A large part of giving yourself permission is taking a look at the areas in which you measure yourself against others. We all compare ourselves to others, thinking things like, "I wish I was that good," or "At least I am not that bad." In an intangible world, we seek to find our value in tangible comparisons.
Take yourself back to fourth grade when it was time to pick teams for kickball. You stood against the wall while your peers judged you on the perceived value you brought to the team. Some 4’9” baseball-capped, bell bottom wearing, Captain Underpants come-to-life character was in charge of the social hierarchy. Your perception of self-worth hung in the balance. Each of us has a story or a memory from that time in our lives.
Fast forward 20 years, and it is the same story. Who put in the most hours at the office? Who got the promotion? Who has a window seat? Who has the Ivy League badge on their now vintage letter jacket? Today, it is no longer the kickball team, it’s the corporate world, though many of the same rules or principles apply. Heck, I know people that are still upset when they are not invited to a social function.
Are we to blame for this behavior, or is it something that is ingrained in us? We are taught at a very young age that in much of life, we will be measured. It starts with measuring our height and weight as infants, the day we took our first steps, or strung our first set of words together to make a sentence. As we continued through our school years, our grades were measured against those of other students in our class. This determined how we ranked in intelligence compared with the rest of the students in the country.
In almost everything we did, there was some sort of statistic that told us whether we were under-performing, on par, or excelling. So, is it any wonder why, as adults, we find ourselves confused by the message that we need to accept ourselves for who we are and that we are all “unique” in our gifts and strengths? Perhaps if we could measure “uniqueness", we would feel more confident. Or, perhaps we need to stop comparing ourselves to others all together.
I don’t intend to come off like some sort of helicopter parent on a mission to change the school system from grades to pass/fail, or remove scoring from a soccer game. I think measuring ourselves against a goal or objective is healthy and rewarding. Yet, like many things in life, it can have an element of self-deprecation. This is particularly true if we only look at tangible milestones like education, degrees, corporate titles, or the amount of hours put in at the office. While some may see these milestones as a determination of self-worth, the true measurement of a person should be based on intangible factors, such as integrity, creativity, passion, and care for others. These characteristics define how we handle ourselves in good times and in bad. It is these characteristics that will be remembered by those around us.
We all have times when we feel less confident or insecure about who we are. I find that in these moments, I have to be honest with myself about what really matters. No matter how hard I try, I will never become someone else. Maybe it is time to get rid of the measuring stick.
How do you measure your value?
Do you celebrate your uniqueness?