When I typed ‘worth’ into Google to find some sort of image to go along with this post, I expected to find a lot of pictures of money. Instead, there were a lot of Victorian dresses (and I’d like to know why).
There’s a certain irony there. In those days, a woman’s worth was mostly tied up in her ability to bear children and run a household; for upper class women, status and beauty were the most valuable things they possessed. What any of these women thought was largely ignored.
I’ve thought a lot about my own worth lately. When I made my New Year’s resolutions, I wasn’t thinking about worth, but it runs through a lot of them. How much is my time worth? How much is my spirit worth? What things are worthy of doing?
I struggle a lot with self-worth: how much do my ideas and opinions matter? What role does my appearance play in how much I value myself? Are my feelings important? Sadly, I have not valued myself as much as I should. Some of it is due to external factors, and some of it is just how I see myself; I also think a lot of it has to do with my gender.
I read something tonight that hit me hard. Sarah Bessey wrote that while reviewing her manuscript, she and her husband noticed that she “felt the need to make sure the reader saw me stuffing my hands in my pockets, kicking rocks, looking down, and apologizing for my opinions…[I] default to self-deprecation for humour, I still turn my declarative statements into questions.”
That is ME.
How many times have I said something and tagged on an ‘but it’s just my opinion; I don’t know for sure’ at the end of a comment? How many times have I made fun of myself? How many times have I apologized for speaking my mind, for my feelings? How many times have I minimized my accomplishments? How many times have I not said what I wanted to say because I didn’t think I was smart enough or had a right to speak?
It hurts to think how much I have silenced myself.
This blog is a step towards reclaiming my voice. I have a lot to say, and I have a right to say it – and nobody has to listen if they don’t want to. And if somebody disagrees, well, they have the right to their own opinion.
Over Christmas I listened to Brené Brown talk about shame. Shame is so powerful. For women, shame centres on competing and conflicting expectation about what we’re supposed to be. For men, shame is weakness – not living up to our society’s version of masculinity.
I’m a 30-year-old woman. I’m still in school. I am single. I don’t have a car. I’m not too keen on having kids at the moment. I love football. I love politics. My passions for music and fashion are the most stereotypically ‘girly’ things about me. I have a number of university degrees, done some amazing things and yet I felt a lot of shame when I turned 30 because I didn’t have a career, a boyfriend, a house and a car – all the things society tells me I should have by now (or at least be close to obtaining).
Brown asserts that empathy is the opposite of shame, and part of empathy is courage. I’ve never thought of myself as courageous, but I’m starting to. I go against the grain in a number of ways and thrive. I take risks. I survive and carry on, even when I’m anxious and depressed. Those things take courage.
Theodore Roosevelt said,
It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.
I’ve been in the arena a lot these past few months. Yet, I move forward; some days, simply putting one foot in front of the other is courageous.
I’m starting to wonder if I’m courageous because somewhere deep down I know I’m worthy; maybe my courage is a subconscious means of trying to show myself my own value.
This weekend I met a couple whom I’ve known since I was a child. They asked what I was up to and hoped that I’d consider entering politics someday. Her exact phrase was, “We need you.” I laughed and said something to the effect of I didn’t think my parents could handle it, as well as some joke about myself. Self-deprecating humour, anyone?
I want to be more confident, but I can’t be more confident if I don’t take myself seriously, which means that I need to believe my thoughts and feelings are as valuable as everyone else’s. I need to keep stepping into the arena; one of these days I’ll figure out that I’m worthy of being in there.