for release Friday March 4, 2005
by Melodie Davis
Editor’s Note: Judy Kitchen is a church secretary and Another Way reader who has dealt with serious depression. She wrote the following column to help others deal with feelings of low self-esteem. She also has a website on depression at http://1952wildflower.tripod.com/
How Do We Find Self Worth?
Guest Column by Judy Kitchen
I have come to the conclusion that, for me at least, my self-worth is measured by those in my life that I either love, need, or fear.
Sometime in the early part of any life, we begin to realize that:
1. I need to be loved.
2. I need to be accepted.
3. I need recognition.
This is perfectly normal, unless it becomes an obsession or necessary to your feelings of self-worth. Of course we want to feel loved, needed, and worthy. This is all basic human nature.
The problems arise when we take it to the extreme: that feeling loved, accepted and worthy depends only on what others think of us. It means that if someone just does not love us, for whatever reason, then it must be because of something we did or did not do. Some flaw, some defect in us.
The dangerous part in this is that there are people out there who are willing and wanting to take advantage of people with low self-esteem. They lay on the compliments, the praise. They go out of their way to make you feel wonderful, about your looks, your talents, your sex appeal. Sometimes we are so eager to please that nothing asked is off limits. Like a sponge, we soak up the praise and the stroking. Our needs are being met, we are loved! The thought that this person is taking advantage of us never enters our minds. Molestation? No problem, I am loved! Treated as slave labor? No problem, I am loved! Extramarital affair? No problem, I am loved!
When a needy person is being taken advantage of, we (as needy persons) are inclined to think it does not matter. We just don’t see it that way. Our way of thinking is totally different from a “normal” person. Our minds (brain) know deep down that something is wrong, but our hearts (feelings) only see and feel love.
It becomes easy to see how a person can become addicted. When we feel rejection, what do we turn to? In this case, it is not God. It can be one of many things: shopping, food, work, or the more dangerous drugs and alcohol. All these things make you feel good for a time. It numbs the pain of rejection.
God is said to have created us in God’s image, yet in depression, we may only see God as a punisher. We may be quick to forgive those who do us wrong yet we think God is withholding forgiveness from us, because we feel we do not deserve it.
Where did the notion that our happiness depends on others come from? Why can’t we understand that our happiness is a direct result of our own actions, feelings and perceptions? Why can’t we understand that God loves us every bit as much as he does others? Maybe it is because we can’t accept love without payment. We feel the need to do something to get the gift of love. This is one reason molesters find us so attractive. We are eager to please. Sexual acts are a simple form of barter: “I will do this for you if you will love me.” And our need to please others, in order to feel good about ourselves, takes many forms and becomes a vicious circle.
How do you learn self-love? Some of us have been told from birth that we must earn love, we must dedicate our lives to making sure other’s needs are met and never put ourselves first, for that is surely sinful and selfish. How do we accept joy and happiness into our own lives when we are programmed to believe that we do not deserve it? It’s like believing all our lives that we are a weed and now we are supposed to believe we are a rose.
You might think that if enough people tell us we are worthy that eventually we will believe it. Nope. No way. It has to come from within and therein is the problem. We see every compliment as a prelude to “So what do you want from me now?” Even a simple compliment such as “You look pretty today” becomes immediately, “What are you up to and what do I need to do for this?”
It is so painful to have these feelings. To look at everyone in our lives as potential users.
So what are the answers? How do we rebuild or rewire a person? I want it to finally sink in: Yes, God loves me! Yes, God cares and forgives. God’s grace and forgiveness and love are unconditional. But it is hard for me to understand that. I want that light to go off in my brain that says, “I get it! I finally get it!
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Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three daughters.
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