In my first job, I was expected to come up with creative ideas. Sometimes, I was able to impress my seniors and sometimes I couldn’t. When I succeeded, I was “confident” in every other area of my life. I could take on annoying aunties and had no self-esteem issues. But when I failed, I started questioning my worth. But this was not a problem because after some failures, there was success. But one day I left the job and I had no creative outlet for some time. Since my self-worth was based on being creative, I panicked. As days passed, I asked myself a question: What if I’m not creative? The doubts grew stronger and I was convinced that I was not creative. And then I had to came face to face with my biggest fear: if I’m not creative, then I am NOTHING. I am not smart!
Everyday, people around the world ask themselves similar questions. And when they are convinced that they are not good enough at something or afraid that they will fail someday, they start indulging in a range of self-destructive things. Some overeat. Some get addicted to porn. Some fall into depression. And when they get habituated to self-destructive behavior, they fall into a trap. They create a perpetuating cycle: The pain of not being good enough leads to depression/self-destructive behavior and since you cannot work on your craft when you are depressed/self-destructive, you will never even know if you are good enough for that thing/or any other thing. If I’m too afraid of failing in exams, then I might start spending too much time on the internet to feel less stressful…since I don’t study, I fail…and when I fail, I’m convinced that I’m not good enough, so I spend more time on the internet to soothe my pain…the cycle keeps repeating.
So the obvious answer to this is to say that self-worth shouldn’t be based on these things. And then we ask: How do we create this self-worth? The problem with the question is that it is again about achieving something. And if we ‘fail’ in achieving something, we feel like a loser again (I feel worthless because I cannot build self-worth!). Of course, we can acquire knowledge but the problem is not intellectual. It is an emotional one. Intellectual armor or knowledge cannot really soothe the vulnerable child inside us. Perhaps, we can never find an answer outside us. In Hinduism, there is a concept called ‘Swayambhu’ which means ‘self-manifested’. I guess self-worth or self-esteem has to originate within ourselves…techniques, knowledge or achievements are useful but they cannot help us much.