Updated: Aug 24, 2018
Spinning around. Seeing no way out. Only seeing yourself.
Rather, reflections of yourself.
You’re stuck in a house of mirrors. A funhouse. Fat. Skinny. Tall. Short.
But all you.
Finally you stop spinning and you decidedly take action toward getting out of this fun house. Standing firm in one place, ignoring the mirrors, you find a clear escape. Once you figured out the solution it seems so obvious. You walk out into daylight feeling dizzy and lightheaded but so grateful you’re out, so happy to see the sun, you feel the warmth on your face, and you walk forward to enjoy the rest of the day.
Societal mirrors act the same exact way as the funhouse with regard to our self worth.
Societal mirrors would include:
Birth Order/Family Expectations
How Co-Workers View Us
Social Value in Our Social Circle
All of these reflect a distorted image that tells you whether or not you measure up. It can be a whirlwind trying to keep up with it all!
If you do happen to measure up to at least 8/10 of these external standards it’s likely you’ll feel you have a healthy self-esteem; however, I’d argue it’s not a healthy self-esteem because it’s baseless, temporary, and dictated by others. Whereas even someone who doesn’t “have it all together” could have a healthier self-esteem and therefore self worth if they’re following an intentional self-directed path. Not to discount those that have achieved all of these if these achievments were dictated by you then, brava, read no further! This isn't the case for most of us.
So, want a way out from the dizzying fun house?
Get ready to challenge social norms.
By that I mean what your circle of influence expects from you as well as society as a whole. Sometimes this could feel as though you’re challenging your very survival. One of the most successful ways to survive is to be part of a herd, correct? Therefore, we know the pecking order, we know whether or not we measure up and what value we bring to our group. If we don’t have an achievement most people value such as:
An Advanced Degree
A Wealth of Knowledge or Experience
A Perfect Long Lasting Relationship
A Healthy Physique
An Endless Wardrobe
And so on…
We may be expected to fill the role of the compassionate or the one called upon as needed. It can summon feelings of being taken advantage of and/or it can be nice to feel needed. When we start to feel as though we can’t say no to being needed, or if we need help and no one is there for us, that’s when it starts to become unhealthy.
This is when survival instincts kicks in. You sacrifice your own independence for a small amount of inclusion. In the animal kingdom and in the early days of man to be included meant you would literally survive - you could eat. Now, it means a different survival - a social survival. We could easily be outcast from our current community if we don’t perform as expected and therefore no longer hold our value within that group. If we lost that particular set of friends or colleagues we could lose face in our community and perhaps not be able to recover the clout, respect, and perks given to us by that title or image they were showing us through their mirror. Regardless, if you’re not on a self-guided path, you could get all the recognition in the world but happiness would likely elude you.
So, do you “survive” or do you change?
Do you stay in the box or do you bust out?
You have 2 options:
You can continue surviving and basing what it means to be successful on what others expect from you; - OR -
You could challenge your social survival and define success for yourself.
Personally, I choose option #2. You will likely lose friends. You will likely lose the respect of your peers initially due to confusion. This is where you start to stand up for yourself, where you set boundaries, communicate them clearly, and don’t look back. You begin to say no when the only reason your “friend” is calling is because they need something. You begin to say no to events, even promotions, when you truly feel that path no longer serves you. You begin to enjoy your time alone because you’re using it to build yourself up (and eventually others).
It takes some time to get used to, to not be there for people who don’t actually care for you and don’t actually deserve you. But the payoff is amazing. You can love those people from afar, and if they get healthy, sure welcome them back in your life with well established boundaries. Meanwhile you will begin to attract new, like-minded, introspective adults who are willing to healthily share themselves with you.
To define success for yourself and put yourself first without batting an eyelash at what others think is just the beginning to creating a sense of self worth. Best of luck and, as always, I would love to hear from you about your personal journey in this area :)