I want to talk about self-worth today and how at various stages of life, this entity is master at shape-shifting which often causes a person to believe that their worth is attached to the shape it has taken. Sounds too complicated? Let me come up with a few instances of my own here.

There was a time when I thought my self-worth heavily relied on the way my hair was styled. I am a curly haired girl who was made to feel that straight hair was more desirable, how it didn’t require much maintenance or how prettier girls looked with their luscious tangle-free tresses. So, I grew up believing that my hair was good for nothing, couldn’t be styled and I didn’t fall under the category of traditional “beauty.” As a 16-year-old, I remember being envious of girls whose hair used to fall on their faces due to a light breeze, that NEVER happened with my curls. They stayed intact and unmoved by nature herself! 

Then, there came a time when my self-worth was attached to how well I scored in high school and how much better I did than others. Was I able to consistently do well and if I didn’t, the way I perceived myself significantly changed. Similarly, after I got super busy with studies and had no time to dedicate to physical fitness, I naturally gained weight and it wasn’t long before I started hearing snide remarks on how I already looked like a 30-year-old (I was a 15-year-old), how much I lacked physical exercise, and how other girls of my age could wear anything they felt like just because they were slimmer. As time went by, I receded and started wearing clothes that were too big for me so that people don’t get a chance to look at my love handles or tummy to pass a comment. 

This list goes on and on. Each time I associated perceptions that a third person had of me (talk about their boundary issues) to the way I viewed myself. My mind was crowded with opinions that weren’t mine but were born out of external remarks. It takes a lot of unlearning, detaching, shedding and growing to come out these notions. The moment people saw how confident I became of my choices, they retracted. It doesn’t take much to give someone a compliment or be mindful of how you are sounding, right? Instead of being the cause of somebody else’s distress. 

These days, even a simple ask like helping someone choose their clothes makes me queasy. I think that stems from my own inhibitions and the fact that I don’t really prefer if someone tells me what to wear, and I project that when opinions are expected from my end. I’m often told that I am a bit too neutral for my own good. Maybe I am but I would much rather be that than be way too opinionated to scar someone emotionally, inadvertently. 

Before you ask me, I have to mention that these changes have happened quite recently and was a process in itself. I realised I was giving way too much power to others and those people had a field day with my emotions. Thankfully, I have taken this upon myself to establish a Madhu 2.0 and I am sure I wouldn’t have to publicise the confidence that comes with it!

What did you base your self-worth on and how did it change? 

Madhu Narayan
Mondays with Madhu
Guest blogger, Plant Life Meals