Have childrenâ€™s books ever clarified your thinking? I love the ones where a lesson is skillfully embedded into a simple story. Today Iâ€™m thinking of the beloved book, The Blind Men and the Elephant. You mayÂ remember, these six men each touched one part of the elephant and were completely confident that their limited perspective was the one and only right way to define this new creature.
As the story unfolds,Â they tell each other whatÂ the elephant isÂ like: a wall, a snake, a spear, a tree, a fan, a rope. In truth, the elephant is like all of their descriptionsÂ and more. By taking the advice from the wise prince, they found out that there was partial-truth inÂ each perspective.Â And when theÂ prince suggestsÂ they ride the elephant home, they discover a totallyÂ new aspect of this creature; the ability to carry them from here to there. On the way home, I wonder if they sawÂ their arroganceÂ or if they remained blind to it?
ThisÂ story is rich with lessons, but letâ€™s look at how itÂ teaches us about self-worth. Self-worth, simply put, is how much we value ourselves. We feel shame if we value ourselves too little, and arroganceÂ if we value ourselves above others. How can we honorÂ the Golden Rule of â€œtreating others as we treat ourselves,â€ without a healthy balance of self-worth?
Forty years ago, a 22 year old advertising genius from L’OrÃ©al made this wordÂ famous and changed the narrative for selling hair color. Before that, a manÂ toldÂ us about the softness of his womanâ€™s hair. L’OrÃ©al gave the woman a voice and confident actresses told us that even though Preference was the most expensive product on the market ($2.75), they would spend the money because, â€œIâ€™m worth it.â€ To me, it seemed oddly arrogant, yetÂ later, others changed the mantra to â€œYou are worth it,â€ to send the messageÂ that ALL of us areÂ worth it.
Self-Worth questions permeate our world. My dad used to talk about feeling like, â€œA penny waiting for change.â€ The consultantsâ€™ most difficult task is to decide how much to charge when theyÂ bid a job. Life is a negotiation in love, friendship and at work. The results will beÂ more equitable if we exudeÂ a sense of self-worth.
By now, you might be asking whatÂ theÂ blind men and elephants have to do with self-worth? With very limited knowledge, these guys judged the elephant by inspecting only one aspect of the creature. They took a complex animal and minimized its essence.
My suggestion is that WE are the elephant and the greatest crime in the world is to judge ourselves too narrowly. We look at individual aspects of our lives, calling ourselves one thing: I am short, I am thick, I am not smart in math, I have an ugly nose. It may be human nature to obsess aboutÂ one aspect of the self, butÂ if weÂ only see one thing, like the blind men, weÂ can never really know ourselves.
A few years ago, I got a wake-up call about being one-dimensional in a way that affected my self-worth. My sister-in-law Joyce made an observation about me: â€œJan, when you talk about growing up, you always talk about the negative things. Werenâ€™t there any good things about your life?â€ Actually, by most standards, I had a great start in lifeâ€”with a few minor complications. Joyce could sense that IÂ wasnâ€™t seeing the whole picture and her question help me to change my story.
Recently, Iâ€™ve been holding workshops called â€œCharacter Safari: First Steps in Writing Your Story.â€ I knew they would be helpful to folks, but what has shocked me is how this simple two hour session stimulatesÂ a greater sense of self-worth for the participants.Â Â Comments like, â€œI realize that Iâ€™m a survivor,â€ or â€œI see that I have gifts to give the world,â€ thrill me. By taking the time to see the self from more than one vantage point gives us â€œnew sightâ€ about our value, our self-worth.
Thereâ€™s one more lesson from this fun story about the 6 blind men. In the end, the wise prince tells them that the elephant is more than the sum of all of its parts. In addition, it isÂ a vehicle to bring them home.
We are the vehicle, just like that elephant. The power is within each of usÂ to use our talents and skills to bring us to where we want to go. This fact may be hidden from usÂ until wisdom and reflection make it clear.
Yes, you and I are the elephant, and with the proper respect for our worth, we alone can bring usÂ home to peace, happiness and purpose.
If itâ€™s time to boost your self-worth in order to fully appreciate yourself, join us for a future seminar. Email me at [email protected].
May your self-worth build your confidence,