Q & A with Dr Happy – finding self-worth

Q & A with Dr Happy – finding self-worth

In my latest Q&A, Cheryl asks …

All my friends are great cooks, writers, artists, musicians and more. I don’t feel like I’m good at anything, apart from possibly being a good friend. Please help me find something I’m good at and some self-worth.

Well, Cheryl, I think the answer to your question is IN the question but let me start at the beginning.

The concept of self-worth is a complex one, one that’s been debated and defined (and re-defined) by psychologists and others for decades. I won’t have time or space to discuss all of that at length here and now, but suffice to say that there’s at least one simple decision that needs to be made at the very beginning of any consideration of this.

And that is … is self-worth based on something? or is it inherently something with which we’ve all been gifted at birth and by nature of being humans?

Again, that’s a BIG and COMPLEX question; one that can’t possibly be answered in a few hundred words, but let me ask you another question.

Do you believe a new born baby, one who by definition has done nothing and has achieved literally zero, is worthy of self-worth?

I think most of us would answer in the affirmative. And that’s because most of us would feel that a new born baby is deserving of love and attention and, well, of everything we can give it.

Why, then, do we not see ourselves the same way?

Something happens as we age, and mature, and begin to accept society’s definitions of worthiness. As we progress through school, worth becomes associated with academic grades, and/or maybe sports results or accomplishments in music or drama or art. As we progress professionally, our worth becomes associated with status and pay, power and even influence. Along with that we’re told our worth is (at least partially) dependent on body shape and wealth and the list goes on.

Now, in some ways, there’s nothing wrong, in principal, with using these criteria to assess our “success”; except, most of us do it without really thinking about it. We accept society’s judgements mindlessly, whether they apply to us or not and whether they’re helpful for us or not.

Which is, the crux of the matter. Here, Cheryl (and others) is the key point …

… you can choose, we can all choose, how we want to “score” our lives. If it were up to me, we wouldn’t score our lives; but if you have to, then at least do so mindfully and using “scores” that YOU believe to be relevant and appropriate.

If we were to look at the research, research exploring factors that are most closely associated with happiness and wellbeing, with thriving and flourishing, we’d understand that the most important variables are things like (1) living a life that’s true to your authentic self, (2) enjoying life, not just working, (3) be courageous and vulnerable enough to accept and express emotions, (4) allowing yourself to really be happy and, maybe MOST IMPORTANTLY, (5) being a good friend (note; credit to Bronnie Ware for this slightly modified list of her “5 regrets of the dying”).

It goes without saying that your list could be anything, and that it could definitely include variables not included above and/or many more variables. But I’d be surprised, based on all my research and all my years of experience, if any serious list didn’t include some aspect of friendship, relatedness, connection and/or belonging.

Cheryl, I suspect you may well have many strengths and abilities you’re not fully acknowledging; maybe one of them is humility! But even if it’s true that “all” you are is a good friend then BE a great friend, value yourself for being a great friend. That may well be THE BEST THING any of us can be!