Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The 5 Ways We Measure Self Worth and Success

My husband was at a business meeting, where he announced that he was going to be working with Alex Boye on a new music video.

One woman gasped with excitement and congratulated my husband. Another woman, who didn’t know the famous singer/song writer, shrugged. “Who is Alex Boye?” she asked.

You know… Alex Boye… the most famous black man in Utah and probably the most famous singer for younger generations? Although, I think the Osmonds are still in the lead for the older generation in Utah.

Next she asked, “Well is Alex Boye rich?”

I seriously laughed out loud when I heard her question.

It’s Alex Boye. Alex has run charity events, and traveled internationally spreading good, uplifting music. He sang with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Lindsey Sterling, and a whole yacht full of other noteworthy musicians. He also has a gorgeous wife and daughters. Who cares if he’s rich?

This got me thinking about how we measure success. It’s different for everyone and there are pitfalls to each.

  1. Wealth
More of us judge people by their wealth than we realize.

Like my husband’s co-worker, some people measure the value of a person’s success based on their bank account, the kind of car they drive, the brand of clothes they wear, and the square footage of their estate.

Having money is not an evil thing and even spending money on ourselves is not evil. The pitfall to judging people and ourselves based on materialistic gain is that if one day we loose our wealth, or if the economy crashes and money has no worth, then we might suddenly find ourselves thinking that we are worthless.

It goes both ways. Is a homeless person on the street, whose most valuable possession is a tattered sleeping bag, worth more or less as a human being than a wealthy heir to a stately family?

  1. Accomplishments

I have to admit, this is the measuring stick I am guilty of judging myself and other’s success by. “To Do” list type people often fall into this category.

Back to our Alex Boye example. My thoughts about Alex’s wealth was, “Who cares how much money he has? Look at all Alex has done for the community, church, and entire world!”

It is easy to judge a person’s success by their long lists of accomplishments. We even do it on an international level with the Olympics. Gold, silver, and bronze metals (all seen as being worth different amounts) are given to the first, second, and third place winners.

Like wealth, accomplishments are not necessarily a bad thing, but there are pit falls.

I will use myself as an example since I already admitted that I have a tenancy to measure success in this area.

The other day I had 30 things to do on my list. I worked all day and by midnight I had only gotten 29 things done. I felt terrible that I didn’t finish. That day was a failure. I was too slow. I didn’t work hard enough.

Instead I should have been saying, “Hey, I got 29 things done today! WHOO HOO!”

In a BYU class, a man got up and introduced himself, then went on to say that his youngest child just got married and all seven of his kids were in the temple that day.
Another man on the back row said, “Hmph! You got all the easy kids.”

It’s true, in the Mormon culture we often judge each other and ourselves by how many children we have, the success of our children, how many times we volunteer for service projects, or go to the temple, etc.

Sometimes we even judge how “important” our church calling is, even our righteousness, by how busy we are or how many people see us working on our calling. Or by how many people we baptized on our mission.

  1. Beauty

Even though this is superficial, we judge ourselves and others by our physical beauty more often then we like to admit.

I spoke with a beautiful woman who struggled with an eating disorder for many years. She felt her self worth was based on her dress size. When she gained a pound she felt awful about herself and felt less valuable as a human being.

According to Business Insider, “Beautiful people tend to bring in more money for their companies, and are therefore seen as more valuable employees and harder workers, according to an article in Psychology Today by Dario Maestripieri, a professor of comparative human development, evolutionary biology, and neurobiology at the University of Chicago.”

There is a MASSIVE target market of consumers purchasing hair dye, teeth whiteners, skin creams, cosmetics, manicures, diet pills and programs, plastic surgery, braces to straighten teeth, wrinkle reducing salves, breast implants, laser treatments, wonder shampoo, etc. all in an effort to be more beautiful.

  1. Happiness

Judging people and ourselves by our level of happiness sounds good enough, but there are some dangerous pitfalls.

Just because someone is smiling doesn’t mean they are happy or successful and just because someone is successful doesn’t mean they are happy.

If we judge our own success on our happiness level, then what happens when we have a “bad day?” Are we no longer successful because of one bad day? That notion could lead to another bad day and start a plummet into depression.

  1. Child of God

Judging people as simply “Children of God” neutralizes outside factors.

Many religious people would say this is the best way to judge. Unfortunately, this is also the hardest way to judge.

When we say this, we put ourselves in the same category as the hobo on the street or the terrorists who uses children as human shields. That can be hard to swallow.

As soon as we put any “buts” into our judgment such as, “We are all children of God, but I’m a helpful member of society, not a terrorist,” we not longer judge people based on this factor alone.

This isn’t going to sit well with religious people who can’t judge people solely on “They are a child of God” without adding “but” so let me explain a few things.

In Matthew 7:16 it says “Ye shall know them by their fruit.”

So does this mean its okay to add the “but?” “They are a child of God, BUT they kick kittens into the road.”

I will let you all decide what this means:

“Judge not unrighteous that ye be not judged; but judge righteous judgment.” JST Matt. 7:1–2 

A really wise friend of mine told me:
“The only successfulness of lives we need to judge are our own, but, at times, we do need to judge the character of others that we interact with to protect of families, make good decisions, etc.” Laura Watkins, really wise friend.

So how do you judge yours and other’s success and self worth?

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