The War On Self-Worth
It’s that time of year again, where sweethearts, chocolates, and roses fly off the shelves. Valentine's Day 2020 is here! I hope today is remarkably special for those in love – keep your love and passion alive! Make your relationship a priority and never lose sight of each other.
My post today is one that has weighed heavily on my heart for some time. I have put off writing on this topic many times over now. Mostly due to the abrasive nature of the matter and the fact I am certain few people will receive it well. I hope to explain why that is along with the greater problem created by the issue itself. So, buckle up – this one might hurt the ego a bit.
Let me preface by saying that there is a war on our self-worth; It starts from the day we are born. It is my personal opinion that the war on our self-worth is the worst it has ever been, due to the rise and popularity of technology and Social Media. We’ve never before been able to look “over the fence” (so to speak), at thousands of other people’s lives, to compare ourselves to what we see. Nor have we been given a public platform capable of creating more "victim addicts" than this day and age. While this isn’t “new” information, it bears saying again to reiterate the importance of understanding that we are being affected by it – much more deeply than we are aware of consciously.
Having said that…
There is more happening on an unconscious level than merely making comparisons. Social Media has offered the wounded a platform for supporting their addiction. Instead of people finding hope, healing, freedom and taking steps away from their wounds, and more importantly, their wounded mindset – they are rewarded by the attention they receive for being wounded by people they don’t even know. Or using their body as a means of getting attention; after all, what does the shape of your butt or the size of your cleavage have to do with "all you've overcome"? I have neither so what do I know? I'll remain lame and hold onto my integrity. But I digress...
That’s just one example of many I could give. But, let’s continue on…
What I’ve encountered lately (most likely due to Valentine's Day) is all the chatter about relationships and people’s pain. Is it wrong to vocalize your wounds or heartache on Social Media? Not at all. Is it helping you heal though? The things I see that hurt my heart is how prevalent the men and/or women-hating is. Not all of it is direct in nature; in fact, most of it is indirect. There are lots and lots of vague posts about someone of the opposite sex who hurt “said” person. As a result, they want the world to know they are hurting (or claim they were hurt but are no longer), with a follow-up message encouraging others what to do (and what not) to tolerate. Which in and of itself isn’t bad or wrong per se. It’s the underlying problem that no one seems to be aware of. You can’t declare silent war on the opposite sex, play the victim, and then make like you are a strong person. When your behavior screams pain and woundedness, backed by a trail of attention-seeking posts longer than a CVS receipt, it might be time to have a come to Jesus meeting with oneself.
I realize I’m putting myself in the line of fire by saying this but:
You are not strong! You are hurt, wounded, and projecting because you don’t feel half the things you preach out loud. Telling the world about how poorly you were treated isn’t helping you get healed. Attention is a cheap substitute for effort. It does (however) reward you, which is why people would rather stay wounded than get healed. I'm not saying it's easy to do the work; I'm saying it's necessary if you want more than internet likes by people who are mostly strangers.
Tell a drug addict or alcoholic that their habit is killing them and destroying their life; did that resolve the issue for them? Of course not! The premise behind addiction is that you are addicted! Addiction is blindness to the very thing that controls and prevents you from being free and healthy. This is why people become vicious or offended when they are confronted with their problems. You are threatening the very stability that their addiction (falsely) gives them; it is an illusion created by the way their addiction affects them psychologically, due to the way it meets their human needs.
When we are ignorant of this fact, we become a culture perpetuating this war on our self-worth and in many cases, the opposite sex while supporting our emotional sickness; while still yet, speaking as professionals on the subject with our dramatic posts.
So, let’s talk about this so I don’t seem like an insensitive jerk. I am not writing this to call people out or be insensitive; I am writing this because I want people to move beyond their hurt and self-worth issues. But in order to do that, we have to be willing to be brutally honest with ourselves. This is probably the # 1 reason people stay stuck in life and repeat the same mistakes. No one wants to be wrong, and no one wants to be real and honest with themselves. No one likes looking in the mirror and admitting “This is not something that is very attractive in my life.” We would rather blame, project, play the victim or be defensive. Everyone wants something better but won’t let go of what keeps them stuck. It reminds me of a meme I saw once of a woman floating out in the ocean; she was holding desperately to a piece of driftwood, and right next to her was the life vest thrown to her from the rescue boat trying to save her. She had the life vest in one hand but wasn’t willing to let go of the driftwood.
Let’s explore why it isn’t easy to “let go” of the victim mindset or past wounds, then we will explore how (and why) we should.
One of the most fascinating (and enlightening) speeches I’ve heard in self-help was a video where Tony Robbins explains the greatest addiction in society – the addiction to our problems.
While that may sound ridiculous, let me help you understand why (as Tony did for me). Without getting too technical or psychological, all human behavior is driven by 6 core needs that EVERYONE must meet. The control center behind these needs is the human brain. Our brain was not created for pleasure as the priority – it was created for our survival. Before I explain the 6 Human Needs, I want to briefly explain a part of our brain known as the “Reptile Brain”. The name has nothing to do with literally being reptilian. To quote:
“The reptilian brain controls the body's vital functions such as heart rate, breathing, body temperature, and balance. Our reptilian brain includes the main structures found in a reptile's brain: the brainstem and the cerebellum.”
The part that controls our behavior, in particular, is the limbic brain. To quote again:
The limbic brain emerged in the first mammals. It can record memories of behaviors that produced agreeable and disagreeable experiences, so it is responsible for what are called emotions in human beings. The main structures of the limbic brain are the hippocampus, the amygdala, and the hypothalamus. The limbic brain is the seat of the value judgments that we make, often unconsciously, that exert such a strong influence on our behavior.
The limbic brain controls your behavior and unconscious urges. It is responsible for the things you do habitually. So, how do problems become addictions – they meet 3 or more of our 6 Human Needs; which then influence the limbic brain (the control center). In order for you to truly change something that has become hardwired in your life (whether you consciously see the problem or not), you have to reprogram your brain. Without giving the limbic brain something new to hold onto (because it is designed to help you survive foremost) it will continue to use your problems as security. That sounds crazy, I know. But, our unconscious brain doesn’t use logic or reasoning. The unconscious brain doesn’t care if you are drinking yourself to death; all it knows is that you have programmed it to think that in order for you to survive, you MUST drink alcohol. Survival is no longer a matter of escaping lions, tigers, or invaders - it is feeling valuable and significant in a culture competing with itself.
The design of our brain seems to suggest that (ideally) we would be responsible for what gets programmed. In other words, God made our brains in such a way (it appears) that the intention was for us to be aware of what we allowed to influence it. We were given the responsibility for filtering what enters our brain that shapes and controls our behavior. But that is certainly not the case in our culture. Instead of choosing what impacts and influences this part of our brain, we allow external experiences or reactionary events to influence us instead. The victim mentality has become the norm. It's not about what a person can do in spite of what happens to them - outside of their control or not. It has become a matter of how well we can convince everyone else who's fault it is.
So, back to how we become addicted to our problems, to begin with…
All human behavior is driven by 6 core needs. There are good ways and bad ways to meet our needs. The first four needs are physical or structural; the last two are spiritual. The 6 Human Needs are:
Certainty: the ability to avoid pain, maintain security, and gain pleasure where possible.
Uncertainty/Variety: if life was certain all of the time we would get bored; we also must have uncertainty and/or variety in life.
Significance: we all have the need to feel special, unique, different – to be recognized.
Connection/Love: we all have a need to be loved, but we will settle for a connection where love is not present.
Growth: we all must grow mentally, spiritually, physically and emotionally – without growth we die.
Contribution: we all have the need to contribute to something beyond ourselves.
With that in mind, let’s illustrate by using a scenario where a woman who is physically abused by her husband, will not leave the abusive relationship no matter how many times it happens. [I want to remind everyone (again) that what seems illogical to you is absolutely logical to someone else. You cannot judge someone else’s behavior that is being driven by an addiction that you do not have. When we make such judgments, we are being ignorant to how powerful our brain is in controlling our behavior. People don’t stay stuck because they want to – they stay stuck because their brain is trying to help them survive.] Back to our example – I would like to ask you to guess which needs this abused woman is having met by her abuser? Glance back over the 6 needs and guess at least 3 (as it takes 3 or more to be an addiction) that you think could be the most likely cause.
If you guessed any of the 1st four – I agree with you. The abused woman is probably certain that her husband will abuse her again (certainty). She gains uncertainty (in the form of suspense) by not knowing when the next abusive event will occur. She can get significance from friends, family members, and even strangers (like on Social Media) who give her attention when she makes her problems known. If she is an attractive woman, she will probably get an excessive amount of attention from the opposite sex telling her she doesn’t deserve it, she should leave, or that they would treat her better, etc. She can use sexuality to accomplish the same here as well. She can also get her need for connection met at the same time for the reasons just stated.
So, why would this abused woman do something crazy like leaving her abuser, when the abuse thing is working out so well for her (at least on the level of meeting her needs)? And herein lies the issue with any person addicted to any problem.
As I stated earlier in this post, I am not trying to be insensitive to people’s problems; but I am trying to bring awareness to what actually causes it. Because the worst outcome is a world full of hurting people who are sounding boards for things not true. If several men (or women) hurt you, that does not mean EVERY man will hurt you. If one woman cheats on you, that doesn’t mean ALL women will cheat on you (or divorce you, take all your money, and never let you see your kids). We have to stop perpetuating our pain as truth, just because we are stuck in a cycle of meeting our needs and culture has made it convenient to do so.
A few other things I'd like to add...
Women – you are NOT better than men! You are not more worthy, more holy, more valuable, more deserving, etc. The Disney Princess mentality is BS! We live in a culture where women are already more valuable than men (they don’t draft women first for the military, women and children are rescued first, women don’t propose to men, and also why women's sexuality is protected more - a man who sleeps around is considered a stud; a woman who sleeps around is considered a slut). I could go on and on about this, but it is a separate issue for another post. But just because our culture is established in a way that protects women in this subtle way (this is not my opinion by the way – if you doubt me, I ask you to look into this yourself - I'm NOT saying women haven't also been oppressed at the same time) does not entitle you. In fact, the more you buy into this kind of entitlement, the more unhappy and unfulfilled you will become. Anything less than equal ownership of oneself, as well as equal treatment of others, is pure selfishness.
Men – you are NOT better than women! While women get a pass (culturally speaking) we were created to be the masculine force. We are expected to pursue, provide, protect, understand, love, guide, and walk through the face of many changes that women go through as a feminine force. It is what it is - this is the system. As the old and wise men say, "I've been married to five different women; they were all my wife." We are the leaders (not dictators). Leading is setting an example worthy of following. It doesn’t make us bigger, bad-er, and better than. It is a role worthy of our honor. Women are not pieces of meat that were created to scratch a hormonal itch. How she handles and portrays her sexuality is not an invitation to lower your standards. Women are not the opposite sex versions of yourselves, so stop treating them like they are. Whether they make sense to you or not has nothing to do with how you treat them. Women are not your punching bags (physically or emotionally). Women are your equal, but they are not men.
Ladies and gentlemen – your past, your wounds, your problems, and your baggage is YOURS. It doesn’t matter who hurt you. It doesn’t matter how many times. It doesn’t matter if it was a man or a woman. It doesn’t matter when it occurred. You are responsible for yourself – period. Life is not fair! It rains on the just and the unjust. There is no perfect human being! Your happiness, your future, your fulfillment is on YOU – period. Complaining about it, writing essays to the world about it, isn’t going to change the things inside of you that will change your life. You don’t have to tell the world you are worthy – you always have been! You only need to convince yourself! It doesn’t matter that the person that you loved and fell for didn’t think you were. Or that your parents didn't think you were. Whoever or whatever - you are responsible for you! People are going to let you down! Your worth cannot be determined by other people. If you have to tell the world you are worthy (constantly) then you don’t believe it for yourself. Stop trying to convince the world; start convincing yourself! Respect yourself enough to go to therapy, get a life coach, read books – do whatever it takes to find healing, peace, and freedom. Then learn how to maintain it so you can authentically give something away to people that need it. And in return, receive back the very things you wanted to begin with.
We exist in a world with (nearly) unlimited ability to stay stuck. There are so many ways to stay addicted to our problems. No one can control you; life isn’t a respecter of persons. I could whine and cry about being hit by a drunk driver at 16. I could go on and on about the death of my girlfriend as a result. I could accuse women of being horrible creatures and blast marriage as a meaningless decision because my ex-wife had an affair with my best friend of 17 years. Life will hand you all the excuses you need to stay stuck. It takes courage to find yourself, fight for yourself, and love yourself all by yourself! To build yourself for yourself (first) when no one's watching, when no one's rewarding you, when no one's blowing smoke up your butt and telling you what you want to hear.
My question to you is – will you? If you believe in your worth, can you love yourself and do the hard work when there is no one watching and nothing outside of yourself to gain?
I love Trent Shelton; I remember when he first hit the scene with his brutally honest videos. I love what he says at the end of all of his videos: “It all starts with you! It’s rehab time!” We need more voices of truth and less powerless talk. There is no future in the past; so why do we immortalize it by rehashing it in our minds day after day? You can't create a new story if you keep playing back the same horror story in your mind.
I am fairly certain this is going to hurt some egos and perhaps cast me in a negative light. But if we can’t be honest about the reality we live in – and more importantly – honest with ourselves about our own issues, then how can we expect to find happiness, love, and fulfillment? How will we teach the next generation a better way? How can we make the world a better place, if the way we see the world is through the lens of disappointment, letdown, and pain?
I’ve made many mistakes. I’ve hurt some people along the way. I’ve been hurt myself. I’m a work in progress as are you. But I will never allow my past to control my now! I refuse to blame anyone or anything for the way I show up in this world, or for the ones I love. I invite you to this challenge of self-ownership. The more we own ourselves and intentionally choose our response to the things that hurt us, the more power we have to shape the world around us.
More to come on the process of making change – the first step is always deciding to do so – with no option for looking back.