How Do You Define Personal Value?
My son, Jaken, is a source of a lot of blog fodder for me. Though he does it unintentionally, he constantly shows me things about myself, in his own special childlike way. It’s like he packs a little mirror around with him and reflects my idiosyncrasies back at me. Kids are a gift in that way because they give us reminders of our own personal work that is left undone.
Jaken told me the other day that the kids at his new school would like him if he brought cool things in for show and tell. I had a “clunk” moment while I remembered my lonely childhood. My childhood loneliness came as a result of believing the lie that people genuinely like you for the talents you possess, or for the “things” you have. I truly believed that my value came from exterior attributes, rather than simply who I was as a person, which I struggled with as well. As a teenager, I believed that I was pretty much a bag of garbage without looks, athleticism, and intelligence.
It took years of work and diligence to overwrite the “you’re a bag of crap” messages I sent myself. Sadly, my work is still not done and probably will never be complete. I’ll always have that negative voice in my head saying, “if people really knew me, they wouldn’t like me.” The good news is that the voice is much quieter, shows up less, and has become easy to ignore. The bigger problem is the habits I learned to inappropriately compensate for my mistaken belief. I still fight them, mainly when I meet new people and when I’m nervous. I constantly turn to, “Let me tell you how great I am so you won’t assume otherwise from the get go.” Man, I battle that!
That brings us back around to where I began. I wonder where my son learned it? Despite how much better I am today at the skill of relating to people and building solid relationships based on healthy ideals, I still show my son an example of how to do it wrong on occasion. I feel blessed to have the reminder. I shoulder no shame in the man I am. My duty to Jaken is to be the best example I can be to him, and to discuss this issue with him, which I have done. I continue to remind him that people will like him for who he is—not for what he has. However, I know that I will be a far better father to recognize that the real way to teach him this lesson is to live it in my own life. Take in the lessons that kids are here to teach us and learn from them. That is their gift to us.