My next goal is out there, and I reach for it. The next thing that I think will satisfy my need for acceptance, for accomplishment, for value. There it is and I can see it clearly. Following an insightful conversation recently, I can see other things more clearly now too.
Chatting with a friend while sipping water, because it was too early for wine. She asked me how things in my life had been going lately and I searched my mind for the happy details, as if that is the only thing that she would want to hear. I located a few great things that have happened lately and I shared them. Successful projects at work leading to praise and accolades topped my list of share-worthy events.
In the back of my mind, there were other things that were waiting to come out, ready for their turn to surface, but I was reluctant to go there. I didn’t want to talk about how because I no longer have a relationship with my three-year-old step-granddaughter, I feel empty and sad and just not good enough somehow. I didn’t want to tap into that at all. I also didn’t want to talk about how when other people express the smallest bit of doubt in me or question my plans, I shut down and sometimes give up. That is not a comfortable place to visit.
So, I reach for the comfortable. And I discuss the things that make me feel worthy and loved and happy. Those places are better, right? But those places have me reaching for my value in the outcomes.
The painful truth is that I often place my worth in the end-result of anything. Relationships, projects, situations, and even the outfit I’ve chosen to wear that day. If it is well received and garners praise, then I am good. If it doesn’t go so well and the outcome is less than desirable, then I am bad.
My brain tricks me into this mindset every time. It is a pattern that I have known since childhood, when I believed that if I got good grades, I was valuable and worthwhile and important. If I didn’t, then I was all the other things that are not good or valuable or worthwhile. That is how I have learned to manage my expectations and my self-worth. Constantly reaching for praise and acceptance and to be the good girl.
By the way, I always got good grades growing up. I had to. I couldn’t bear to fail. I couldn’t stand to be bad.
Forty freaking years of determining my worth by other people’s reactions has come to light in this one brief, wine-less conversation with my lovely friend. You should have seen her face as I discovered this juicy little nugget about myself. Drat!
Recognizing it lessens its power. Knowing that I struggle in this way gives me the opportunity to re-program my brain. Finding out that I am constantly seeking approval from external sources provides me with the unique and scary perspective of change – from the inside, out.
Here’s what I have decided following this catalyst conversation…
I am not only valuable when I do great things. I am not only worthy when I accomplish something. I am not only good when I have pleased the key people in my life.
I am valuable all the time. I am worthy no matter what I’ve done. And I am good regardless of what anyone thinks of me.
I am a beautiful child of God, created to be exactly what I am and to share the amazing gifts that I’ve been blessed with. But that is a hard realization to make. And it is even harder to convince my brain that if you don’t like and comment and view this post, it still matters. It is still important. It is still worthwhile. Because my mind gets wrapped up in the stats and the well-received, people-pleasing, praise-seeking moments.
I am so used to reaching outside of myself for evidence that I matter. But I need to be reaching inward. I need to be so strong in my convictions and in my talents and in my existence that I just know I’m valuable and worthy and good. And I need to be reaching upward for the comfort that my God recognizes my worthiness because he created me. With all my flaws and doubts and insecurities… I am reaching.
This post was inspired by Five Minute Friday’s prompted topic, “reach”. In what areas of your life do you reach? See what other brave writers have to share on this topic by clicking over to Kate Motaung’s Blog.