22 July 2011

Determining My Worth

Here's something that I struggle with: my accomplishments determining my self-worth. Let me explain.

I first wanted to be a writer because I loved writing. Then I wanted to be published so I could feel validated. Then I was published and people said nice things to me, and I felt good about myself. I first wanted to be a photographer because I liked taking pictures. Then I started posting my photography on the internet and people said nice things to me, and I felt good about myself.

Then I had a baby and realized I couldn't do it all. I inflated my online identity so people would think I was still awesome, and I continued to work even though sometimes it was killing me. When I would get little or no feedback, I was crushed. I needed the recognition.

It all came to a head when I realized I couldn't keep up. Working to get accolades wasn't adding to my quality of life; it was actually detracting from it.

So I stopped. I took a break from writing, decided that I wasn't going to teach anymore, and got a small job working behind the scenes for a website. Of course, this all happened in tandem with our move. In New York, I was determined to slow down, be a stay-at-home mom, and work part-time from home. I also cut way back on my social networking, especially Facebook, which seemed to propel this need for feedback.

When I read The Spirit of Food, I would read through each writer's bio before reading his or her essay. After a while the bios all started to look the same: where the writer went to school, where the writer has been published, what the writer does for employment. These are important components to each writer's life, but when listed one after another, it all starts looking the same. I thought a lot about what my bio would look like, or what it should look like.

Today's Curator includes an essay where the writer looks closer at this idea in the context of blogs and the way the glimpse they provide into other people's lives can diminish our feelings of self-worth:
The height of my Womanhood is not measured by what I do, but who I am. The quality of my character is not measured with a yardstick, nor by the height of my tomato plants. The real fruit of life is not found in traffic numbers or tutorials, but in the qualitative depth of living in love.
It's taken me a long time to finally accept that my value as a person is steeped in my character and in God. Those things don't require anyone to give me feedback and say nice things about me; they require me to love others and accept myself. Whether I ever publish another essay or post another photograph is a separate issue, one that shouldn't determine my value or worth.


Matthew said...

With the advent of Google+ (and my consequent rethinking of Facebook and Twitter and their ilk, I've found myself thinking a lot lately about self and the disparity between how I view myself and how I wish to be viewed.

So. This post of yours is particularly well-timed. I love the way she addresses the issues at hand, and I know there's a lot more thinking we all have to do about this sort of thing. The internet, after all, isn't likely to get smaller anytime soon.

Related: you might enjoy this article and the essays referenced therein.

(And though I don't think you're planning on a complete cessation of your excellent blogging & picture-taking, , as a friend and fellow parent & writer, I'll implore you: please don't actually stop!)

Christine said...

Thanks for sharing this. It resonates with me so much. With my own blogging, I can feel it when I'm crossing the line too far and posting just to get feedback, rather than as an artistic expression or sharing my life with friends near and far. It's such a fine line these days with all the social networking options. I've come so close to quitting Facebook several times and wonder why I keep it if I have doubts!

kate o. said...

i love coincidences;) i've been working on a post about blogs the past couple of days and then you write this and mention that curator essay.

i like your last paragraph. i feel like i am finally getting better at noticing those early inklings as to whether or not a certain blog will be an encouragement and healthy challenge or a source of discontent and frustration that makes me doubt who i am. but it's still hard.

lauren martin gauthier said...

this is a timely and insightful post, to which i can relate. i think so often we feel isolated in these struggles...but then when someone is brave enough to name them, we realize we are not alone. which is, i think, one of the *most* important things to realize.

Kathryn said...

a very thoughtful post. it's always good to remember to create (writing, art, etc.)for yourself first, do what makes you happy. gorgeous photos by the way. :)

sandra said...

I love this post and how I can relate to what you've said here. You're so right about blogs and how, if we're not careful, they can diminish our feelings of self-worth. I've been thinking so much about the same things lately. And, just a few weeks ago I talked with a friend about some things and during the course of our conversation, among some differences in opinions, I realized just what you said about knowing who you are in God and that, in itself, being enough - not needing another person's feedback to feel valuable. It's a good place from which to see the world.