I can master. But it is a skill I have had almost zero practice in. I am building a support group that is helping me build confidence in my ability to see myself as a unique individual. This is exciting.
Doing the work to make it happen, is another story.
It seems so simple to accept yourself in all your glory. To accept the things you are excellent at and what you struggle with makes sense. Accepting who you are as a person is healthy. I’m reminded of a Clint Eastwood movie where he says” a man’s got to know his limitations.” At home, I am stilling learning that. In a work setting, I had begun to see that.
There were things that I would have other managers do because they were better at it than me. And I would also have managers do certain things because they were not as good as me. I recognized that if they didn’t get a chance to try, and possibly struggle with them, they would never be better than me. This made them stronger. Plus, having them do things that they were better at than me, made us all more productive.
Well, I guess I do have some experience with knowing my self-worth, my value.
Now it’s just a matter of seeing it without a lens.
As I continue my journey making sure depression is not my boss, your comments are appreciated.