Devaluing Ourselves

Humans are strange beings. We are forever envying what other people can do. Whether it is another writer’s success or that mom who always seems to have it all together, we always find something we wish we had or wish we could do as well as someone else. I don’t know if it is cultural or human, but this envy seems to be everywhere.

Here in America, we seem to feel that if we can do something easily, it has no value. Just think of the terms we use: we “earn” our paycheck at “work.” If we don’t have to struggle at it, then it’s not work, right? If we don’t have to work hard, then we haven’t “earned” anything, so what we did must not have value.

That thinking is false.

We all have skills—things we do more easily and better than others. Some of these skills are innate; some are learned. But all of us excel at something. It is ironic, then, that the very things we are good at are often the very things we devalue.

A few weeks ago, at my 25th high school reunion, we held a dedication ceremony for the new doors my class financed as their reunion gift to the school. We dedicated the doors to my best friend, Donna Hanson Woolman, who died of cancer 10 years ago. Along with speaking about Donna, I created a photo montage to show.

The number of people who cried at the montage shocked me.

Many people came up to me afterward and told me how wonderful it was, and what a good job I had done. I nodded and said, “Thank you,” but I was flummoxed. A photo montage, for me, is nothing. It is simple. I have been in video production for nearly as long as I have been out of high school. So to have people so moved and impressed by it felt a bit—embarrassing.

But it did make me understand, perhaps for the first time, that while we are busy admiring others’ skills, there are other people admiring ours. Putting together a photo montage for me is a few hours of work—for others it would be nearly impossible. Writing a blog post (once I have a topic) takes about half an hour. For others, it would take days.

We all have skills, either learned or innate. While we will never totally vanquish envy, when we feel particularly envious maybe we should stop and look at our own skills. We should remind ourselves that the person we are envying might be envying us our skills. Just because we find something easy or fun does not make it less of a skill.

We need to stop devaluing ourselves.

We all have gifts.

Our gifts have value—and so do we.

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