Thursday 4 June 2015

Self Worth, Self Value, and Turning Up

Self worth and self value.

I am due at the hospice this afternoon. I'm there to spend time with anyone who needs or wants some company, and I have been doing this for a good while now.  I still get nervous before I go in, I think can I do this?  What if no one wants me there?  What if I say the wrong thing and I upset someone?

Sometimes, with all the things that I'm involved with, I think - I have no idea what I am doing, perhaps I should call the whole thing off.

What I am really questioning, is my value.  What if I have no value when I turn up to do something, when I put myself out there, when I am being me?  What if I am wrong, and no one has told me? What if I am simply not good enough.

Sometimes we feel very alone

If I were to act on the fears that I am not good enough, I would stay safe and silent and take no risks.  I would feel the world out there was an unpredictable, unsafe place that had the potential to undermine me and make me feel unworthy.  By not doing anything that made me feel unsafe, that challenged my sense of self worth, I would create for myself a glass bubble in which I could protect myself from as much pain as possible out there.  The down side for me, if that were the case, is that I would become angry and resentful, and I would blame other people for the restrictions I felt I had in my life.  My self value would be based only on reactions to outside influence and my interpretation of what other people thought of me.  If my self worth in this case was measured in terms of water, it would be a tiny pool in a dried up lake, liable to evaporate further in the sun if I did not protect it.  Hence the glass bubble, and the fear of anything that may challenge my fragile feelings of value.

Here is what I think about valuing ourselves. 
  • We are all human.  We are all just people.  Even people you don't like and people you admire, are just people.  
  • Nothing comes of nothing. Doing nothing will bring nothing.
  • We are often wrong about how we think others see us
  • Our fear of getting it wrong blinds us to seeing what we get right
  • Being vulnerable, feeling unsure, is normal. If we feel this way, so does everyone else
  • Often we can't hear praise and we can't see success, we are fixated on looking for proof that we are not good enough.
  • It is often the little things that make a difference.  You cannot know how much a welcoming smile might give someone a lift of spirits, the tiniest most give away thing that you were not even aware of doing.  Or, for example, this makes a difference to me, when I am talking to a group and one person looks at me as if they understand. I feel affirmed by that one person. 
  • We have much to give.  Comparing ourselves to others who seem to have it all, is fine as long as it isn't a way to make us crumple into a ball of doubt and inactivity.  Comparing ourselves to other people as a punishment, is a way to continue to do nothing. We still have much to offer.
  • Keeping busy to drown out the silence, and to prevent feelings of self doubt, are as bad as creating a glass bubble in which to live and try to avoid pain.
Uncovering, maintaining and allowing a sense of self value is an ongoing project.  It takes a lifetime, and what we know of ourselves now may change entirely over time. The tiny puddle in the dried up lake may well need protecting, but the potential to increase the puddle in size to fill the lake, and make it less vulnerable to evaporation, is entirely possible and within our scope.  If we allow it.  This means taking risks.  Taking risks such as, among other things, knowing what we want, asking for what we want, saying no, saying yes, turning up when it is difficult to do so (the hospice this afternoon), and the big one - knowing ourselves.

Knowing ourselves is fundamental.  If sounds indulgent, it sounds impossible, it sounds complicated.  It is all those things and it is also enlightening, fascinating and rewarding.  Knowing ourselves gives us insight into other people.  Knowing ourselves is our duty - we are given our bodies, minds and souls with such things as consciousness, free will and choice - why would we not explore who we are and what works best for us? When we die it will all be gone, there won't be another chance, why waste this opportunity to know who we are?  We may be fabulous! We probably are. Knowing ourselves includes that old chestnut, being kind to ourselves.  Someone said that we should treat ourselves as we would a child.  Feeding ourselves well, making sure we sleep properly, listening to ourselves and giving ourselves time and attention; keeping ourselves safe and looking for ways for us to thrive and reach our potential.  Sounds great, doesn't it?  

This afternoon I will go to the hospice, and I will do that difficult thing, turning up.  I will turn up.  And here is the reality of it - it doesn't matter if I sit with anyone or not.  It matters that I go there with the intention to be available, and to do my best.  If, and this does happen, someone says go away, that doesn't matter.  I am not being rejected, that person has their own journey and saying go away to me isn't about me, it is about them.  They need to be alone, and they are letting me know.  If I go and sit with someone and make a difference, then thank goodness I turned up because if I hadn't turned up, that connection may have been missing with them forever.  And in the hospice, there isn't much time.  I may feel unsure about the afternoon ahead, but I know that it will be OK whatever transpires.  Sometimes, it isn't the patient who I sit with, sometimes it is a family member.  And sometimes, I learn from the other volunteers and staff there instead of sitting with anyone at all, which if I was basing my sense of worth and success on only sitting with patients and making a difference, I may consider a failure. It is not in any way a failure - and I must add that the business of sitting with a patient and making a difference is never guaranteed.  I may sit with someone, but I cannot do more than just be there and see what happens.  That is the risk about turning up.  I love what I do, despite it being an unknown quantity each time, so I expect nothing and anticipate everything - and none of it is about me being either good enough or not good enough.  I guess it is about taking a risk and having faith.  This business about going this afternoon to the hospice is the same for all the work that I do.  At the risk of sounding rather vague, it comes down to saying yes, turning up, and having faith that I will do my best and, big one here, that I will survive.  Every time I leave the safety of my home, anything could happen.  I have to have faith that it will be OK and I will be the best that I can be.  And if it doesn't go well, I will still survive and there will still be tea and cake.

 Events coming up

Gill Lake and I are presenting our next Spirit of Living and Dying workshop on Wednesday 10 June at St Paul's Art Centre in Worthing.  From 10am to 1pm, price £20 per person. An interactive, creative and gently challenging session, and all are most heartily welcome.  There will be Gill's cake, one of our USPs.  

A gentle and challenging look at how we live because we will die

And on the 15 of July, Gill and I will be at the Hamblin Trust, Bosham House, Main Road, Bosham near Chichester, PO18 8JP, with our Conversations about the End of Life, Finding Time to Think in our Busy World from 2pm to 3.30pm.  It is free, with suggested donations of £3.50 which all go to the Hamblin Trust. 

The A Graceful Death exhibition is possibly going to Dorset at the end of October, as part of the Elephant in the Room festival, hosted by soul midwife and nurse Keira Jones and her musician husband Jim Fox.  Fingers crossed, as I love working with Kiera and Jim.  They both run The Centre in Swansea, a wonderful place where anyone with a life limiting or threatening illness can go for free holistic treatment and advice.  They run the Centre with donations from the public, and do absolutely groundbreaking work there.  A link -  

And Finally

I notice that we are terribly serious with this blog.  There aren't many jokes. That doesn't mean I have been gloomy during May, there has been much fun and hard work, and there have been wonderful highlights.  One was AGD in Maidstone as part of Dying Matters Awareness Week, to an event run by Volunteer Action Maidstone on behalf of Macmillan cancer care.  Oh boy, it was wonderful.  You can see how wonderful when you see Team AGD Maidstone below

Melissa who runs Cake and Death workshops, me in the middle and cousin Maddy who is a pain specialist physio.  This was taken just as we had finished setting up before dashing to the loo to change into our ball gowns and tiaras for the opening event.  Missing from the photo is the ever wonderful and super efficient Jane Pantony who is the brains behind this event.
A very good thing is that this month I fly out to Tanzania to stay with photographer extraordinaire and dear old friend Eileen Rafferty.  You may remember that Eileen moved there a year ago, selfishly accepting a huge promotion and diplomatic status to work for DIFD in Tanzania and leaving me in Bognor to fend for myself.  It is all about me, I said when she was offered the job but still she went.  I am going to stay with Eileen for ten days, and I am so excited.  We are going to Zanzibar too, and Eileen, who did not drive in the UK till a year ago, will be driving me in her 4x4 car in Africa.  Eileen, who thought she knew herself pretty well, has found reserves and strengths she didn't dream of.  No glass bubbles for Eileen, her lake is well and truly brimming.

Have a lovely June all of you.  I will see you in July, and hope that you all find the space to treat yourselves like a child. By that I mean don't put yourselves on the naughty step, but treat yourselves to ice creams and kind words.  

 I will leave you with a photo from the Maidstone AGD exhibition, of the lovely Anne Snell, beside her portrait of when her husband Peter was dying.  Peter died before the painting was finished, and we remember him in the exhibition.  Anne lives near to Maidstone, and it was lovely to see her again.

It is sheer coincidence that Anne is wearing the same cardigan that she wore in for the painting.  Note too the fancy cake that was provided for the Tea and Cake afternoon discussion session run by Melissa earlier.