I’ve spent most of my life struggling with a low sense of self-worth. By the time I was in my early thirties, the lyrics to No One Is to Blame by Howard Jones had become my personal theme song.
You can look at the menu, but you just can't eat You can feel the cushion, but you just can't have a seat You can dip your feet in the pool, but you can't have a swim
It always seemed like everything good happened to and for other people. But one fateful evening, it was as if my soul reached for the record needle and dragged it to a screeching halt.
This post is part of a series. To read from the beginning, start here.
Finding My Self-Worth
Despite all the disillusionment, I’d been holding onto a vision of what my life could be. Of course, my perpetual struggles with low self-worth planted a lot of doubt in my mind.
Why can’t I just be content with the life I have?
Am I wrong for wanting something different?
What if I’m expecting too much?
And I often wondered if this ideal image was just wishful thinking or selfishness. Several years and one scenic road trip later, I finally got the answers.
That Night in La Jolla
We’d made it to our Airbnb in San Diego in the late afternoon. Once we unpacked the car and settled into our room, we asked the host for dinner suggestions.
The local restaurant she’d suggested had a really long line wrapped around the building. We were too tired and hungry to wait, so we ended up at Olive Garden. After dinner, I suggested we walk along the beach and maybe try to find the seals our host had mentioned.
We were enchanted with the charming town as we coasted up and down the streets looking for a parking spot, eventually parking curbside on a quaint road with big, beautiful houses perched above us on the cliff’s edge.
As we made our way down the sidewalk, we passed a group of girlfriends gathered around a blanket with a bottle of wine, and a young couple lounging in the lush green grass, surrounded by rose petals and deeply engaged in conversation. I wondered if we’d stumbled on a proposal.
We eventually found a set of stairs that led down to the beach, where I promptly kicked off my shoes so I could feel the sand between my toes as we made our way to the rocks. As my bare feet searched for sure footing on the slippery stone, something shifted in me.
Everything about this setting, from the gorgeous scenery to the perfect climate, to the sense of connection among kindred spirits resonated with me. The real me.
And in that sense, a place I’d never been before felt completely familiar. Not the kind of familiarity that comes from the life you’re use to, but a familiarity of the soul, the heart’s recognition of the life you’re meant to live.
Looking back, it was as if God brought the vision I’d clung to for so long to life. I finally had tangible proof it was real. It was quite literally the substance of everything I’d hoped for.
I remember telling Matt, “This is what I want.”
I can still hear the concern in his voice as he recognized the resignation in mine. I’m pretty sure he was afraid I wasn’t going to return home to Texas with him. And in that moment, I wasn’t so certain either.
I did know I was not willing to go back to life as is where all the offerings of the life I craved were admired from the outside looking in. It was as though I was finally moving away from being dependent on others for my self-worth.
Seeing what could be plucked me from the sidelines of doubt and insecurity and placed me smack dab in the middle of a living, breathing love note from God himself.
During our dear friend’s memorial service, his widow shared how much she wrestled with low self-esteem.
She went on to share that as Mike observed her struggle, he would say, “come be free with me.”
I believe that night in La Jolla was God meeting me in my struggle with low self-worth and saying, ‘Look at what I have prepared for you. Come be free with me.’
At the time, I didn’t quite connect the dots between that invitation and my inherent worth, but the experience certainly unearthed self-doubt and gave me a measure of assurance that I indeed have value. That is the meaning of self-worth, knowing your value as a person, minus all your roles and accomplishments.
Knowing I matter fueled me with determination to claim my piece of heaven on earth.
Why is Self-Worth Important?
As I began the hard work of undoing, I slowly began to realize just how big a part low self-worth played in the life I’d created. It’d all been built on such shallow ground.
- I was afraid of intimacy which made it hard to form healthy relationships.
- Anxiety and depression kept me from living fully and whole-heartedly.
- I lacked the confidence to speak up, even when I knew I needed to.
- My emotional needs continually got pushed aside by me.
- I searched for significance in all the wrong places.
And the list could go on. It’s no wonder I felt empty and dissatisfied. The good news is those shoddy walls eventually came tumbling down.
It was as painful of a process as you’d expect. And there were times I just wanted to give up. But, I knew that I knew my needs mattered, that I wasn’t meant to live life from the outside looking in.
No, I was created to take a swim.