The voyage to self-worth ventures beyond introspection, encompassing the external landscape, particularly our associations. Analogous to the coexistence of diverse car brands and models within the expansive automotive domain, each radiating its distinct brand essence, our interactions with varied individuals shape our self-perception. These connections possess the potency to either elevate or erode our worth, yet we have the power to ensure that our associations amplify our intrinsic value.
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” – Jim Rohn.
In life’s journey, where we find ourselves is often a direct reflection of the company we keep. Self-worth, an intrinsic acknowledgment of one’s value and significance, is deeply intertwined with the associations and circles we engage with. This fundamental truth can be beautifully illustrated using the auto industry’s hierarchy of car brands and models, in which vehicles of different calibres and classes still achieve the primary purpose of transportation. However, their brand value, market perception, and association vary wildly.
The Interplay of Association and Self-Worth
Understanding self-worth is not merely about self-reflection; it is about recognising the mirrors that reflect us daily — our associations. As American entrepreneur Jim Rohn pointed out, the average of our immediate circles significantly impacts our behaviour, aspirations, and even our perception of self-worth.
However, while empathy and humility are virtues, they must be balanced. Unthinkingly allowing everyone into our intimate circle without discernment can compromise our self-worth. Haruki Murakami wisely said, “If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” The same can be said about the company we keep. If we constantly surround ourselves with individuals who do not recognise or support our worth, it is easy to fall into the trap of believing their perceptions over our truth.
Class in the Auto Industry: A Revealing Analogy
Consider the vast array of vehicles in the auto industry. From luxury brands like Rolls Royce and Bentley to more affordable brands like Toyota or Hyundai, each car serves the primary purpose of transportation. However, when we hear the name “Rolls Royce,” we think of luxury, prestige, and excellence. In contrast, a brand like Toyota brings to mind reliability and affordability. Both are commendable qualities, but their associations and perceived values are different.
Similarly, despite our shared purpose of existence, humans carry varying ‘brand values’ as influenced heavily by our associations. A Toyota might befriend a Bentley, but if the Toyota constantly belittles itself because of the opulence of the Bentley, it diminishes its unique selling points of reliability and efficiency.
This does not mean Toyota should isolate itself from luxury brands. It is about recognising that it does not lose its intrinsic value in the company of luxury. Similarly, in human associations, being around people of varying strengths, backgrounds, and achievements only diminishes our self-worth if we allow it.
Seeking Out Elevating Associations
“Tell me with whom you associate, and I will tell you who you are.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
It is vital to surround oneself with associations that elevate rather than diminish one. This does not mean seeking out people on the basis of superficial qualities but individuals who respect, understand, and uplift our sense of worth.
Take the example of electric cars, like Tesla. A decade ago, electric vehicles were niche goods. Today, their values and class are undeniable, not because they have tried to fit into the combustion-engine mould but because they are associated with forward-thinking, sustainability, and innovation. Similarly, by associating with forward-thinkers and positive influencers, we can enhance our self-worth and the perception that others have of us; the reverse is tragic.
Positive associations can be pillars of support, affirmation, and inspiration, while negative ones can cast shadows of doubt, negativity, and diminish one’s self-worth. When negative experiences from associations adversely impact one’s self-worth, it becomes essential to re-evaluate, recalibrate, and reclaim one’s inherent value.
Recognise the Impact of Negative Associations
Depth of Influence: Associations are not just casual influences but they become deeply embedded into our psyche. Over time, frequent interactions and experiences, especially about ourselves, mould our perceptions and beliefs. An adverse association often magnifies personal insecurities, leading to a skewed perception of the self (American Sociological Association, 2014).
Internalised Beliefs: One of the most sinister impacts of negative associations is the internalisation of external criticism. Over time, individuals begin to accept these negative perspectives as their own. They become their own harshest critics, fueled by the external voices they have come to internalise.
Prioritise Self-Care and Self-Reflection
Self-care is paramount during times of self-doubt. Engaging in activities that elevate the mood, like exercise, meditation, or even indulging in hobbies, can counteract the negative impact of unhealthy associations (Mental Health America, 2018). Through self-reflection, one can discern the cause of his/her dwindling self-worth and craft a plan to rectify it.
Physical Self-Care: Physical activities have been scientifically proven to elevate the mood and combat depressive symptoms. Activities like jogging, swimming, or brisk walking can release endorphins, the body’s natural mood enhancers (Mayo Clinic, 2019).
Mental and Emotional Self-Care: Apart from physical activity, individuals must indulge in mental relaxation activities. Reading, painting, meditating, or even listening to music can act as a balm for the soul, allowing moments of reflection and introspection.
Journaling: Documenting feelings can be therapeutic. It provides an outlet and can be an excellent tool for reflection. Over time, individuals can identify patterns, triggers, and sources of negativity by reviewing entries, making them better equipped to address these issues.
Seek Positive Reinforcements
Surrounding oneself with positive, affirming individuals can be a salve for a wounded sense of self-worth. Positive associations can provide the encouragement and validation one needs to rebuild confidence. According to psychologist Dr Barbara Fredrickson, positive interactions and emotions expand one’s awareness and encourage varied, novel thoughts and actions, which are crucial for self-growth (Fredrickson, 2001).
Broadening Horizons: Sometimes, breaking away from a tight-knit, potentially negative circle and meeting new people can rejuvenate. Engaging in community service, joining clubs, or participating in workshops can introduce individuals to different perspectives and positive influences.
The Power of Affirmation: While seeking external validation should not be a constant pursuit, occasional affirmations from close, positive associates can be uplifting. Sharing accomplishments, however small, with supportive friends or family can lead to moments of joy and validation.
Learning to Say No: One of the most empowering things an individual can do is learn the art of saying “no.” Not every invitation or interaction needs to be accepted, especially if it poses a risk to mental well-being (Cloud & Townsend, 1992).
Communicate: If an association is valued but has become a source of negativity, it is crucial to communicate feelings. Honest communication can either mend bridges or clarify the need to maintain distance.
Seek Professional Help
Therapeutic Alliance: A bond with a mental health professional can be a beacon of hope. Therapists offer objective insights and tools to process feelings, understand triggers, and develop coping mechanisms.
Group Therapy: Sharing experiences in a group setting can be liberating. It allows individuals to understand that they are not alone in their feelings and offers diverse coping strategies and perspectives.
Reassess Personal Goals and Values
Vision Boards: Visual representations of personal goals, aspirations, and values can be a daily reminder of one’s journey and purpose. Vision boards can combine images, quotes, and personal achievements.
Realign with Purpose: Drifting from one’s core values over time is natural. Regularly reassessing personal and professional goals and realigning them with inherent values can be a compass during tumultuous times.
Whether positive or negative, associations leave an enduring mark on our consciousness. However, armed with deliberate intent, introspection, and the occasional guidance of professionals, we can transcend adverse encounters and rediscover our intrinsic self-worth. While this expedition may entail obstacles, each stride towards reclaiming our self-value is a tribute to the unwavering human spirit.
The voyage to self-worth ventures beyond introspection, encompassing the external landscape, particularly our associations. Analogous to the coexistence of diverse car brands and models within the expansive automotive domain, each radiating its distinct brand essence, our interactions with varied individuals shape our self-perception. These connections possess the potency to either elevate or erode our worth, yet we have the power to ensure that our associations amplify our intrinsic value. In this intricate narrative of self-discovery, our affiliations do not dictate the worth we internalise. Instead, our conscious agency in allowing associations to influence our self-concept holds sway. Just as a mirror reflects but does not define its subject, our associations mirror facets of our worth, yet our discernment ultimately shapes the narrative of our self-worth.
Banks Odole is an experienced Certified Management Consultant with over 20 years of experience in leadership, management, and information technology.
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