I am thinking a lot about value these past few days. Specifically, the value that we assign to ourselves.
Last Saturday, our ice breaker included a part where we had to use three adjectives to describe ourselves. While there are people in the world who don’t struggle with exercises like these and know how to describe themselves without reservation or a second thought, I’ve found throughout my time on this earth that most people have a difficult time with questions like this. And to be sure, a few of us found ourselves reflecting on that while reading our answers out loud or after the ice breaker was done. We were being asked to think about ourselves and what we are in ways that I imagine most of us aren’t used to: our value, our beauty, and the qualities that make us good and wonderful to know just as us, as opposed to the qualities that make us “useful,” “adequate,” or “able” in the service of furthering a capitalistic and/or colonial vision. To speak about ourselves in a way that praises just for the sake of praising, to celebrate something really beautiful about our personalities, to let everyone know that this one quality is something we are really proud of because it adds to who we are as a unique, whole human. In this structural/social/keep-your-head-down-and-don’t-speak-unless-necessary mess we’ve been raised in? Yeah, that’s a tough one.
I continued to think about the exercise and the reasons behind why I had a hard time with it long after the session, as I’ve written above. I also thought about how this connects to the larger social and political structure(s) we find ourselves in, which don’t leave a lot of room for joy, rest, and self-nurturing out of love and admiration for oneself as opposed to care only in preparation for another day as a cog. I think about those of us in organizations like this and in similar spaces throughout our communities and how we want to disrupt the system(s) we live in and transform our world into one where BIPoC, LGBTQI+ folks, and folks with disabilities can find love, safety, and home. I think about those of us who find ourselves members of one or several marginalized communities and the ways in which we struggle to love ourselves, find value in the work we do, and cultivate an appreciation for ourselves simply as living, breathing, loving beings. How this is a well-thought-out and purposefully constructed symptom of living in these toxic, colonial structures.
I end this with something I am always encouraging others to do but find myself struggling to do in my own life. Self-love. Self-encouragement. Unabashed, in-your-face, “I am amazing and I have value simply for being who I am.” This is necessary not only because loving ourselves and engaging in the process of learning to ourselves is so good for all aspects of our health but also because these better world(s) that we think of and imagine for ourselves and our people depends on it. To believe in our worth, our qualities, and ourselves is what enables us to show up to structural and social change in such an incredibly powerful way. To know and celebrate these things about ourselves is what enables us to build something beautiful going into the future.