Sources of self-worth

26 Jan

This is a transcription of a journal entry written on 13th July 2009

During the last few days I have been pondering about something I want to change in my life. I’ve become keenly aware of an important motivational factor and source of self-worth on which I’ve been relying since I was very young. I refer to my desire to be seen in a good light by others, to receive praise, recognition, adulation etc. I have been aware of this for a long time, but only now do I begin to see that this has no place in my life.

One of my earliest memories of self-awareness and introspection is when I was 4 or maybe 5, and I wished I could be popular like the singers and actors on TV, or wishing I could fly like Superman, so that I could impress my peers. I remember singing all the time, imagining people around me admiring and praising me. Sometimes, my extended family would praise me, and this often enough that, to this day, I still sing mostly to impress people.

I also remember telling jokes all the time at school. I didn’t do it to make people happy or to comfort or cheer them up. I did it mainly because it made me feel good that people thought I had a good sense of humour.

Throughout my entire life I have struggled with this inner battle with what I thought was simply pride. I talked to myself constantly (inwardly) about my need to be humble, to do things for the right reasons etc. Cognitively I know that, by focusing on praise and recognition when I perform anything artistic, I am missing out on the pleasure and happiness of the performance itself, of the full expression of my inner feelings through my performance, and, especially, the expression of my gratitude to my Heavenly Father for my gifts.

Nowhere in my life is this issue brought more keenly and frequently to my attention than each Sunday morning at Church, where I join the congregation in singing “hymns of praise” to my God. I very rarely pay any attention to the words of the hymns! I am constantly on the lookout for opportunities to impress others with my voice, and… I hate it! I hate that part of me that seeks to receive praise instead of giving it. Sometimes I have the opportunity to play the organ or the piano to accompany the congregation, and the temptation to play to impress is much lower. I’m better able to focus on providing worshipful, dignified music in order to bring a good spirit to the meeting. When I sing, however, I’m not yet able to do that, and I look forward to the day when I can overcome this weakness.

I’ve also noticed that I seek sources of self-worth in the wrong places. This may actually be a more correct description of the problem I described above, which I used to simply call pride.

I realised this recently, over a period of time of about a year, while working with the online community of Moodle (an online learning platform). I am often joking around in my conversations with other developers (an echo of my school years), trying to attract (or extract!) praise from my colleagues etc.

In a recent conversation with one of these co-workers, Penny Leach, I discussed my frequent feelings of inadequacy, my impressions of being a “fraud” in the midst of so many talented and knowledgeable people, a feeling with which she identified.

My reasoning leads to a conclusion which motivates my desire to change: I DON’T NEED praise from men or women to know my worth! I am a son of God, with all his divine attributes within me! I know my origins, my purpose, my destination, so why do I need affirmation of my mortal worth from other mortals, when I have confirmation of my eternal worth from God himself?

I am convinced that, with constant reminders of this concept, I can slowly let go of the habits and attitudes that have made me unduly dependent on the wrong sources of self-worth. I will be able to sing praises to God without worrying that others can hear me or not (and like what they hear!). I will do things only for the right reasons, not just partially for some of the right reasons.


Posted by on January 26, 2010 in Musings


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6 responses to “Sources of self-worth

  1. Morningstar

    February 1, 2011 at 10:28 am

    What a great post! I am self-conscious in sacrament meeting because I don’t want people to think I am in performance mode. I try to focus more on the words and on Christ, but whenever I visit a new ward, the majority of the time someone will turn around to tell me what a nice voice I have. It is much easier for me to sing in environments where I don’t have to worry about detracting from worship. Another issue is that sometimes people feel uncomfortable singing next to me because they don’t think they are very good. I am honestly not judging them at all. I really want everyone to sing.

    Another thing I am careful of is to acknowledge that God gave me my gifts. I can’t take credit for anything other than the hours of practice, but I would have no talent without Him. I try to dedicate each performance to Heavenly Father. I do enjoy the praise of others, but it’s because I got to be an instrument in the Lord’s hands and make someone feel good.

  2. Nicolas Connault

    February 1, 2011 at 10:55 am

    Thanks Morningstar! There is still a continual conflict within me, between the desire to uplift and bless others, and the desire to receive their praise. However I am so used to it that it isn’t a source of stress. I just try to focus on creating a catalyst for spiritual experiences. If I say a short prayer asking the Lord to help me accomplish that, I find that I’m less inclined to seek praise.

    I’ve also felt the awesome experience of producing a great sound while singing in a choir, the feeling of being part of one great instrument that harmonises so well that it sends shivers down my spine. That is one of the greatest feelings I’ve ever had related to performing music, and it greatly diffuses the individual attention one tends to get when performing in smaller ensembles or in solos.

    Unfortunately I find it very difficult to find other singers who have the talent and are willing to spend the time creating such experiences through a choir. Many members of the Church hide their talents and it’s a real shame.

  3. Morningstar

    February 10, 2011 at 6:47 am

    I love singing in choirs! I really miss the days when I got to do that every day.

  4. nicolasconnault

    May 9, 2015 at 11:23 pm

    6 years later, and I’m starting to understand that I don’t need to “hate” that part of me that seeks praise. I need to “shed the shame” that I carry around this theme. It’s not morally wrong to enjoy people’s praise, to show gratitude for attention received, to rejoice together with those who rejoice in my gifts.

    By being overly concerned with what others thought of me, I was being distracted from the real value of the moment: being with people I love, doing things I love.

    I also realised that my preoccupation with people’s thoughts of “He’s full of himself” was simply an extension of my own judgement of people who are sharing their gifts publicly.

    And that’s the theme of my next blog post 🙂


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