“Your value doesn’t decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth.” ~Unknown
On a summer night in Hicksville, Long Island, I swung the bat and drove a double down the left-field line. I broke up the pitcher’s no-hitter, and he was one of the best pitchers in the league. I felt completely at home. I was myself.
On another summer night in Vergennes, Vermont, I stumbled back to the fence tracking down a fly ball. I speared at it with my glove, then watched it bounce off of my hand and go over the fence for a grand-slam home run. I felt numb and hateful.
For each negative episode on the baseball field, it would take days to recover. It tortured me, and by association, those around me. It wasn’t just baseball, either. It was all things—academics, peer-acceptance, or any life event.
Well into my late twenties, I was still soaring through emotional ceilings and crashing through emotional floors. The longevity of the pattern was beginning to drive me crazy. I needed to end this cycle, but how?
I didn’t know at the time that this was a self-esteem issue. The major flaw in my worldview back then was that my self-worth was based on what other people thought of me.
Going back to when I was a kid, and well into adulthood, I was highly sensitive to the feedback of others. As a kid, a teacher would praise me and I’d be on top of the world. Later in the day, a coach would yell at me and I’d feel worthless.
I had no internal anchor or innate sense of value. And why would I? The culture I grew up in was one where you could have worthless people. If you didn’t add value in some way to some person, you had no worth. You didn’t have a reason to exist.
For me, grades and sports were what I did to prove I was worth existing. When things went well, I was untouchably confident. I felt alive and powerful. On the other side of that coin, during the bad periods, I felt homeless. Like I didn’t deserve to be, well, anywhere.
I had no idea that life didn’t have to be this way.
A Moment of Clarity
One weekend in my early thirties, I was bed-ridden with the flu. Through the bedroom door, I listened to my wife and two small kids the entire weekend. On Sunday night, when I was feeling better, I came out to spend time with them.
As I walked out, I could feel the energy in the room lift. This was something I had never experienced before. I felt a relaxing of tension and a sense of uplifting from my wife and kids. As I began talking and catching up on the weekend, I could see the positive effects continue.
In that moment, the thought struck me—I’m being valuable just by showing up.
Just by being myself, and expressing myself, I had a positive effect on everyone in the house. It was clear to me that things were different and better, simply because I was present.
I gave more thought to how people’s lives would be if I simply disappeared. I began paying attention to the effect my presence had in normal, everyday situations. I realized that by expressing my truer nature—my quirky, sometimes nerdy, genuine self—I made a positive impact. I was giving out positive energy.
This had been happening my entire life, but I wasn’t aware of it until that weekend.
Over time, as these ideas took root in my mind, I sensed for the first time that I deserved to be here on Earth. I had an inherent right to exist; not a right I had to earn. I no longer felt like a guest.
It was the start of a confidence rooted deeply within myself. I wasn’t emotionally dependent on the feedback or opinions of others. I now knew I had something of value, something that was intangible and plentiful, and I could give it to others all of the time. It was me and my energy.
From there, I started to look for the same in others. I realized everyone has a unique piece of life’s puzzle to contribute. Some contribute in small ways, some contribute in large ways, but everyone’s piece is important. You cannot have a whole puzzle if a piece is missing.
With this increased sense of value on my own life and the life of others, the quality of each day is noticeably better. Spending time and connecting with others not only feels like I’m giving a unique gift, but I’m receiving one as well. It’s a completely different way of living.
This is a far cry from the me who kept his true self hidden. I used to think that revealing my true self was the cause of turmoil and destruction, and now I’ve realized that my true self is the vehicle through which I enjoy life.
What I’m saying here goes beyond people who have a wife and kids. It goes beyond whatever limits you might feel you have based on your lifestyle or social circle. It’s impossible for you to know what kind of effect you are having on the world as a whole.
You are you for a reason. Your quirks, your idiosyncrasies, the things that make you unique and who you are—you are meant to be these things and go about life in this way. Each action you take that’s based in your unique personality has ripple effect upon ripple effect.
It’s impossible for you to know that the random person you chatted with on a bus about the Lord of the Rings trilogy ended up reading the books and became passionate about them. And that person shared them with someone else, who loved them so much and felt so inspired that they went on to become an author for themselves, writing books that sparked the imaginations and passions of thousands or even millions.
Could you have ever known that sharing your interest on some random Tuesday on a bus could have had that effect? Did you consider that by staying silent, you broke the chain that would’ve resulted in joy for millions of people around the world?
Nobody can know these things, but they are the everyday miracles of life. There is your value—it’s you, your uniqueness, and your expression of it.
We are all blessed with a unique value, and the more we cultivate it and share it, the better we feel every day. Your true self is a gift and a key to unlocking a life of greater satisfaction. Go ahead and use that key. It will open a lot of doors.
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