Learning what you’re worth when you have nothing in your life

“To be” is the destination where the journey of “doing” is trying to arrive at.

What’s your personal net worth? Did you think about it in financial terms first? Is that how we’re supposed to view ourselves, at the end of our lives?

This is a thought that wouldn’t have crossed my mind, if it weren’t for having chronic illnesses. While I’ve visited rock bottom a few times, this period in life is different. This time I don’t have much going on, good or bad, which actually makes that a good thing. I am comfortable and lack nothing. Life is mostly stress-free, we are getting by okay, and I am surrounded by people who are kind, loving and genuine. What more could I ask for in life?

Yet I feel trapped in other ways. Without personal financial freedom, everything I spend on feels undeserved and comes with an element of guilt. I can’t select travel destinations as and when I like, splurge on pretty dresses or buy random gifts for friends. That sounds superficial I know, but money does buy happiness to a certain extent. And don’t get me wrong, I’d take the life I have now over the chronic stress that comes with working in advertising, which was the root cause of a lot of my physical pain.

This is also a wonderful opportunity for me to learn more about the true meaning of self-worth. I have the time to think about it, learn more about it, and practice it. In fact, it’s the best time to reflect upon it, as all external factors have been removed. All I’m left with is nothing but my self. What I need to understand is that my self is enough, and what one can truly possess in this world at all times.

It is a clean slate for self-exploration. What am I worth, with no material possessions? No house, no car, no career, no savings, no retirement plan? How do I define who I am, without a job title or status?

This is the perfect opportunity to listen closely to my inner voice, and to learn to trust her. It’s the best time to discipline and educate my thoughts and emotions, through books, reflection and the wisdom of others. We don’t get many openings in life to sit in this empty room. Like how the colour white contains all colours, its emptiness is filled with everything. This space is all that we possess in life, and each of us have an equal portion of it, regardless of our circumstances or hierarchy.

How will I know when I know what I’m worth? Perhaps when I’m comfortable with wherever I am in life in the present moment, regardless of what I have or don’t have, because having my self is enough. When the opinions of anyone else and the judgments of society no longer sway my internal compass, or trigger insecurities about my worth as a human being.

I am worth more than money, productivity, ego, fame, and even any skill that I may possess. I am worth my existence because I am just as human as the next person beside me. I exhale, and you inhale. You exhale, and I inhale. We breathe the same air, and are children of the same planet. Your place in the universe isn’t more important than mine. We both belong, with our own lives to live and our own roles to play. There are choices only you can make in the whole universe, and there is pain only I can bear. “To do” is an admirable thing that is often touted as the definition of a person’s worth. But what if you lose your physical or mental capabilities due to an accident or illness, does your worth reduce because you can no longer do anything, even if you wanted to? “To be” in all its bare stillness is the ultimate fulfilment in life. “To be” is the destination where the journey of “doing” is trying to arrive at.

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