“No matter how much I get done, or is left undone, at the end of the day I am enough.” – Brene Brown
It is the nature of the downtrodden to feel that they are not enough. The lower class feels that they have little impact in the face of the rich. The depressed feel that they drag everyone down with them. The unlucky feel that their luck will never change. The maimed soldier who returns home from war feels that he will never be useful again. The dying feel that there is no point to remaining. Take a moment to take a deep look at each of these examples. Compare these examples with your own life. Do you relate? Are they true? What would you say to one of the examples if you bumped into her later today? Think about it. The common denominator amongst all the downtrodden, who feel that they are not enough, is their perceived value in relation to those around them.
In my depressive cycles I find myself more prone to looking at others and seeing how happy and successful they are compared to my own life. Social media amplifies the situation because now I’m not just looking at my close friends whom I know so well, but rather I am now looking at aquaintances posting about how fantastic their lives have become. In these moments I look at what I have done and what I have accomplished. That is when the shame sets in as my darkest moments are compared to my peers’ brightest moments.
There are a couple of things here we need to consider that can easily remedy at least two points of shame. The first is that social media tends to display only the bright spots of our friends’ lives. The difference between us (the “not normal folk”) and them (the “normal folk”) is that we have a tendency to be brutally honest about our feelings. We share. We’re vulnerable. We hold nothing back. They pick and choose. Posts and pictures and memes are cherry picked to reflect the best in their lives and not the worst. Thus we must cast aside social media as a reflection of whether or not we are enough because the very method of sharing doesn’t reflect the Truth. The second, much like the first, is the apples-and-oranges comparison of our darkest moments versus their brightest moments. Remember that not everyone thinks the way you do. You may be more vulnerable and sharing than your best friend. It is actually quite possible that she goes through some very dark moments and simply keeps it hidden. Many people hide their darkest moments. It is why stoicism so common. However stoicism does not equal strength or courage. When you haven’t finished laundry because you’ve been depressed don’t compare yourself to the housewife down the street who keeps an immaculate household.
Now that we have eliminated two sources of value comparison let’s look at how we truly are enough regardless of how much we want to fight the above statements by stating that even the sum of our bright and dark spots is lesser than the sum of our peers. Every person living or who has ever lived possesses intrinsic value. Intrinsic value is defined as the value we possess all by ourselves — without comparison to others. This is the value that is hardest to see, but remains the most important value. Your friends cannot tell you what your intrinsic value is either as the only value they can share is the value to them and your perceived value to others. How do we, then, determine our intrinsic value and thus determine that we truly are enough at the end of the day.
Recognize the Truth of who you are. There is an ancient saying that states, “As above, so below.” This Truth means that the world immediately around us is mirrored in the heavens above us. Let’s look at this from a basic astronomy perspective. A planet circles a star. What happens to the star impacts the planet. A moon circles the planet. What happens to the planet impacts the moon and vice versa. The solar system revolves around the center of a galaxy. Even galaxies supposedly circle around matter at the center of the universe. We are exactly like these celestial bodies. As we travel through our lives we are constantly interacting with others who are impacted by us in some, sometimes invisible, ways. Most visibly are our families who immediately circle our own celestial body. Our lives impact them in some way just as their lives impact us in some way. I did not know my biological father. I placed very low value on him as he was an abusive and angry man. However his intrinsic value was very high and I did not realize it until his death. After he passed I realized that if he did not exist and give me a model of what not to be I would not have grown into the man who I was. In this way, even though he was absent, he was always present. Once I recognized his intrinsic value, his value to me increased exponentially. To my mother and my sister his value to them remains incredibly low. Either way this horrible person had intrinsic value because he did impact those around him.
We have impact on even those who are outside of our immediate social circles. Sometimes in ways that we would never understand. Sometimes we are told of that value. Everyday I go into work and greet the woman at the front desk with a warmhearted hello. At the end of the day I greet the woman at the desk with a warmhearted goodbye. One day, after having done this repeatedly, I was stopped and told that I was just absolutely bright and brought warmth to the day. Just by simply being me, even during days of deep depression, I had a positive impact on people I barely know. I also know that I have been impacted by people I’ve never talked to. I would be sitting on a bus and someone would smile at me and look away. My day immediately brightened without a word spoken. Whoever that was that smiled to me had value and it was worth it that our paths crossed that day.
My mental illness support group doesn’t know it, but each one of them impacts me on a very positive level everyday. The loss of even just one of them would be devastating. In fact there have been many deaths of people that I have never met nor seen that have impacted me. A casual look through the obituaries or a headline on the news of someone my age or younger has given me cause to reflect. If I gave in to my depression and committed suicide it is easy to see the people closest to me affected. My kids, my parents, my siblings, my friends, my coworkers, and so on. The snuffing out of my light would bring each of them some darkness. Outside of them who would be affected? Maybe someone reads my obituary or hears about it on the news and they wonder what it would be like to commit suicide.
The key, then, to turning this around is to recognize Truth and do the Work. The Truth, as described above, is that the universe is a symbiotic organism. What we do impacts others and what others do impacts us. Truth. The Work requires us to pull out of ourselves and start working on having a positive impact on others. That positive ends up becoming self-rewarding as what we give ends up being what we get.
Remember that your value, regardless of Work, is intrinsic. Do not think yourself less valuable if you refuse to do the Work. Your refusal actually could end up being a powerful lesson in positivity for the people around you. You are not responsible for the choices others make. Even when you have an influence on others it is not you who makes the choice. Thus you must abandon any consideration that the choices of others determine your worth. If you are negative and someone ignores you then it was their choice to do so. There are plenty of others who will listen when you are negative. But try to do the Work. Be positive. Things will turn around.
At the end of the day remember that no matter how much Work you’ve done, or how much Work you’ve left undone. You are enough. You certainly had an impact on this author.