Yesterday, I watched snippets from the Man Enough podcast episode where the brilliant Alok Vaid-Menon was their guest. While Alok talks about their experience with being bullied for being gender non-binary and transfeminine, they made a very pertinent point about how they grew up being told that they were fundamentally unlovable and that the only that they could have worth was by being exceptional.
That is a narrative that will be familiar to most people who struggle with self-worth. A lot of people who struggle with identity- and appearance-related shame often believe they have to do more to prove they’re worthy, especially when it’s been reinforced through childhood experiences. These tendencies sneak up on you only to later present as struggles with perfectionism and addiction.
You’re already familiar with my grammar Nazi tendencies in the past and how being good in class had become an important part of my identity growing up. Alok mirrors that by saying that it was not sufficient that they had gone to Stanford, they also graduated top of their class.
These are coping mechanisms that people who struggle with self-worth develop. Unfortunately, the trouble with such coping mechanisms is that they are borne from extrinsic motivation and do not offer intrinsic rewards. They will serve you for only so long before you burn out.
I recently read that the objectivity, not confidence, was the real solution to the imposter syndrome. Similarly, the key to self-worth is not belief, it is self-reliance.
No amount of telling yourself you’re worthy will work if you don’t show yourself that you can count upon yourself to do what needs to be done.
Often when we talk about trust, we think about it in relation to another person. We tend to forget that we must also learn to trust our own selves. If you cannot consistently rely upon yourself to do what you know is good for you, how do you trust in you and how do you believe in your worth?
Self-reliance does not mean that one cannot, or should not need or accept support from others. It simply means that if you have to, you can go the distance alone. And more importantly, that you can trust yourself to do it.
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