If anything, what stands between you and your worth? What are the stories you tell yourself that often stop you from fully owning your worth?
Hmm. It’s an interesting question about worth, because what immediately comes up for me is another question: what is worth & what is value? So, maybe I’ll start with a finer distinction for myself here between the two. Value is more something that you offer to other people, while worth is something I experience internally. For whatever reasons, I think I’ve always had a pretty good sense of my worth. My bigger struggle has been with expressing the value of the potential self I feel pressing inside me. There’s an apocryphal quote from Leonardo da Vinci on his deathbed: I could have done more. On those days I’m feeling less than, this is the internal dialogue: how can I be wasting all this time & energy doing nothing? (you’d think by now I’d be better about stopping that, since that dialogue never really accomplishes much other than have me dig my heels in & avoid for a little bit longer. HA.)
My sense is that value & worth & identity are all in a dance together. So, lately, as I feel my identity becoming more transparent, I have less attachment to who I think I am. I’m becoming even more interested in simply being here & being alive. (If that’s possible. Which it seems to be. Which leaves me often in a state of bemusement at how little I’ve known all along…)
This is not to say that I never tangle with worth, or the stickiness of not-worth, or not-worthy. It’s more to say that as my identity gets less pinned to my beliefs about who I am, or what I’ve learned I’m good at, or how I imagine people expect me to show up on a more-or-less regular basis, the more my identity gets less interesting to me. The less interesting my identity becomes, the less I’m concerned about worth. It’s a funny thing, but worth (in my experience) is very much tied to who I think I am. It’s an idea I have about myself that only allows a small part of me to come out & play. If I have an identity that says I’m always positive & focused on love & connection, well, what happens on those days when I’m a little frazzled & a little disconnected? It seems those are the days I grit my teeth more & muscle through & repeat my favorite affirmations about how it’s all perfect & nothing’s a problem & I miss the very thing that is bubbling up to the surface. On the days I’m feeling disconnected, I miss an opportunity to go deeper, to snuggle closer to that part of me that’s feeling bereft & isolated & disconnected. Yet, getting closer is really the only way to find out what’s going on…
It just struck me: perhaps worth is entirely interwoven with our idea of who we think we are. Perhaps worth is something that we’ve learned to use as a carrot & a stick, so it’s another one of those excruciating tools our egos use to keep us chained to an unattainable idea of perfection. Perhaps if we give up the idea of who we think we are, then worth is something that dissolves entirely. Hmmm.
Because let’s face it. We’re evolving, now more than ever & when we really tangle with what that means, there is no such thing as perfection. There’s only becoming. There is falling & getting up. There is ecstasy when we listen closely to our hearts. There is joy when we land here in this present moment with whatever is actually here & real & true. So, maybe it’s time we wrap our minds around that & move ourselves into a post-worth consciousness. I like that.
I remember in college running into my psychology professor. We talked a bit about what I was planning for my future. I don’t remember a word of it & that’s probably good. What I remember most is his answer: it is simple when you are young. You are either your parents or you are not your parents. I walked away with my head spinning a little bit. If that was the case, all these beliefs I had about how I was forging my own path, how I was making my own decisions, was laughable. I could see the truth of his words, how often I made my decisions because I agreed with my parents’ point of view on me & how often I made a contrary decision because I was going to prove that I was different. (In the interest of full disclosure, I often chose the contrary simply because, well, you are not the boss of me. Even all these years later, that runs me more often than I care to admit…)
But that either/or thing of you are your parents or not your parents applies to so much more. How often are we either the thing we believe we are, or not the thing we believe we are? As if it’s that black & white. My idea of myself is something I either use to pat myself on the back, or flay myself because I’m not reaching my idea of my potential. It’s so much more relaxing to be, to trust that the universe has me here at this place & this time because I’m necessary to the function of the whole. Maybe my idea of my worth is only a small entry point into my true worth. Which, too be fair, I may never really grasp entirely. (because, really, how many times of late have I seen that what I thought I was up to wasn’t really what I was up to. That, to me, is one of the many joys of getting life experience…)
I’ve been at this living business for awhile now & there are still moments as I go through my days when I’ll encounter something I haven’t looked at closely. But as I sit with it, often I’ll see how I’ve been trying to hold myself to an idea of who I should be, instead of celebrating who I actually am. Because who I am is someone who really, truly loves being in this life. Someone who loves to sit in the early morning sun & sip tea & watch the hummingbirds. Someone who loves to take a few days after a particularly intense project to read urban fantasy novels until I feel ready to come back. Someone who loves to get a box of red licorice & watch a Steven Segal film now & then because there are only so many nuanced relationship films I can handle before I just want to see something blow up. Someone who loves to let my sweet animal self come out & take my beloved & put her up against a wall & ravish her with my mouth & my teeth & my body. I have always been Life & Love in human form. Sometimes I forget that. I try to forget it as little as possible nowadays.
What are all the ways you know you are worth gold?
I’m going to say that I have a constant voice of Love with a capital L in me that tells me: you are here, you are loved, you are exactly what I need for the thing only you can do. The funny thing now is that that voice has always been there. Always. It’s just clearer nowadays since I’m more aware of it & more willing to listen for it & not jump to conclusions about how anything else matters.
So, I don’t really need to concern myself with what I think about my worth. I just need to get out of the way & let Love love me, let Love act with this body & mind & heart. The larger Self that I’m part of would not have it any other way.
But it’s funny. Just yesterday I went to our local Farmers Market & I was breezing through, stopping to chat with people, enjoying the sun & ocean breeze on my skin, laughing easily because there was so much deliciousness purring in the air. At some point, I noticed how people were responding to the Love that was pouring through me. It wasn’t mine. It wasn’t me loving. It truly was Love using me to be in the world in simple ways. Utterly relaxed & present. But here’s the funny thing. When I noticed it, my mind got involved & decided that it’d be helpful & push a little bit into that. Suddenly, I started having second thoughts, wondering if I should say something else, wondering if I should laugh at that response. It was so crystal clear in that moment that I was in the way of Love itself. Fortunately, Love was having none of it. It said Shhh, relax & be with me here. Feel the sun & the wind & the hum of people talking. Taste the strawberries & see the light on these beautiful beings who are here with you & everything got very quiet & I got back to the business of living.
I think your worth is like that. When you start getting your mind involved, weighing & slicing & dicing & comparing & being helpful around how you could be worth more, or that at least you’re worth more than some of the other people you know, ad nauseum, you’re not letting who you truly are come out to play. Let’s be clear on this one: who you truly are is a gift beyond measure. Anybody who says differently, refer them to me & we’ll have a talk…;-)
What are your practices around worth? What do you do when you feel less than gold and hold yourself back from showing up?
Meditating. Walking on the beach. Drawing & writing regularly, because that’s how I see who I’m becoming & what I think about that. Drinking tea & watching the wind play with the grasses on the mountainside. Seeing my beloved as she moves through the house & delighting in the feel of her energy as it mixes with mine.
Maybe you’ve noticed that these aren’t specifically practices around worth. They’re practices around being here. Around experiencing what’s actually here. Because I find that is what it takes to get me out of the way of what Love wants of me. & that’s the real practice for me.
Not long ago, I wrote a story that I think captures this sense of getting out of the way of the thing, the worth if you want to call it that, that wants to express through me: It’s harder to doubt when Love is there in everything, whispering Come, let’s make a world together & my heart sings back full-throated & strong knowing this is what we are born to do.
As an artist/creator/muse what kind of love/thoughts/wisdom could you offer people who don’t feel worthy to share their creations with the world?
When you learned to walk as a baby, did you spend any time at all worrying about whether you should do it, or not? Did you say to yourself, I’m not very good at this, so I’m going to keep it to myself? No. You got up. You fell. You laughed. You got up. You fell. You got up. You stayed up. You fell. On & on until finally you were walking consistently.
Here’s the thing: you have an idea about how good you are & I can promise you that no matter what you think, you’re wrong. Because you act like that idea is permanent & fixed. That however good you are, however much talent you have at this moment is all the talent you have. It truly is like learning to walk. You get better at it as you do it. No amount of thinking about walking ever got a child up & walking. No, clearly, learning to walk is about getting up & trying it.
Your idea about your worth, or the worth of what you create is simply that: an idea. You’re the one who’s decided that you’re not as good as Picasso. Or Elizabeth Gilbert. Or Bono. Or whoever’s the one you hold up as a model. You’ve also decided that since you’re not as good as that idea you have, you’re going to stop Love from creating & flowing out of you, from bending you to its own purposes. You’ve decided that you know better than Love what it needs in order to lift the entire world higher & higher.
How utterly arrogant & absurd. You have the impulse to create & laugh & sing & dance (& really, to be clear, it’s all laughing & singing & dancing when you get down to it.) Trust that. Trust that Love wants that as much as you. Take the time to come close to the shadow that says you are not worthy. Really come close & look at it & see whose voice that is. Because there’s one more thing I can promise you when you get close & personal with it: that voice is not the voice of your heart. That voice is not the voice of your essential self that loves you. It is a voice you learned from someone else & that voice is a lie.
That said, don’t get confused about the level of artistry of your creation. Like a child learning to walk, you may not be very good at first. So what? Really, who the fuck cares. Create because it brings you joy. Create because you want to give something to someone you love that tells them how you feel. Create because you have ten minutes while you’re waiting in the line at the DMV & if you have to listen one more time to Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head you’re going to scream. It’s your life. Use it. Enjoy it. Create with it. Feel it. I know many artists & musicians & you want to know the truth? Not one of them was any good in the beginning. It took years of doing the thing they loved, doing it over & over again. Listening closely to the thing inside that guided them towards their own genius. Messing that up sometimes when they decided to ignore their own voice & listen instead to other people tell them what was more popular, or profitable. Coming up against the bleak realization that their own path was going to be different because doing it the way everyone else thinks was killing them. Finally letting go & simply doing the work & letting that be enough.
If I had to put it into one simple phrase, it’d be this: you have no idea how good you are because you’re spending too much time listening to some other idea of how good you aren’t. Stop that.:-)
Go out & let Love love you. We all can’t wait to see who you become…
with love, b
“if you want to be more creative, do things that make you feel more alive”
Brian Andreas, the internationally recognized artist & writer behind storypeople, said those exact words in a talk he gave not long ago. it’s easy to see that same philosophy at play in his work over the past twenty years; no matter what the medium, it’s filled with laughter & an unabashed love for this world we’re making together. For those of you that have read any of his twelve books, hundreds of colorful story prints & his more-or-less daily Instagram posts, you may think you know him. We can tell you this: You. Have. No. Idea. Equal parts gentle Zen monk & wildly exuberant child, bubbling over with laughter & love & snark, he kind of feels like being in your favorite place, if your favorite place moved around every year, or so. If you’ve never encountered him before this, now is a very good time to start…
You can find Brian and his art at http://www.storypeople.com