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  • Ann Yeong

What Determines Your Worth?



It has only been a week since I launched the Becoming Me podcast, and already I have run into my old insecurities not once, not twice, but multiple times. It doesn't help that Buzzsprout, the really great podcast hosting site I use, helpfully provides me with statistics about how well my podcast is doing every time I log on.


"What is my worth?" For the longest time in my life, I have needed to get a gauge of my worth through results and achievements.

At the time of my writing this post, Buzzsprout tells me that I have a grand total of 579 downloads (that is including the trailer I dropped almost 2 weeks ago), and that my latest episode which dropped today has chalked up 41 downloads so far. I know that these numbers are meant to be helpful for podcasters to gauge how to grow their podcasts and to see which episodes are more popular with their listeners. But for me, this kind of "report card" really hits me in a weak and sensitive spot.


"What is my worth?" For the longest time in my life, I have needed to get a gauge of my worth through results and achievements. The trophies I win (doesn't matter how silly the competition was, a trophy is a trophy, right?), the As on my report card and assignments, the acknowledgement given by being appointed or voted into leadership positions, and, when I was working in youth ministry, the number of young people that I could draw to ministries and events.


Somewhere in the depths of my heart I always had a secret question and fear - "Would anyone still love me if I could not do as well as they expected me to?"

Tangible evidence of good results fed the compulsion in me that needed constant proof that I was worth something. Without a steady stream of positive affirmation of one kind or another, I would feel lost. I would be wondering what I was doing wrong or not enough of. And yet, when I did get good results and positive affirmation from others, these would ring hollow to me. Somewhere in the depths of my heart I always had a secret question and fear - "Would anyone still love me if I could not do as well as they expected me to?"


As much as I wanted to be more secure, criticism often crippled my self-esteem. If anything threatened to make me seem incapable, irresponsible, stupid or unrefined, I would cower in fear within me and bristle with defensiveness and bravado externally. I would claw and fight to protect my image and good name because to be honest, that was what I was WORTH. And even though I know that is not supposed to be true because I had been taught that my worth was in my identity as God's child, my heart was incapable of believing it. It also seemed that no matter where I was - even in religious and spiritual environments and communities - everybody struggled with this problem in one form or another.


If anything threatened to make me seem incapable, irresponsible, stupid or unrefined, I would cower in fear within me and bristle with defensiveness and bravado externally. I would claw and fight to protect my image and good name because to be honest, that was what I was WORTH.

I still remember the incredulity and relief that had flooded my heart the day I read that Henri Nouwen - an internationally renowned spiritual author, priest, and teacher - was so dependent on praise and external affirmation himself that if he were to give one lecture without anyone coming up to him to tell him how wonderful he was, he would get depressed! I remember thinking that if God could use someone as needy and insecure as Nouwen so powerfully for the healing and encouragement of others, then surely there was hope for me!


And that's a wonderful thing - to be a beginner - because a beginner's mind is the most open to wonder, the most hungry for learning, and the least fearful about losing face.

When I started Becoming Me, it came from a simple desire to share what has helped me greatly in my own journey with more people. But if this past week was any indication, I am definitely still vulnerable to the siren song of "Show Me How Great You Are!" Yet at the same time I am grateful for the fact that I am still vulnerable. Because that keeps me connected to my humanity and reminds me that no matter how much ground I think I have covered in my own interior journey, I am still more a beginner than I would like to think. And that's a wonderful thing - to be a beginner - because a beginner's mind is the most open to wonder, the most hungry for learning, and the least fearful about losing face.


Many years ago, I facilitated a formation session for a group of youth leaders, and at the time it was to have started, only one participant had arrived. My assistant came over to consult with me about whether or not we should proceed as planned if the turn up was so poor. I had replied that even if it was just this one young woman who came that night, that we would continue as planned. We were in the chapel and so had spoken in hushed tones.


She said she felt that she mattered and loved as a person - and not just a number. She had been struggling to feel significant at the time.

I had no idea that the young woman in question had overheard our conversation until I heard her share a testimony several years later about how my response that evening had made her feel. She said she felt that she mattered and loved as a person - and that she was not just a number. She had been struggling to feel significant at the time. So that night, overhearing that conversation did more to uplift and inspire her than all the other work we had put into the program!


What means the world to me is the hope that there are more people like that young woman, who, even without my knowing, might feel seen, understood, and maybe a little less insignificant because of Becoming Me.

Knowing that I make some positive impact still matters to me. It is part of what gives me meaning and purpose in my life - to know that I am part of the force for good. But I want to remember that what is meaningful to me is not how many people I reach or how many downloads my podcast achieves. What means the world to me is the hope that there are more people like that young woman, who, even without my knowing, might feel seen, understood, and maybe a little less insignificant because of Becoming Me.

Here's to your journey and mine as we learn together that our worth is much more than the sum of our accomplishments as the world measures it. May we see ourselves and one another with a beginner's mind - full of wonder and always ready to be surprised by beauty and hope!

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