Valentine’s Day is coming up, and my daughter’s preschool will be having a valentine exchange for the students. This is one of those planned activities where everyone will receive a valentine from everyone else. Everyone will give and receive whatever sense of belonging comes with a card and piece of candy. But our sense of belonging does not stay tied to nicely planned, fully equal, exchanges for long. Soon, our worth becomes tied to whether or not we are “enough.” And for parents, our worth becomes tied not only to if we are enough, but if our child is enough.
Smart enough. Fast enough. Patient enough. Social enough. Happy enough.
But what if we severed the lifeline between our worth and our performance. Between my value and what others think about me. Between my belonging and whether or not I make the right impression on the parents at the playground. Can we turn inwards, away from peer pressure, to look for the inner child that is still questioning his or her worth. Can we find our inherent value? And can we place boundaries around that self-worth that says if you are going to base my worth on whether I make life easy or hard, whether I meet expectations or not, whether my flaws are seen or hidden, then I will not allow you to plant your messages in the garden of my worth. I will grow my worth based on the inherent value I was born with, on my strength, courage, kindness, and honesty, which are present in the midst of pain and messiness, not just in its absence.
I mostly work with children and adolescents, and I hear their desire to belong regularly. But the desire of their parents can sometimes be heard just as strong. To know and be known, to have one’s worth affirmed in the midst of the messiness of life, especially when trying to raise children. It is messy. Perhaps we need to look inward instead of outward as we search for our worth. On February 6th I gave a talk at Meghan Barlow and Associates about how to cultivate an environment of value and belonging in our homes. I asked the parents that attended to pay attention to the pull of their inner self, including their child self, because our self is not absent from the process of trying to instill worth and belonging in our children. Take time this Valentine’s Day to affirm the worth of that inner child longing to be “enough,” and remember that disconnecting the tie between my value and being enough will cultivate a sense of worth that will remain during all those times I’m not enough.