“There is nothing to prove and nothing to protect. I am who I am and it’s enough.”
– Fr. Richard Rohr “Falling Upward”
This concept relates to our “self-worth”. Many of you may be familiar with the term “net worth”. A definition of net worth is the sum of all your assets minus your liabilities. When we apply this to our self-worth several things emerge: 1) it is vital to take stock of our ‘assets’ honestly; 2) it is likely ‘our’ assets have changed over the years; and 3) no matter what our age or status, investing in our ‘assets’ will pay off in the long run.
What are YOUR assets? These change as we age. Perhaps you were beautiful or handsome in your younger years, and you ‘traded’ off these assets when you were younger. Perhaps you had a sparkling personality, were the life of the party, or were a hard worker or a loyal friend. All of these are assets you bring to your later years.
How have they appreciated or depreciated? Some may have fallen by the wayside or perhaps lost value because they are not used. Others might have grown in value and become the foundation of how you spend down your time.
Knowing you are “enough” challenging at any point in our life. As we age, particularly in our western, industrialized culture, our value as elders appears to diminish. Coming to terms with this is key to maximizing your returns regardless of how much you may have in the bank.
Generally speaking, we are valued for what we do and who we are (“doing” and “being”). You can see this in our rituals of introduction. “How do you do?” and “What do you do?” are common conversation starters. As we age, however, what we did in the past may be less valued than our current functional status. The conversation starter turns into “How are you doing?”
Work is an essential factor in feeling we are ‘enough’. Transitioning from one type of work to another need’s attention and planning. For many, this is called retirement planning. But it is a brutal fact that for many of us, where we work, the kind of work we do, who we work for (ourselves or others), and whether we work at all is not under our control. The economy, our health, and our skill sets are all subject to change.
For my husband, the kind of work he had done professionally was no longer valued. He was essentially let go from his position because the nature of the company he worked for shifted and his skill set was no longer needed. He had to reinvent himself.
In doing this, he took an inventory of what he had to offer as well as who he was at that point in his life. He had to let go of many strongly held beliefs about being needed, wanted, valued because of “what” he did. But through this process, he became aware that he was valued for who he “was”.
This is not unique to my husband. There are many inspirational stories out there about people who found their true purpose in life after they stopped “working”. How we come to believe we are enough can come about through different pathways. It may be through volunteering or giving yourself permission to explore your own path, or planting a garden with your grandchildren.
It may come from finding your voice in advocating for others, or in quietly being of service in your church. It may be that you discover, as one of my patients did, that you are a great storyteller and have a story worth telling!