One of my favourite things to do is very small, like many great things in life.
Each morning I like to have a glass of orange juice with my breakfast. Not particularly ground-breaking, I know. But it gives me a joyful start to a day, and it is a small, great thing.
Yet for a long time I didn’t do it. I thought buying orange juice (the nice stuff: not from concentrate with lots of pulpy bits) was an unnecessary expense. I thought it was a luxury.
Do you know how much a litre of orange juice is? Like, maybe £4.00. That’s less than £1 a glass.
I wouldn’t but that for myself. That means I wouldn’t even spend one pound on myself, on something I knew encouraged my happiness, on something which was a great thing that I very much enjoyed.
It was an indicator that I felt I was not worthwhile.
I don’t say worthless, and I don’t say it for a very specific reason.
To be worthwhile means “being worth time or effort spent on it; having sufficient importance”.
It’s not that I thought I had no worth. I recognised very clearly I had worth: I had skills and knowledge which could make money, I was useful to my friends, I paid my taxes, I supported other businesses, I loved and cared for people, etc.
But all that worth was what I could do for others. It was the ‘sufficient importance’ I had for other people and in other people’s lives.
I didn’t believe I had no worth. I just didn’t believe I was worth my own time or effort. I didn’t believe I was worthwhile.
When you look at that Google search image, what do you feel? When you read those questions that people type into a public search engine, by themselves, seeking help – what do you feel?
I feel two things. First, a deep sense of sadness that we get to a point in our lives where we ask ourselves questions like “Am I worthy of love?” and “Am I worth anything?”.
Second, I feel a deep sense of pity and love for the person I was, for the person who used to think that about myself; I was the person who used to ask herself those questions.
For many, many reasons (which I’ll share with you another time), I’ve spent more of my life believing that I was not worthwhile than believing I was.
This is probably why my ‘why’ – the reason I do the work I do – is to help others feel worthwhile.
It’s because I wanted that so badly for myself at so many points in my life. I wanted so desperately to feel like I was worthwhile. Not to feel I was ‘worth something’, that elusive thing other people bestow upon you for your skills or knowledge, but to feel I was worthwhile for myself.
The truth is that, in my soul, I wanted to know it was worth me getting up every day and continuing to exist.
It feels painful to write all this, to acknowledge the sadness that surrounded how I felt about myself. Looking back at ourselves can be so hard. Doing it with a feeling of pity is no bad thing.
There’s nothing mean about pity. Pity is the thing which a parent gives a child crying over a dropped ice-cream. It’s an “Oh, sweetheart!” over something which is all-consuming for the child and pretty much meaningless for the parent.
We become the parents of the children we used to be when we look back at our past with pity and love.
And that’s a really good thing.
Over the years I’ve tackled my feelings of not-being-worthwhile, sometimes proactively but more often than not I’ve been forced to do so by external events – trauma, death, separation, failure … even love, success and fulfilment has driven me to look at this part of myself.
While my journey to become myself is a life’s work – just as it is for you – my journey to acknowledge I am worthwhile, I feel, has come to a close … for now. I’m now at peace with knowing I am worthy of love and belonging, just like Brené Brown says. I’m now at peace with feeling like this life is worthwhile.
This is worthwhile because of the way the sunlight is lighting the moss on the tree I can see from my window.
This is worthwhile because of the way water bubbles rise and stick like beads to the glass.
This is worthwhile because, later, I’ll go and buy a canvas to paint something, just because I feel like it.
This is worthwhile because when the clouds move, you’re sort of reminded the earth is turning.
This is worthwhile because of orange juice in the morning.
This is worthwhile.
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