In having a particularly interesting conversation with my cousin recently as many of them often are, he said something that struck a chord in me “We represent our own validity,” Jay (2014). This is profound to me for a many reasons, but two in particular. Specifically, the concepts of validity and judgment as they relate to events that have happened in the past, and how judgment and devaluation negatively impact feelings of self-worth and value.
Have you ever been in this situation: you find yourself reminiscing about something done in the past, cringing in the corner and wanting to die from embarrassment or shame? Me too. Often. But before either you or I have a freak-out session, I would first like to consider judgment for a moment.
What is judgment? Judgment is placing value based on circumstances at one single moment in time. It is bound to reflection, whether it is a person, an action, or a situation, and by this definition, worth is always changing with each circumstance. It is dynamic, inconsistent, and easily influenced. Remember those crazy times you look back and think “what the hell was I thinking?!” Or, “oh my gawd, what was I wearing?!” or, “Why did I think that was cool?” Perhaps you would like to consider the value of a pair of pants when trying them on in July versus December? After the holidays set in those pants might not be so desirable after all…
Value is determined on a moment-to-moment basis.
For example, one thousand years ago, humankind believed the notion that the universe revolved around Planet Earth based on the information of the time. Later, that theory was discredited and changed in to the acceptance that the world was flat and was part of a bigger cosmos. Today, contemporary theories outline a spherical Earth which orbits one sun in a single galaxy in one (possibly more) universe(s?). Information and its attributed value evolved over time and as a result, practices were modified. You might have heard this aphorism before: You can’t always choose your experiences, but you can always choose how you experience them. If – I should really say when – we reflect upon our own lives and deem something unacceptable, we can choose to release the deconstructive energy attached with embarrassment, shame, guilt, remorse, and what-have-you. Our assumptions and behavior reflect our level of consciousness. Do we blame the child for its follies? No. We teach them to evaluate and modify, while providing loving guidance. When we think of ancient scholars, do we scoff their theories? No, we recognize the contributions to a greater and more thorough understanding of the reality that we experience today.
Returning to the idea that we represent our own value, it becomes exponentially important to internalize and remember that value is placed repeatedly with each passing moment and that value will assuredly change as time progresses. This is because our understanding changes with gained experience. When what once was a good idea has morphed in to a bad idea after time, it is so easy to jump straight to a mental cycle of denunciation and shame, which causes severe psychological damage and sabotages the future. Thus we devalue repeatedly.
This is what I’ve learned: When you’re always looking backward and criticizing, you omit all the positive experiences successes, and lessons learned that help to support mental wellbeing. Moreover, by focusing always in the past, you never have an opportunity to celebrate the present or even prepare for the future from a place of confidence, security, and understanding. How can you communicate value and confidence to others in the community for a job interview, for a date, for a reputation, when you do not even communicate your own value to yourself?
The point I am making is this: values change as time changes and lessons are learned. Through this lens, we can release pressures we have placed on ourselves, on other people, other events, and other things, and accept them as part of an evolving set of experiences.
We represent our own validity, which means we are responsible for how we value our selves, our time, and our objectives. Instead of scolding our younger selves, our friends, events, or what have you, you can always try to redirect your evaluation toward that of experience to understand how “it” was (or can be) useful. Do you agree with everything done in your past? No. But you can choose to modify your behavior moving forward. You never have to devalue yourself again.
The next time you feel yourself judging yourself negatively, what’s one thing you can do to remind yourself not to devalue yourself? Some examples might be to meditate, to take a few big breaths, journal. Leave a comment below with your tips and advice!