I have said that we evolved an innate propensity to feel insecure about our self-worth, because feeling insecure prompts us to lift our game, which in turn increases our chances of staying in tribe and living long enough to pass on our genes. Plus, our extra effort to compensate for our insecurity benefits the tribe.
We might work to be appreciated on a daily basis. That can shape the person we become. Many people become good and productive people because of their efforts to keep feeling valued.
The first section was brief because there is not much we can do to ensure others value us. We can’t force people to like us, and if we try too hard to please people we either please the wrong ones, or they see through us. Worse, we can end up losing touch with the person we truly are, and relying too heavily on the shell facade that’s left. That leads to instability and insecurity.
Most of us instinctively find ways to feel valued. When we are good workers, good spouses, valuable teammates, enjoyable to be with . . . and when we act kindly, put food on the table . . . and the recipients appreciate our contribution, and express it, we can feel valued. Those things need to occur regularly if they are to satisfy our innate need to feel valued, because evolution ‘wants’ us to have a nagging, never ending insecurity to keep us trying and contributing on an ongoing basis. That means we have to satisfy our need to feel valued on an ongoing basis.
‘What about valuing ourselves? Will that do? If we love ourselves, won’t we be happier?’
That’s another criticism I have with the happiness gurus: they tell us to love ourselves and ignore the fact that we can’t simply flick a switch and begin loving ourselves. We can’t simply say to ourselves, ‘Hey, from now on I will love myself,’ and do it. If only it were that easy.
If the gurus believe it is that easy, it’s because they do love themselves, and naively assume it is because they made the choice to do so.
As we shall see in coming chapters, it’s not a matter of loving ourselves, it’s about feeling worthy of love. It’s about feeling loveable. Are we loveable? Is the essence of our existence loveable?
There isn’t a switch to flick for that either, so let’s take it one chapter at a time.
Loving oneself is the end result of feeling loveable, of having self-worth, but that’s all it is: the end result. It’s not self-love that we need to aim for, it’s a sense of feeling loveable. The distinction might appear trivial, but there’s world of difference. Loving oneself is about one person loving you: you, but to feel loveable is to feel worthy of the love of everyone and everything. What better way to feel valued by the ‘tribe’! What better way is there to feel connected!
That’s what this section is about.
Q. ‘What about entertainers? They are adored by their fans They must feel very valued.’ Every time an entertainer performs in front of an audience they have the attention of ‘the tribe’, and the tribe applauds them. That’s a great way to feel valued! However, the applause is temporary. The tribe leaves and the entertainer goes home, or to a hotel room. There the feeling dissipates. On an intellectual level the entertainer might know they are valued by many, but might not feel it, so the door to rejection, to abandonment, remains open. They have to keep performing, keep entertaining, to receive that regular ‘hit’. To feel valued on a sustained level and add to their core happiness they might have to entertain thousands every night.
Even then, some busy entertainers might still not feel valued. Would that be because the entertainer doesn’t have a strong connection with anyone in ‘the tribe’? Is the appreciation they receive one dimensional? Do we need to feel valued in different ways for it to be effective?
I don’t know. There would also be entertainers who enjoy the applause, but don’t need it. When the crowd leaves they don’t feel empty, because they feel valued in other areas of their life on a sustained level. Or, they have a healthy self-worth.
‘The person who seeks all their applause from the outside has their happiness in another’s keeping.’