exploring self-worth

from evy's notebook

a collection of memories and modified snippets of journal entries, retroactively documenting an exploration of self-worth

oct 8

i was talking to a friend on the phone today about maybe breaking up with a partner. the relationship is just bringing me so much anxiety and i’m trying to figure out what to do. my friend noticed that i seem to put a lot of my sense of self-worth onto partners, which is definitely true and not something my partners like either, but i don't know how to change that. i think it's possible for me to be in a relationship with someone and rely on them less for a sense of self-worth. i’ve been trying recently to have a more diverse support network than just one or two partners, and i think that’d be a little less efficient and effective, but also less likely to leave me feeling super alone and sad? probably? we'll seeee but i'm hopeful

nov 12

i was laying in bed talking with a friend and they brought up an observation of how easy it is for me to lose my sense of self around people who are good at appearing really smart and confident. they were seeing if i could find ways to preserve my sense of self more easily -- and i was like, well maybe i just don't want to be around people like that? they made a point that throughout my life, people in positions of power will try to manipulate me into losing my sense of self for their benefit (a common example is employers) and it's valuable to develop the skill of coming back to myself.

i do think part of what would help me is just recognizing when i’m feeling bad about myself and then creating space between me and whoever’s contributing to those feelings, and then talking to friends and reflecting on myself and what i actually want. i can do this in job negotiation conversations, in dating situations, etc. -- and i think it’s become easier to notice this happening recently, and if i can just create distance when i feel that way then that would probably solve most of my problems around this?

but yeah it would also be cool to just come into myself without always having to take space, and my friend was suggesting finding parts of myself i can anchor in and return to in the moment, e.g. appreciating myself for having trained the important skill of noticing how I feel. i'm good at noticing my internal state and good at describing it, and that's something I'm proud of about myself and can feel good about. though that’s related to me also being good at taking actions to feel good …like taking space :p

nov 24, notes from Polysecure book club

some people talking about journalling as a way to talk to one’s self and build secure attachment to self

another tip from someone to build a sense of self: noticing moments when i do things for myself vs as reactions to things around me

someone else was talking about material ease or happiness from circumstance, in contrast to intrinsic self esteem. does intrinsic self esteem even exist? how do people do that? i feel like so much of most people’s experience of the world is a product of their surroundings and circumstances.

nov 27

was cuddling a new friend and asked if they have a stable sense of self-worth and how they access that feeling

their answer was thinking about good things they’d done and were proud of, and knowing they still have the interest and skills to keep doing that kind of good

maybe i could look back at things I've made (writing, music, sometimes past journalling) and focus on appreciating them. i always hold pieces of the past versions of me that made those things, and i’d like to try to believe that my present self and future selves are capable of similar wonderful things

but damn sometimes it’s so hard to believe that future me, and especially present me, could really do that. life circumstances change! repeating the past is not always possible

nov 29

called my dad today and talked about some of the conversations i’d been having with people recently

mentioned a friend said they get a lot of self-worth from thinking they’re hot, and he talked about how basing self-esteem on looks can be dangerous because people get less conventionally attractive as they get older. i definitely sometimes get a sense of self-worth from feeling “attractive”, but i’m pretty sure it feels less important that people think i look good than people thinking i’m a good person, and the latter is where my self-esteem issues are. (i mean, i also think i look good, so probably i just got lucky with that one?)

we talked about how maybe it's okay to not "feel" confident, to not feel it deeply, but know that it’s possible that i can be good even if i don’t believe it deeply? can i feel that meta-feeling more deeply? maybe it's easier. i’ll have to see.

dec 4

got lunch with a friend, asked them about self-worth

they talked about how cuddling and mindfulness help them see themself as a full body in the present moment instead of as a bunch of busy thoughts. that this helps them feel more of their sense of self, which also comes with a sense of confidence in themself.

they also talked about how conversations with friends about certain topics brings out parts of them that they like and helps them feel good about themself. my connections to friends are a big source of joy in my life, so i like the idea of this. but how do i keep this source of self-worth stable as people come in and out of my life?

they were like “well, why is it so important to keep this sense of self without having great friends to regularly talk to and cuddle with? we’re social creatures” and i realized that there might be some radical self-reliance bullshit baked into ideas around self-worth being something someone should create for themself. and i’m put a lot of (skilled) time into making and sustaining friendships, so i think i can rely on having people to talk to at least.

dec 9

wow since i started talking a lot to someone who gives me specific compliments all the time, i’m really starting to internalize how helpful it is to me to receive words of affirmation. i want to explicitly ask more of my friends to do this for me!

dec 21

paraphrasing a call with another friend

them: i try to remind myself that my self-worth isn't defined off of things i have less control over like looks, what people think of me, or accomplishments. there are people in my life who, based on some societally defined value, aren’t valuable -- and i still like them, so if i ever feel not good enough then i'm probably internalizing some sort of -ism

me: but what if it's something like kindness, where you wouldn't want to hang out with someone who wasn't kind, and you feel like you’re not being kind enough?

them: if i wasn’t being kind then i probably would and should feel bad. but it would still be a type of feeling bad with compassion layered on top (both for others and self, noticing the context around the unkindness that can help explain where it’s coming from)

me: i guess a difference is that i (more than you) value finding people interesting in my friendships (and idk, intellectual stimulation? collaboration? novelty?) -- and i also find it hard to be those things sometimes, which results in feeling bad about myself sometimes. it’s interesting to see how that isn’t as much of an issue for you


talked to another friend tonight -- they say they’re able to easily blame mental illness for some traits that aren’t great, instead of thinking that those traits/behaviours reflect on a person or their worth (both others and themselves). and i have no idea how to actually believe that, but it would be nice if i did.

dec 22

a friend, over chat: I feel like I have the same issue around valuing being interesting. I'm curious if you spend conscious time/effort trying to "be more interesting" ? It does feel like something we have control over (how we spend our time) but also partially not (if most people around you don't think what you're doing is interesting/unique/cool that can be hard)

me: i do spend more time/effort being interesting, but i hope that the things i do are at least as much because they’re fun for me, and not just because other people will think they’re cool. i’d like to focus on things that are interesting to me, and judge myself off of how interesting i feel around what i’m doing in those areas, because i do sometimes define self-worth off of other people’s set of interests which seems extremely unhelpful

friend: It very much feels like my interest/work is driven by others' interests. But I wonder if for me personally, this is how I derive meaning, so i'm hesitant to let that go.

me: i feel like it’s pretty reasonable to get a lot of enjoyment out of sharing things with people and connecting / teaching / learning together / etc. (I know I definitely prefer this) -- my first thoughts on how to manage this is:

(1) feeling confident that there are people who share my interests that I can talk with, through building friendships and community

(2) separating each individual thing from my sense of self-worth. the fact that i value connecting with people over things i do is something that makes me appreciate myself at its core. and it is a motivator towards me doing things that i can connect with others around. and i do use it as a way to choose what i’ll focus my time on. but if i end up doing something that other people don’t respond much to, that doesn’t mean i’m at my core uninteresting or bad, it just means this particular thing ended up being less meaningful to me than i wanted it to be, given the people who currently interact with me

jan 1

wrote https://evy.garden/notebook/words-of-connection/ today. it felt maybe a bit too cheesy but then a friend said

“Oh my goodness, maybe I am just feeling extra vulnerable today or these were just the words I needed to hear right now, but this is one of my favorite things you've ever written!!”

and that felt super good!! <3

early january, newsletter about recent life changes, section on self-worth

I read Polysecure recently, which discusses many helpful topics including building a secure relationship with oneself. It’s easy in monogamous relationships to derive a sense of self-worth from a partner who has “chosen you as their one and only”, and it’s easy to feel like an attractive person mainly because of a partner’s affection. I see ways that I’ve relied on past partners for my sense of self-worth, and I’m currently exploring what a more stable sense of self-worth looks like.

For me, self-worth is mostly about two things: believing that I am wonderful even when I make mistakes or it seems like the people I’m interacting with don’t like me, and standing up for the things I want because I feel worthy of receiving them.

When I was overwhelmingly anxious for much of 2021 and crying most days, it felt so hard to connect to the part of myself that I thought was wonderful. I wasn’t creating as many cool things, I wasn’t having as many heart-warming connections with people, and I wasn’t contributing much in collaborative settings. The things I wanted from others, things to help my mood and create a supportive environment, often felt completely unreasonable or unfulfillable and not even worth asking for. Existing as a very anxious person was so repetitive and boring and lonely.

What’s most helped my self-worth these days has been spending time around people who think I’m great and frequently tell me so. It’s also been helpful to spend time around people who are excited about things that I’m excited about, which reminds me about the pieces of myself that I love. I want to have several sources of that energy from a diversity of different spaces of my life. That feels stable and beautifully interdependent. I think I’m getting there.