Dignity and Worth

We all struggle from time to time when it comes to self-esteem. Sometimes our circumstance makes us question our worth. Sometimes it comes from outside influences. Sometimes it comes from within.

I had the blessing of attending an all girls Catholic high school. I am incredibly grateful for my experience there because it gave me a formation of faith, guided me in my life’s passions, and molded me into the woman I am today.

We had a mantra that we learned as freshmen and repeated often through the years: “I am a valuable person. I have dignity and worth. What I do makes a difference.” What a beautiful thing to teach young women during a fragile period in their lives.

After high school, I no longer repeated those words daily, but I carried them around inside my heart. Every now and then, those words resound in my head.

After earning my Masters in Teaching, I was hired into the public school district where I live. The school was low performing and the students were “tough.”

I made it through my first year by the grace of God all the while being taunted, humiliated, and intimidated by my students. It was hard to feel dignified when I had to dodge pencils, paper wads, and books hurled at me. It was hard to feel valuable while suffering verbal abuse that would make most people cringe. It was hard to believe I was making a difference when I feared for my life.

Even though it was hard to feel any sense of dignity or worth during those dark days, I would say to myself (often while driving to work and in between sobs), “I am a valuable person. I have dignity and worth. What I do makes a difference.”

This past November, my husband and I decided it was time for me to quit. I had two small children at home and the toll my “day job” was taking on everyone wasn’t worth it anymore.

A few nights ago, I found myself up hourly with the baby. She finally drifted to sleep at 2:00. At 3:30, my 3 year old came into our bedroom hysterical and crying. I peeled my eyes open to find his entire head covered with blood. I panicked until I realized he just had a bloody nose. I cleaned him up and ushered him back to bed.

I remember closing my eyes at 4:15. My husband’s alarm clock went off at 5:00. By 6:00 everyone was awake.

The whole day went like that. I had a headache from the weather change. I was irritable from a lack of sleep. Both kids were needy and clingy. If I wasn’t wiping one’s nose or bottom or face, I was wiping the other’s.

Mere moments before breaking down, I remembered, “I am a valuable person. I have dignity and worth. What I do makes a difference.”

It may sound trite, but those words soothed me and brought me back from the edge.

It might be hard for you to feel dignity while wearing day old clothes covered in spit up. Perhaps you haven’t brushed your teeth or fixed your hair or eaten because you’ve been busy tending to little ones.

You have dignity.

It might be hard to feel valuable when you struggle to keep up with your children, let alone keep the house clean, and prepare nutritious meals. You spend your day spinning in circles only to find you’ve done nothing by the day’s end. When the kids are finally asleep, you wonder, “What did I even do today?” (No? Is that just me?)

You are a valuable person.

It might be hard to believe you are making a difference as you shuttle your kids across town and back. You drop one off here, drop the other off there. In between car trips you manage to feed them and oversee their homework. Your days are fast paced and chaotic and you aren’t sure when you’ll be able to come up for air.

You are making a difference.

Maybe you are suffering right now. Maybe you are lonesome. Maybe you are lost in the world. No matter your situation right now, you are a child of God. He has a purpose and a plan for you. Trust Him. Listen to Him.

Pray.

And repeat: “I am a valuable person. I have dignity and worth. What I do makes a difference.”

Copyright 2012 Leanne Willen

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