Dr. Chip Dodd - Beyond Self-Esteem, Worth.

What is the difference between self-esteem and a sense of worth?
Sometimes single parents feel a sense of shame and failure in their circumstances, whether divorce, a broken relationship, or an absent co-parent. Those feelings can erode our sense of self-esteem and worth.
Dr. Chip Dodd is an expert therapist, best-selling author, speaker, mentor, and regular contributor to the Solo Parent Society podcast. For thirty years, Chip has dedicated his life to helping people uncover who they are inside and discover how to live fully in relationship with others and God. He shares powerful insight with us about the differences between self-esteem and worth.
Is pursuing a sense of self-esteem wrong?
Pursuing a sense of self-esteem is not wrong. Having self-respect for our capabilities and skills is a healthy form of pride. It’s only when we use that sense of esteem, our measure of those capabilities, to determine our worth that we go wrong. If we decide that we are less valuable because we aren’t as good as we want to be at something we have moved from a fair estimation of our abilities into grading our value based on what we can or cannot do.
It’s a wonderful thing to have confidence in our ability to do things we have been trained to do but it’s dangerous territory to allow that estimation to determine our value and worth. We are worthy and valuable and deserving of love apart from anything we do.
Worth is something we are born with. Our worth is like a luminesce gold ball that we each have from birth. It encompasses how we are made and created. We can’t add to it, take from it, or get rid of it. It won’t go away or diminish. Our opportunity is to value it, apply it, offer it, and give it. Somewhere in life we start to believe we have lost our value and that we have to earn our right to be loved. Rather than understanding our worth as an intrinsic gift, we start to only feel valuable and worthy of love if we perform.
Babies are born with an assumption of trust and that their cries will be heard. They reach out expecting to be received. They seek connection expecting to be loved. They can’t contribute or do anything, but they assume they are worth a response. When caregivers respond and meet those needs, trust continues and so does a sense of worth. When needs and cries aren’t met, our sense of worth is challenged. We receive the message that we must earn and perform for love and connection.
Society contributes to this erosion of our sense of worth. In reality though, worth is immeasurable and unchangeable and given by God. Our worth doesn’t diminish. Self-esteem, on the other hand, is measurable and changeable and built by people. Psalm 8 says, “When I stand on the plains, the earth starts to get small, and I know I am small on the earth. Who am I that you would even know me or recognize me?” If you come from a place of uncertainty about your worth, you start to believe you have to make yourself seen, heard, and valued but God’s word tells us differently. Psalm 8 goes on to say that God created us only slightly lower than the angels to be crowned with glory and honor. This isn’t something we earn. It is something we lay claim to in our identity from God. He bestows this worth and identity on us freely as His beloved creation/children. David felt small, and babies enter this world small. We may not be “big”, but we are a big deal and are of great worth from day one into eternity.
This God-given worth allows us to live out of how we were created instead of what we build to try to make ourselves valuable. Rather than needing to earn our worth and gain value from the world, we can live from a sense of worth and add value to the world. This kind of unshakeable worth, when joined with self-esteem says, “I’m worth whatever it takes to receive the gifts that allow me to become who I need to be to give to a world in need.” That’s a huge difference.
Sometimes as single parents we are so aware of our brokenness and mistakes, how can
All of us carry around a picture of how we wish life were and we try all kinds of things to try to make it so. When the dreams, hopes, and wishes cry out and get shattered in the midst of real life, we find ourselves asking, “What do I do with a broken heart. Every one of us will feel sadness and longings because we dream. If we don’t dream or climb, we won’t hope or fall. When we get trapped in the self-esteem model, we end up trusting in our abilities and performance to control what is happening in our lives. We cover up our fears and unfulfilled longings with striving instead of living authentically with others.
One of the key things for us to accept as parents is that we are going to fail. Dreams will be broken. Mistakes will be made. The question is how do you grieve those losses and that brokenness? Most of us don’t know how to do that.
Before our dreams are broken, most of us have already lost our sense of worth and instead we are living on the rollercoaster of self-esteem based on performance. When we are left with broken dreams, we don’t know what to do. We are left vulnerable and in need. Our craving exposes us with open hands and reveals our weakness. Crying out means we might not be heard. This broken heartedness returns us to an opportunity to recognize what we need and reach out to others to have our needs met.
Dr. Dodd shares that as parents we encounter hurts, and we see our kids encounter hurts too. Part of honoring our heart is staying awake to those hurts, acknowledging what we need and teaching them to do the same. This means operating from a place of worth knowing we are created deserving of love and connection rather than operating from a place of “self-esteem” where we have to perform to receive love. Acting from a sense of worth means remembering we were created to feel, to need, and to keep hoping. This means being willing to be vulnerable, to ask for help and hold our hands open so we can receive rather than closed as a defense against more pain. We have opportunities to show our kids how to act from a place of vulnerability and worthiness rather than a place of performance and a need to prove ourselves and our abilities.
What are some practical things we can do to work toward a more consistent sense of self-worth?
We can return to the things that express our self-worth like admitting we have a need and acting from the conviction that our needs are important by seeking ways to have them met. One of the heaviest things to pick up can be the phone when we need to share that we need help or support. But this is part of acting from a place of worth. When we feel worthy, we know we matter and so do our needs. From that sense of worth, we can reach out and express that we are lonely, hurt, or afraid and have those needs met.
Survival of the fittest occurs through herd connection. Recognizing neediness and vulnerability helps preserve life. Gentleness is the ability for someone to lean against you without being rejected or pushed away. Thriving occurs through dependence on how I’m made and who I’m created to be as well as on presence instead of power. When the rug is ripped out from under you, it is actually a gateway to transformation. A person is a victim of being left but being a victim as an adult can remind us of having already been a victim or in a place of helplessness. They don’t believe that how they’re made is part of the solution but admitting our human worth and being aware of our feelings and needs is God’s design that leads us to seek the connection and support we need.
The passage, “We have this treasure in jars of clay…” reminds us that we are human and that we have needs. We have to let ourselves be known. We can be judged. Some might reject us, but others will not. Some will embrace our vulnerability and accept our neediness and meet us there with gentleness. Reaching out like this requires us to be aware of our worth and our belief that we matter and so do our needs.
“We’re not worthy. We are not worthless, but we are worth it.” God created us as beings of great worth. We can never become worthy of the great love God gives us. “We can’t earn it, we can’t make it, we can’t perform for it. If we could, it’s not worth much”, says Dr. Dodd, “because then it’s not a gift.” If we’ve earned it, we can demand it. Instead, we were made with great worth, and God gives us His life and His love to us as a gift because of our value.
For more from Dr. Chip Dodd, find him at www.chipdodd.com.

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