There’s an innate desire within people that drives us to seek out that which makes us feel like we are serving a purpose. This only makes sense. I know I find a lot of comfort in the belief that there is a unique niche in this world that only me and all of my idiosyncrasies can fill perfectly. However there is another mode of thought that I ascribe to regarding this matter. The less endearing way to consider your value is to equate what you believe to be your use. Another way of saying this is we only believe we’re as valuable as our role makes us.
To this end we strive towards the perfection of our role. This role can take an innumerable number of forms, both tangible and intangible. The idea behind this unstoppable process of refinement is that the better we are at something, whether that be fixing a car or making others laugh, the more people will need us. If there are jobs that only we can do, then our stock raises significantly. It’s akin to being a highly specialized doctor in a sense. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be good at what you do. I encourage everyone to try their hardest to improve in whatever field they chose. The problem is not in chasing improvement; the problem is when we equate our value as people to how “useful” we can be to others.
Seeing yourself as more of an object to be used is a strange way to view oneself. Something to be taken off the wall, used, and then placed back in its original spot. Perhaps my own experience will put this in perspective for some of you who are reading this. I viewed myself as serving a couple of social roles. I was always the entertainer; at other times I was the confidant. I saw so much of who I was in these two positions. In my mind how else was I supposed to view my worth? I knew that I was nothing without the approval of others. My identity was entirely caught up in my ability to perform on these two fronts. I didn’t have any other discernible worth as far as I could see. So if people weren’t laughing or opening up to me, I felt as though I was failing in a very serious way.
This kind of thinking breeds a belief that reverses the hierarchy of identity. Believing that our identity and usefulness is derived from our role is wrong in so many ways. In a purely logical way, that type of thinking doesn’t make any sense. We have to shape ourselves before we can see where that shape will fit. But we ignore that fact. Instead we polish and sharpen ourselves in an effort to make ourselves more useful and appealing.
We do this all in the name of feeling like we serve a purpose. We want to feel as though we’re filling a role that only we can fill. Why wouldn’t we want to feel like that? Who doesn’t enjoy feeling like they’re serving a purpose? It’s gratifying. It makes us feel good. But it’s beyond that. It’s beyond just desiring to feel like we’re serving a purpose. We get so set in this idea that we have an assigned role. We have to be the best at that role. If we’re not people might stop using us. If people stop using us then what do we have? How will we find our value if other aren’t giving it to us. If others aren’t telling us that we have value or that we serve a role, then how are we supposed to know? If no one is using us does that mean that we’re not good at our job? But our job is everything. We put so much time and effort into making ourselves the best we can be so that we can be used by others and we’ll feel like we have value. If no one is asking us to do our job, then we must not have value. Right? No one needs us, so how could we possibly be important?
That horrible stream of consciousness actually happens. To people who aren’t familiar with it, that was probably one of the strangest things they’ve ever read. So there we are, searching for value to be given to us. Hands outstretched, hoping and praying that someone will come along and grab us off the wall. Hoping and praying that they’ll ask us to do our job so that we can feel like we have value.
I’m lucky enough to have friends who are extremely talented writers. My friend Shelby recently wrote this (link to her full article at the bottom):
“Sometimes I walk through Nashville and can’t stop thinking about all the people in this city that are constantly trying to prove themselves and make it. They want someone, somewhere to tell them that their art matters and they have a purpose and they aren’t just going to do something insignificant for the rest of their lives, but actually something great.
Then I realized it’s not just musicians who think this way, or artists, or writers, it’s everybody. It’s all of us. We all want to be assured we have a purpose and our lives matter.”
The thing is, our lives do all matter. We’re more than just these jobs that we think define us. We have value inherently. We have meaning beyond how useful we are. We have worth that extends beyond the boundaries of what others assign to us. As much as I felt like I was bound to the identities of being the entertainer or the confidant, I was more than that. I am more than that. And those who know me will know that it’s not easy for me to say things like that.
We’re not defined by our occupations. In fact I think people are hardly definable at all. We’re composed so strangely and with so many different quirks. So stop trying to tie your value to other’s perception of you. Stop giving others the right to assign you worth. You have value. You have worth. You’re not this one position or this one job. You’re you. You have a purpose, and that purpose is beautifully complex. Our value isn’t tied to just one aspect of who we are? How could it be? We’re built so multifaceted; there is no way that just one side of who we are could define the whole of us. Even more unlikely is that a single side of could determine all of our value and worth in the world.
So from someone who has sought out value from others, please, look inward. Realize that you’re more than your role. Your identity is a magnificent enigma that can not be seen and judged by just one aspect. Be confident that you have value no matter what. You’re wonderful and loved. Even if you think that you’re no better than how others perceive you, I’m begging you to realize that there is something deeper that gives you worth. God in Heaven loves you and values you. Your use and your value are not the same thing. Don’t ever try to quantify your worth, because you’ll always undercut it.