Self Worth: A Reflection of Creativity
A few years ago I met an artist with, what I felt back then, an unusual attitude towards art and, by extension, life. Although his art was beautiful and, in my opinion, valuable, he tended towards giving it away or selling it at a low price. This wasn’t in anyway a reflection of how he felt about his art (or himself)—he appreciated, respected, and even enjoyed his creations—he just had no need to hang on to it or sell it at a price that society expected. Art was to be enjoyed by all; he wanted to share it. The attitude and the man confounded me.
I understood how art should be available to all but to give away pieces or to sell oneself short was beyond my conception. What if his creative process came to a halt? What if he was giving away a limited commodity? Or, in my extreme way of thinking, how would he survive after giving away all his value? From my current perspective as a teacher of codependence I see now how that reaction was coloured by fear, scarcity and unworthiness: the standing tenets of my codependent parts.
First, there was the fear of depletion. Having grown up with the idea that I had to somehow earn my value, I was used to giving too much of myself to others in hopes of getting my needs met. This often resulted in fatigue and, indeed, I eventually did burnout. As a result, I took the opposite tack and became quite rigid in protecting my energy (and all its creative manifestations) lest it be drained from yet another source.
Second, I felt that giving away one’s creative expression was like giving away one’s source of value. Because I felt unworthy (not enough) I placed my source of value in what I did rather than who I was. If I, as an artist, gave away all my art and the creativity dried up, my worth would also diminish.
Third, I was coming from a scarcity belief that there is never enough. Not receiving a sense of value as a child, it was difficult to love and believe in myself. Without a conception of how to self validate, external offerings that bespoke love, respect and acceptance were insufficient—one cannot completely satisfy internal emptiness with external good will. The driving force of “never enough” can colour everything from self value and love to creativity. The artist, on the other hand, was coming from a philosophy that creativity springs eternal: that humans are inherently creative and, therefore, infinite in their expression. In other words, we are inherently worthy and infinite in our value: there is always enough.
Now I don’t want to get into a debate about the value of art. Aside from my codependent parts I do believe that one’s creation should receive monetary respect. So take this as a metaphor because the truth is that many of us live in scarcity, a belief there is not enough to go around. Although not always a conscious thought, we can be living under a philosophy that states wealth, joy, beauty, dark chocolate and, of course, our own worthiness, are scarce. Moreover, scarcity manifests in different ways. It can be reflected in both hoarding and excessive behavior, for example, eating less to make the food last or overeating with wolf-like avarice because it might not be available tomorrow. Scarcity beliefs might also have someone fall into apathy or, alternatively, hyperactivity because of the perception of not enough time.
Self worth is a reflection of our creativity and like creativity our worth holds no bounds. Only in scarcity do we limit ourselves; only in fear do we diminish. In acknowledgement of our worth, we open the door to creative abundance.
Jo-Ann Svensson teaches “creative codependence” and is a bodywork therapist.