"The most disrespected person in America is the black woman.
The most unprotected person in America is the black woman.
The most neglected person in America is the black woman.”
- Malcolm X, May 22 1962
Whatever you want to call it- let’s talk about it.
At the start of our lives, our self worth is entirely dependent on factors outside of ourselves (which is low-key crazy considering how much of an impact it has on how we function as adults). You may have been lucky enough to have grown up in a loving family that understood the importance of self worth and acceptance. You may have grown up in a neglectful home, been born into a family that didn’t stress self worth at all, or your parents may not have even been aware of the concept. We can’t choose the family that we’re born into.
To punch this out even wider we also can’t choose the society we’re born into… and America is a society whose culture (if you can call it that) is severely ill and rooted in a lack of self worth.
It’s hard to expect anything different from a country that was built on the genocide of Native Americans and the enslavement, and dehumanization of black people.
In our consumption based “culture” corporations prey on our insecurities to try to sell us things…and it works. We literally WORSHIP other incredibly flawed human beings (Yeezus? yikes) and are addicted to the self-gratifying loops of social media.
To put our western culture into perspective- the Dalai Lama doesn’t know what low-self esteem is. He literally does not understand the concept of it. He says that in Tibet, the concept of self esteem is inherent, everyone knows that they belong, that they are accepted, and that they are loved.
There are entire societies of people that don’t struggle with insecurity and acceptance.
Let that sink in for a moment.
Will you’re reflecting on that, I’ll tell you a bit about my experience with self worth.
My journey began when I was a child…much like everyone else. Thanks to growing up in an all white neighborhood, going to all white schools, attending a university severely lacking in diversity (yes I was the only black female in every single one of my college conservatory classes - usually the ONLY black person- Tisch was a hot mess), and some other personal factors, to say I had accumulated a negative self image from the mountain of childhood trauma I experienced because of the color of my skin is an understatement
"Who taught you to hate the color of your skin? Who taught you to hate the texture of your hair? Who taught you to hate the shape of your nose and the shape of your lips? Who taught you to hate yourself from the top of your head to the soles of your feet?"
- Malcolm X, May 22 1962
Yes. For most of my life I truly thought I was nothing. I thought that being over looked was something that I should expect out of my life because that was how it had always been. Having a lack of worth manifests itself in soooo many different ways. I had a shopping addiction, I was an insane perfectionist and had tons of anxiety about most social interactions. I judged myself for being “too white for the black kids and too black for the white kids”. I judged myself for being shy, for wanting meaningful connections but looking for them in the wrong places. I negated my core beliefs in an effort to fit in. I even overworked myself to the point of ended up in the hospital due to exhaustion because I thought that reaching milestones in my career would finally make me worthy of love and acceptance.
This isn’t a pity party - this is what I went through and the situations that I found myself in because I didn’t respect myself, my happiness, and my wellbeing.
I had spent so much time and energy chasing things that I thought would make me feel worthy that I completely lost myself…if I even knew who I was to begin with.
Losing yourself is not cute.
It is not a good look.
A funny thing about self worth is that it’s hard to know that you lack it until you start to gain it. Until you’re on the other side looking back and you can see your past with clarity.
I could have put blame on the people of my childhood that made me feel insignificant because of their own ignorance, or resent my parents for not instilling those values in me the way the I wanted them to be instilled but life isn’t fair. Life doesn’t work that way and though experiences and other people may cause you pain, it is simply up to you to heal from that pain.
It was up to me to change how I viewed myself.
So I did.
Like working out, meditation, or acting, self-esteem is a practice. It is something that you continuously do and come back too. It is a form of self-care. I now know how to be mindful of my self worth and how to strengthen it when things that happen in my everyday life start to chip away at it.
Here are some things that I strive to remind myself of on a daily basis in this crazy complicated world we live in:
I am a child of Yahweh (whatever this is for you) who only wants the best for me.
I do not let others define me based on their limited world view
Other people’s opinions of me are none of my business.
My worthiness is a birthright and not something I have to earn.
I do not compare myself to other people.
I have nothing to prove.
I am worthy of love and care.
I am beautiful.
I deserve to be loved, accepted, and respected.
And you do too :)