As someone who has had more time and cause to ruminate on such matters than may be strictly fair, I can’t help but wonder at the concept of self worth in our society and the contradiction contained in it. We are continuously sold this nebulous idea that self worth is something that is entirely dredged up from within our person and is entirely responsible for protecting itself; and yet everything that matters to us involves others judging our worth. We are told that we are responsible for our own self worth and that it shouldn’t matter to us what others think of us when patently this is instrumental to our lives in any quantifiable or tangible way. We are intensely social creatures: what our peers make of us is always at the forefront of our minds for social and practical reasons. No one wants to live in a society with loose cannons threatening equilibrium. We feel things such as shame and embarrassment for reasons that are more complex than is strictly evolutionary: we feel these things to preserve the status quo. So for us to suddenly extol this sentiment of “you’re ok no matter what” seems perplexing when it is so patently not true. All life hurdles: professional, romantic and social are almost entirely dependent on other’s evaluation of us. Traditional markers of success: popularity, good earnings, a happy marriage and family life reflect that.
Maybe self worth is something that parents instil in us? But what if your parents couldn’t or wouldn’t do that for whatever reason, where are you then? What if your upbringing instilled patterns of thought and behaviour in you that render you incapable of feeling you are worth anything? The sex industry would have a far smaller pool from which to recruit if this happened less. Or what if you were raised with a disproportionately inflated sense of your own self worth? Politics might be a lot less densely populated if this happened less
I may think a lot of myself but if no one is willing to hire me for a job then clearly something is a little amiss with my self worth. And if the situation continues, then my personal stock valuation of myself plummets. It is only natural. The fact that I read Keats at night to expand my mind isn’t going to pay my heating bill. That I may have overcome significant hurdles in my life will not necessarily attract a partner, if anything it’ll do the opposite. We live in a society where owning property is fetishized (according to Sarah Beeny the average Briton spends 16 hours a month online perusing property in their are- more time than they spend cooking or exercising), as is ignoble, crude super-wealth and celebrity for doing nothing worthwhile at all. It’s a mixed message at best. I don’t have the solution for it, I just wish we were a little more honest with ourselves.