Musing on this question will take more than one blog post, so consider this a beginning.
A new concept…
I’d never considered it before. Perhaps it’s a new concept for you, too.
So I thought I’d share some of Schiraldi’s wisdom, research and insights with you today because just reading about unconditional worth made me feel better about myself.
Maybe his knowledge will be a tonic for you, too…
Here’s how Dr. Schiraldi begins Chapter 4 on The Basics of Human Worth:
Unconditional human worth means that you are important and valuable as a person because your essential, core self is unique, precious, of infinite, eternal, unchanging value, and good. Unconditional human worth implies that you are as precious as any other person.
Howard’s Laws of Human Worth…
Schiraldi defines unconditional worth using five axioms based on the work of psychiatrist Claudia A. Howard (1992):
- All have infinite, internal, eternal, and unconditional worth as persons.
- All have equal worth as people. Worth is not comparative or competitive. Although you might be better at sports, academics, or business, and I might be better in social skills, we both have equal worth as human beings.
- Externals neither add to nor diminish worth. Externals include things like money, looks, performance, and achievements. These only increase one’s market or social worth. Worth as a person, however, is infinite and unchanging.
- Worth is stable and never in jeopardy (even if someone rejects you.)
- Worth doesn’t have to be earned or proved. It already exists. Just recognize, accept and appreciate it.
These qualities pertain, according to Schiraldi, to the core self, like a newborn child who is “right and whole–complete but not completed.”
Completed means fully developed and finished, Schiraldi writes. A person is complete in the sense that each has every attribute, in embryo, that everyone else has–every attribute that is needed. The core is beautiful, loveable, and full of potential.
Environment (and genetics, I suspect) can muddy this picture…
Unfortunately, even if our core selves are complete and whole at birth, or in utero, innocent and filled with all the potential in the world, environment, the externals, can create problems. Plus, genetics can also play a role in hurting the core self.
I am reminded of a book I read years ago by humanistic psychologist Carl R. Rogers called On Becoming A Person ~ subtitled A Therapist’s View of Psychotherapy. This book is a classic. It may be considered outdated. I don’t know. But I think it should be, if it isn’t, required reading for every psychologist, social worker and psychotherapist, today. I cherish my yellowed copy enormously.
Here’s why. In today’s neuroscientific world, the core essence of a person seems to be supplanted by DSM disorders and syndromes and illnesses of the mind. And as real as they may be, they seem to erase all our innate uniquenesses. Our individual humanity. Our “me-ness” ~ which can be pathologized.
Here’s how Saul McLeod of Simply Psychology summarizes the work of Carl R. Rogers:
For a person to “grow,” they need an environment that provides them with genuineness (openness and self-disclosure), acceptance (being seen with unconditional positive regard), and empathy (being listened to and understood).
Without these, relationships and healthy personalities will not develop as they should, much like a tree will not grow without sunlight and water.
Rogers believed that every person can achieve their goals, wishes and desires in life. When, or rather if they did so, self actualization took place. This was one of Carl Rogers most important contributions to psychology and for a person to reach their potential a number of factors must be satisfied.
Here’s a diagram of the factors needed for self actualization as designed by psychologist Abraham Maslow, a contemporary of Rogers:
- physiological needs ~ air, food, water, shelter, sleep, sex
- safety and security
- love and belongingness
- Self-Actualization: vitality, creativity, self-sufficiency, authenticity, playfulness, meaningfulness
Once I asked my psychiatrist, Dr. Bob, if he felt as a child “good enough,” if all his “needs ” were met. We had been discussing an earlier psychologist and his theories of early childhood development ~ Jean Piaget. (Actually, I think feeling “good enough” is a popular way of being “self-actualized,” but I may be mixing up my psychologists, here.)
Dr. Bob said, “No, I don’t think I did. Not as a young child.”
“How did you achieve a sense of feeling ‘good enough,’ then?” I asked.
“I had to learn on my own, when I was older. And it’s probably a life-long process,” he said.
I’m going to stop here. This post is long enough.
Feeling Better About Myself ~ A Priority, Starting Now…
I’m going to finish reading Schiraldi’s chapter, about “Separating Worth from Externals.” No easy feat in our contemporary culture. About “Why Individuals Have Worth.” And “Reflections on Unconditional and Equal Human Worth.” I’m going to reread the first chapter of Rogers’ book, titled “This is Me,” and I’m going to start feeling better about myself.
I’m going to make that a priority.
Baby Image via doctordisruption