“You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.” — Toni Morrison
What’s your worth? How do you measure it? Do you quantify your value by how much money you make, how many friends you have, how many followers you have on social media? Do you measure your merit by how you treat others, by how you translate your passions into reality? Do you weigh your significance by how others treat you?
My last post I wrote about loving yourself so that you may love other people, about following your own path and seeking what makes you happy, regardless of where you think you’re supposed to be in life. What I didn’t write about was how others treat you. I didn’t write about what we think we deserve or how we measure up. “Deserve” is a tough concept for me. The idea that someone is deserving of something is tricky, for it can be misconstrued. But what cannot be misconstrued is this: we are all deserving of respect.
Our worth can be measured by so many different things, and it can mean different things to different people, but I believe that our true worth and our opinion of ourselves must grow from this root: we are deserving and worthy of respect. People can treat us in any way they want, we can’t control that, but what we can control is how we react to this treatment. If someone tells you, whether in words or actions, that you are not deserving of respect, it is up to you if you believe them or not. Seems simple, right? But if you’re a human being, you know it’s not that easy.
It’s not easy to be treated poorly and to shake it off, to keep it moving with our heads held high. It hurts when someone we love or respect doesn’t feel the same about us, or if they say they do but their actions say otherwise. But we are the deciders. We don’t have to pretend that we’re not hurt, but we must remember that which is self-evident: we deserve respect, love is our birthright, and we do not have to stay in a situation that tells us we are not deserving.
If we stay, if we accept these falsehoods as truth, we begin to change ourselves. Believing these lies, we begin to alter shape, to lose our forms. We begin to assume these roles that are handed to us: we are weak, we are gullible, we are fragile, we are crazy, whatever. Suddenly, we are victims. It seems that without warning, we are systematically disregarded. How many times have we or someone we known asked, Why does this always happen to me? Why do I always have the worst luck? To some degree, because we allow it.
I know this idea is controversial, but it is because this statement can be misinterpreted. No, I am not giving weight to the awful adage, You/she/he/they were asking for it. No. Rather, I am saying that when we accept mistreatment, when we assume these roles from people who don’t know us, who don’t see us, we lose sight of ourselves. And when we lose sight of ourselves, we allow outside or outmoded beliefs to dictate our lives.
What should dictate our lives, what should dignify our worth, is the idea that we are deserving of respect. We can take on someone else’s opinion of us, which is really a mirror of themselves, or we can say, nope. Nope, I’m not a loser. Nope, I’m not a fragile, gullible victim. I am a person who is worthy of respect. And if you don’t see that, that is not my problem. If you don’t see me, it is because you aren’t capable of seeing yourself. And for that, I feel sorry for you. I feel sorry that you are lost and hurting, so lost and so hurt that all you can do is try and derail or hurt me.
I say this because I have been on either side of the coin. I have been mistreated, I have believed falsehoods as truths, truths that eroded my self-esteem to the point of becoming a perpetrator myself. I became the person who mistreated others, who didn’t deem others as worthy of respect. It was their choice to believe me, just as it was my choice to believe those who disrespected me. You see, it’s a vicious cycle, this cycle of hurt. And it all occurs because we are all damaged. Everyone has been damaged, everyone has issues. So then what?
If we all have issues, if we’re all damaged, what do we do? We go back to the root, to the truth that is self-evident: we are deserving of respect. And if we are deserving of respect, is not each person we meet? Are we not all damaged people walking on this earth together, each shouldering a burden, all seeking love and happiness? If someone treats me without regard, I know that it is because they do not have regard for themselves.
I believe the road back to regard is one that we must mostly walk alone. To truly value what is within us is an inside job, not an outward one. So though it may be tempting to want to help the damaged guy who’s not respecting you, though it may be tempting to want to fix the girl with the issues who doesn’t see you for who you are, I ask you to refrain. You’ve got your own burdens to bear, your own work to do. Focus on fixing yourself, on repairing your own damage. Ask yourself why you permitted someone to hurt you when you are worthy of so much more. Then perhaps they can begin to ask themselves the same.
I wish you a wild, free life. You deserve it. We all do.