It isn’t about what you do, but who you are.

We hear variations of this phrase all the time.  And it sounds like a great concept.  We can be proud of who we are as a person.  We don’t have to define ourselves by what we do for a living or what we do for others.  We don’t need special labels or status to be important.  We can just be.  It sounds wonderful.  But there’s a problem.  Everything we have learned since the day we were born does not support these beliefs.  As a matter of a fact, what we have experienced counters those teachings completely.  And that can leave us feeling hopeless.  If this is true for others and not us, there is something seriously wrong with us.

But it is true.  And it isn’t only true for the “elite” and “special” people of the world like we may have been taught.  Actually, what we were taught is the problem.  Since the day we were born, we have been inundated with the reasons we must define ourselves by what we do and not who we are.  It is incredibly disorienting because it isn’t in our innate nature to live this way.  This is why our families and society have to redirect us with as many messages as possible.  They came from every direction and they infiltrated our minds.  To change, we must rewire our way of thinking.  But to do that, we need to start with an understanding of where these beliefs started.

Family.  When we grow up in abusive families, we learn some things early.  We are expected to focus on the needs of others.  And if this means sacrificing our own needs, that’s okay.  We need to step up to the plate and care more about others than we do ourselves.  We need to ignore our feelings and negate our thoughts for the sake of the family.  To make sure this message comes across clearly, they will work to break down our sense of self.  They might tell us our innate strengths aren’t any good.  They might let us know that our perception of reality is wrong.  They may tell us that our achievements aren’t enough.  And in the end, we are left reliant on the family for any sense of being.  Our importance as an individual is not considered.

School.  Not surprisingly, our schools are reflecting the society we live in.  They have one mission.  They need to teach all the kids the same message in the same way.  And that approach appeals to a minority of the population.  If we don’t fit that perfect school personality, we are told to change.  We are told to be more like the others.  And the idea of critical thinking or challenging the messages in the school books is a ridiculous notion.  We are graded, and we are judged based on those grades.  And if those grades aren’t high enough, we are not as important.  We may be punished by our families who desperately need to achieve in support of their “normalcy mask”.  We may even be chastised by the school for not figuring out how to meet their standards.

Society.  Unfortunately, society is the basis for everything we experience.  I am not suggesting society tells families to abuse, but they don’t tell them not to abuse.  They look the other way.  They create loopholes for abusers and they refuse to believe children when they do have the courage to speak up.  The status of a family matters more than the well-being of a child.  And the more important a family is, the more they have achieved, the less likely a “whistle-blower” will be supported.  We live in a world of conformity.  We live in a society where wealth and status are more important that the truth.  And when a child is being abused, the message is they are not important enough.

The messages come from every direction.  They tell us:

“You only matter if you contribute.”

“You are important if you achieve to our standards.”

“Your conformity is what matters most.”

By the time we reach adulthood, our sense of self is lost.  We are empty unless we are doing and achieving and getting accolades.  But none of that is sustainable.  It is not possible to live this way all the time.  At some point, we must come back to self.  We must rest in our being.  And we must know that is important enough.  We must learn we are important enough.  This is why I am devoting the month of September to learning the keys to self-worth.  Come join me on the Survivor’s Guide for Life as we explore our unconscious obstacles to our life’s potential.  Click on this link so you can discover the keys to self-worth.