One of the unfortunate aspects of facing retirement, or getting older for that matter, is the tendency to lose our sense of personal value. Our work doesn’t require our services, our friends may drift away, our adult children are mostly self-sufficient and perhaps we even feel as if our thoughts and presence are now unwanted. Perhaps we now depend on those who used to depend on us.
It’s not unusual to sense a loss of personal value in the retirement phase of life, but this does not have to be the case. Keep in mind that value (just like beauty) is in the eye of the beholder, and the most important beholder is YOU. As Maria Montessori put it, “Joy, feeling one’s own value, being appreciated and loved by others, feeling useful and capable of production are all factors of enormous value for the human soul.”
So how do you (and I) capture and maintain that sense of self-worth and solid personal value? Here are some thoughts.
- Be intentional. By this, I mean that you need to make a decision to be kind and accepting towards yourself and affirm your personal value whenever possible. No wishy-washy thinking about this is allowed. You are the director of your own life and in charge of making it as you desire.
- Quit the negative self-talk. Your own mental chatter can be your worst enemy when it comes to personal value. As Steven Aitchison put it in his article, 29 Ways to Increase Your Feeling of Self Worth, “Listen to your self-talk and slap the little person criticizing you.” (don’t you love that mental picture?)
- Keep a gratitude journal. If you are like most of us, the positive aspects of your life far outweigh the bad. However, regardless of this truth, you may doubt your personal value if you don’t write down and ponder the many things you have to be grateful for. I started my gratitude list a few years ago by jotting down 1-3 things I am thankful for each day and the list now contains 1750 items.
- Detach from the energy vampires. Energy vampires are people that are negative by nature and feed off the energy of others. They are the folks that leave you feeling tired and drained. It’s hard to be positive about yourself when around such individuals, so find a way to drop them from your life or at the least, minimize your exposure. Note that family members are often the biggest energy drainers and the toughest to banish, but do what you can.
- Find a tribe that affirms you. Dropping the energy vampires is one part of the equation – the other is to spend your time with people who support and encourage you. Your personal value will be enhanced if you hang around with people who “celebrate” you and not just “tolerate” you.
- Strive to focus on the gain, not the gap. Despite what you perceive to be your shortcomings, you have probably lived a lot, accomplished a lot and had a few adventures along the way. Since whatever you bring your attention to tends to increase, keep your emphasis on the good, the positive, and the areas of improvement.
- Be of service. Perhaps the best way of increasing your own sense of personal value is to bring value to others through your words, actions and finances. Giving is a magic elixir to boost happiness and self-worth.
- Understand that self-worth is subjective. The value of something, including your own self-worth is often not objective and can be influenced by a number of factors. The following story, posted by Lesley Todd on a Facebook group called Smart Ideas for Early Retirement, illustrates the point.
Before he died, a father said to his son; “Here is a watch that your grandfather gave me. It is almost 200 years old. Before I give it to you, go to the jewelry store downtown. Tell them that I want to sell it, and see how much they offer you.”
The son went to the jewelry story, came back to his father, and said; “They offered $150.00 because it’s so old.”
The father said; “Go to the pawn shop.”
The son went to the pawn shop, came back to his father, and said; “The pawn shop offered $10.00 because it looks so worn.”
The father asked his son to go to the museum and show them the watch.
He went to the museum, came back, and said to his father; “The curator offered $500,000.00 for this very rare piece to be included in their precious antique collections.”
The father said; “I wanted to let you know that the right place values you in the right way. Don’t find yourself in the wrong place and get angry if you are not valued. Those that know your value are those who appreciate you, don’t stay in a place where nobody sees your value.”
When it comes to your personal value, treat yourself like the museum, not the pawn shop.