The Inner Voice of Love
The theologian Henri Nouwen wrote this journal entry about his own struggles with self-worth in his confessional, The Inner Voice of Love:
Some people have lived such oppressed lives that their true selves have become completely unreachable to them. They need help to break through their oppression. Their power to free themselves has to be at least as strong as the power that keeps them down. Sometimes they need permission to explode: to let out their deepest emotions and to shake off the alien forces. Screaming, yelling, crying, and even physical fighting might be expressions of liberation.
You, however, do not seem to need such explosion. For you, the problem is not to get something “out” of your system but to take something” in” that deepens and strengthens your sense of goodness and allows your anguish to be embraced by love.
You will discover that the more love you can take in and hold onto, the less fearful you will become. You will speak more simply, more directly, and more freely about what is important to you, without fear of other people’s reaction. You will also use fewer words, trusting that you communicate your true self even when you do not speak much …
… The more you come to know yourself – spirit, mind and body – as truly loved, the freer you will be …
In speaking with a friend recently, whose job situation is causing high anxiety and dissatisfaction and a distinct lack of self-esteem, we found it important to share these words from Nouwen. We found it to be important to remind him that innately he has value, that innately he is worthy just because of his being, just because he is. It’s not what anyone else bestows upon us, and not what others say or think. But our significance is simply and solely based on our humanness, on our being.
The projection of our worth has to be separated from others’ opinions. We will never be fully satisfied or fully content with what others think or say. Other people can give us that anchor to believe in ourselves. But it has to come, in the end, from knowing and believing it ourselves.
As Nouwen writes,
You must stop seeing yourself through their eyes and trying make them proud of you ….
… Once you have claimed it and settled in it, you can live in a world that gives you much joy as well as pain. You can receive the praise as well as the blame that comes to you as an opportunity for strengthening your basic identity, because the identity that makes you free is anchored beyond all human praise and blame.