Monday, May 5, 2008

Where Self-Worth Originates

In just a few short months, my college e-mail account will fade into the history books, destroying all the records I have held there for the past three years. In preparation for this eventuality, I spent some time today looking through e-mail messages I had saved over the years. They all had one theme in common: praise.

"You're a superstar."

"You could compete at the national level RIGHT NOW and win."

"I look forward to more of your creative brilliance this semester."

Really, they mirror many of the messages I've kept in my personal e-mail account, messages from people who loved me well over the years. Having grown up without praise, these messages have built me up for so long; I have used them at times to define myself.

No longer.

As I read through them today, I realized that I am far beyond where I used to be. These messages, while still nice to read, offer nothing substantial for me right now. On some level, yes. It is nice to be noticed and appreciated and to have a reminder that people are paying attention. But on another level, no. These messages no longer define who I am. They define things, usually, that I am good at. What I do is not necessarily what I am.

That really just goes for the messages in my school inbox. Those in my personal account have more personal touches to them. But from school, it's just professors bragging about me, boosting my ego based on performance. That no longer defines me. At least, not on a personally spiritual level.

I read each one of those e-mails before permanently deleting them. The more I read, the more frustrated I got with the old self, which had allowed itself to be defined by performance for far too long. I think this is a trap that many of us get caught in - if we can just be good enough, then that makes up for everything else. That's not who I want to be.

It was a weird feeling deleting all of these messages that I knew had once meant so much to me. I'm probably going to go through my personal account and pare that all down, too. I want reinforcement of the things I am finding deep within myself, the parts of my personality and of my being that make me who I am.

Furthermore, my motivation is no longer external. It comes from somewhere deep within me, from a place where I see and feel beauty and hear the still voice of God telling me who I am. Those are the messages I should continue to listen to.

It's definitely better to be good at things than to suck at them, but if that's all I've got going in my life, then I am living a shallow existence. I want something deeper. And if I'm going to get something deeper, I have to shed all that buoys me in ego and find the air tank that will bring life at great depth.

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