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On Brain Hamsters and Self-Worth


I've spent a fair portion of my life struggling with self-worth. Even admitting that I feel this way makes me feel like a failure, like I'm somehow less. Less powerful, less in control, less capable, less valuable. Because if I question my self-worth, how can anyone else see me as worthy?  That, my friends, is a buttered slide straight into a hell of your own making. I always laughed at the concept of hell because no religious construct of the afterlife could possibly be worse than the inside of my brain when I'm in a bad place. For awhile, I thought that I must be the only one who felt this way. You don't really hear people question whether or not they're lovable because they got dumped or ignored or treated badly. Or wonder if they have anything of value to contribute because they were fired or laid off or turned down for a job. Eventually, it occurred to me that I didn't invent feelings. Of course I'm not the only one. If I feel this, other people must too.

I think we all - at least occasionally - question our self-worth. Every time we do, we open the door for the Brain Hamsters to tromp through our self-esteem, dragging behind them a long, carefully compiled list of ways we've failed ourselves and others. My Brain Hamsters tack on a twelve-page addendum listing all the reasons I'm not lovable. My Brain Hamsters are jerks. They have ammo and they love stuffing it in their mini-slingshots and shooting me right between the eyes.

Dear Brain Hamsters,

I'm taking away your weapons. Consider all rifles, cannons, slingshots, and extra-pointy paper airplanes confiscated.

Love, Me

All the churning and angsting over self-worth - those are just thoughts. Thoughts I don't need to pay attention to or give any credence. Questioning my self-worth can only damage me if I let myself get caught up in the sticky web. Everyone questions themselves sometimes. Everyone feels bad about themselves sometimes. Everyone gets knocked back sometimes. What matters is that we don't let it stop us.

I'm learning not to let the Brain Hamsters stop me. Sure, I still question my worth - especially as I stay single, bang my head against the wall of what-to-charge, and conveniently forget all these things I've learned so I can compare myself to someone else, even though I can't begin to know what their life is really like or what their struggles are.

The good news about years of struggling with self-worth is they gave me a whole arsenal of tools to wrangle the Brain Hamsters and keep going. Motion is soothing. Move fast enough and the Brain Hamsters can't keep up.