Monday, January 17, 2011

The Interconnectness of Self-Worth

I have, as noted before, a tendency towards depression. It is not so bad a tendency, at least, that is, once I learned how to manage it better and it is not without its benefits. When the darkness lifts there are moments of pure bliss: colours are brighter, sounds clearer, and feelings just that more poignant. These moments come more often now and while they don’t negate the shadows they do help me get through any extended visits.

Some time ago I was in the midst of a rather dark episode and my perception of self worth was markedly low. The usual methods of coping were not working so I decided instead to walk with my thoughts to their shadowy destination. I was going on an extended bus and train ride and, as such, felt I could indulge my melancholy but not feel trapped with the heaviness if I simultaneously viewed the moving scenery outside my window. With this in mind, I started from the top, or bottom as it were, and began rationalizing the erroneous belief: I am unworthy.

I looked outside and asked, if I am unworthy, what of those people I see on the street? Have they worth and, if so, what is it? I continued with my questioning. What if one of those people were to die, what would be the result? Would someone miss them and if so, is that the basis of their worth? Is our worth based solely on the feelings or needs of another? I cringed at this thought, wanting to deny its possibility but strove onward. When we die, we may be sorely missed but what of those who have no family or friends? Because they are not missed does that mean they have no worth? And, coming back to myself, while another may miss me and find me worthy, my own internal yard stick may still find me lacking. With that, I was brought back full circle, what makes me worthy?

I sat and stared out the window with uncomfortable ambivalence while pedestrians, oblivious to my judgments, continued to make cameo appearances on this moving stage. I believe, well most of me, that is, believes that we have intrinsic value but there lies within me another part, however small, that has no such faith. Outside there were old and young; street people and professionals. I saw those who walked alone and wondered if they loved, or were loved, and I saw couples and questioned if their affection was real. There were soundless dialogues and dramatic gestures; people dodging traffic and buying hotdogs but mostly I saw a passivity of movement — a seemingly meaningless activity of going from one place to another with a marked absence of care for self or for the other. Without care, I thought, there is no worth.

Then the lines began blurring, everything seemed wrong or unreal; the actors two-stepping in a macabre dance, confusing my senses. I got off to transfer from the bus to the train and I wandered in a daze to the automated ticket kiosk. I pulled out my coins and a pocketful landed on the floor. It was suddenly too much; I felt like crying. I saw an agent approaching and with subtle horror realized it was the wrong person to be coming my way. In the past we had had a minor altercation over a slightly expired ticket and I found her to be patronizing and uncompromising. I sighed and bent down to retrieve my fare only to hear this folksy voice near my ear asking if I needed help while dexterous hands scooped up stray coins. Surely this wasn’t my nemesis talking. I felt dizzy with surreal apprehension. It was like I had stepped into another dimension and there was Mayberry’s Aunt Bee offering homespun goodness. I shook my head to clear the fog. She looked like the woman I had previously shared unkind words with but, then again, there was also something different about her. I stared a bit longer and my imagination grasped for the absurd declaring that it must be her sister, or twin. Yes, the good twin, not the evil one. The agent, unaware of my perusal, continued to offer a sincere countrified charm and surprisingly inoffensive positivity. My weakened defenses shattered and my eyes teared at her kindness. Nemesis or not, this woman was reaching out across the lines of our (my?) animosity and gifting me with kindness. I thanked her and wandered off to the train, once again alone, once again pondering my worth.

And then it hit me. My worth — anyone’s worth — cannot be measured on individual attainment, intimate relationships or some magical formula of beingness. It is based, instead, on our interrelatedness, the invisible connections that are the foundation for life. It is not so much that I am someone’s child or friend, mate or colleague but that I am connected to others, not necessarily by choice but solely because I exist. By virtue of just being, I am related to every other living thing, flora and fauna. I may not know the person walking towards me but in my noticing, we are both affected. I look at him or her and my glance is taken away from something else and in that move, I am changed as is the person I did, and did not look at. I breathe in what you just breathed out; I smile and your heart opens; I move this way and you respond in kind, or not. I die and become earth; the earth grows food and feeds those who live. I am but one strand in the web of life but that strand is continuous with the whole and, as such, is important.

Our worth is directly proportionate to our recognition of this invisible thread. If we recognize this, we acknowledge our infinite worth; if we don’t, our worth diminishes. Our self-worth is constant, it is only our perception or denial of our interconnectedness with all other beings that devalues us.

I am part of you as you are part of me. To negate my self-worth is to negate life in all its manifestations.


  1. "Our self-worth is constant, it is only our perception or denial of our interconnectedness with all other beings that devalues us". Words to live by.

    I am continually impressed by the high quality of your writing and the ideas and philosophies you explore on this blog. It's truly unique, and I hope you keep going with it. I know it certainly helps me!

  2. When I first read this blog I was taken to tears. Finding self-worth through the fog of familial and societal voices that creep in to my thoughts has been more than challenging. As I review this blog for a second time there is a feeling of gratitude for words that may replace the old messages that have diminished because of your wisdom Jo-Ann. Thank-you for sharing your insights so we may all live richer lives.

  3. Wow, thank you Amy, thank you Kristen. I take your words and carry them deep within.