Once a month this year, I'm going to share a more personal story with you on the blog in a column called Heart and Soul. This month, my story is about changing my belief systems around what my value is as a person.
During the times when I've been ill with lymphoma, I had to find ways to believe that I still had value as a person. It isn't easy for me to say out loud that I didn't believe I had value, but it's true. I felt useless. In addition, I had to learn anew every time I had lymphoma. Sometimes, I learned again in between but forgot because the old beliefs are a strong, well-used muscle and the new beliefs were little baby muscles that I forgot to keep using.
What I'm learning now is that the new beliefs "didn't stick" each time because of a couple of big things: a cultural belief that our value is defined by what we produce or what we earn (or both), and a subconscious belief that I'm not enough or I'm not worthy or I'm not valuable (or all three). Truth be told, it took a lot of conscious effort and support from loved ones when I was ill to believe in my value.
Guess what? I consciously realized yesterday that my new-found value beliefs go away once I'm healthy. When I'm healthy, I go right into Prove It Mode. I set out to prove my value, to prove I can be productive and helpful, to prove my gratitude and to give back to those who cared for me again. As a result, my self-esteem goes up and up and up. However, it's built upon a shoddy foundation of the old belief that my value is defined by what I produce. I hadn't realized this pattern until now.*
I'm honestly relieved that I realized this eight months into my recent recovery instead of years from now. I can repair my foundation more easily because the new belief system is more recent. I thought this year I had work to do around under earning and now I see that's only the obvious layer of this issue of value. The real emotional and psychological work on value is not really about money. It's also much more sad to face. It's hard to admit these things, to say clearly I don't totally, wholly believe that I have value. Ignoring it doesn't make it go away though. So I made myself a big reminder.
I'm going to do this deep work. It takes more than a handwritten list of affirmations, I know that. Yet, it's a start. It's a visible reminder to do this work. Again and again and again until I've chipped away at the old foundation until it's gone and replaced by a new solid foundation. Tara Mohr's book Playing Big has been recommended to me. I'm going to dive in this weekend.
* I'm working with Megan of Tended Wealth on personal finances and she is compassionately assisting me with these realizations on my belief systems. I cannot recommend her enough if you have work to do around money!