The Value of Self-Credit
We are so quick to spend and borrow money. At least we were until the financial bubble burst. Now with little credit available we can turn our attention to the real value of credit in terms of valuing oneself. How often do we stop and think positively about what we have done or our value? How willingly do we follow a trail of critical self-appraisals that lead us into dark woods while thinking that we are on the right track? Yet, how reflexively do we feel wronged and respond angrily to both perceived and actual criticism?
The world seems structured on the principle of negative feedback and punishment. Point out what is wrong repeatedly until there is improvement. Positive reinforcement is looked on skeptically, more like a bribe, motivation for wimps, than a principle grounded in behavioral research. Too many of us have internalized this value as a fundamental principle of life that guides our attitudes and behaviors.
I have a client who walks through life with a hole in the pocket of his self-esteem. He deposits all of his achievements, big and small into this pocket. Consequently he feels inadequate, devalues his lack of accomplishment and always comes up on the short end of comparisons. When he embarks on a project, he feels tentative, anxious, and insecure. When I initially questioned why he didn’t acknowledge his achievements, he looked at me skeptically and responded, “It never occurred to me.”
The climb of life is steep and the burdens we carry heavy. The self-confident stumble on their ascent. To not develop and secure one’s internal resources for this climb is akin to going into the wilderness without food or water.
Self-valuing is not an act of vanity, that is over-valuing, nor is it a walk in the woods. It is the ability to see oneself more clearly through the distortions created by guilt and shame. In addition to the work of doing, trying, risking, failing and re-engaging the world, there is the psychological work of recognition that consolidates the sense of self. This entails a conscious awareness of one’s accomplishments and possibilities, an active acknowledgement of successes and capabilities.
Without this recognition, the Self is a shell, empty, easily broken, and disillusioned.