Bethany ~ The Value Project // Hillsborough, NC

“You must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” Joseph Campbell

That’s the idea, right? Easy enough to say; harder to do. That thought though is what prompted me to begin this exploration of personal value. The Value Project has shown me that this concept has a different meaning to each person. Their perspectives are unique, thought-provoking. In the spirit of fairness, it’s my turn to take the spotlight and answer the questions of the hour: What kind of value do I place on myself? What makes me feel valued? I’ll be honest: I have struggled with the concepts of personal value in regards to myself. especially recently. Before a few months ago, the idea of personal value was not something that I spent much time thinking about. It was forced on me, in a way. This wasn’t a bad thing. The opposite actually. Often times when hard things come into our lives, they force into the open those things we don’t want to face in ourselves. In response to that, I felt I had no other option other than to deal with that question. I think that the view of my own value comes out of what I’m passionate about, the things I find valuable about life. So, perhaps answering that question first would help me clarify

The question gets asked, “What are you passionate about?” There are a million ways for that to go, but the simple answer for me, is people. As a believer, I know that we are each created specifically and beautifully; We’re not randomly here in this world. We are called to love each other as we walk through this life together; to look beyond our own line of sight to see what another soul needs. People are the most important aspect of life to me. Relationships are a gift. We could very well go through our lives solo, but instead we are given the gift of love. In saying that, I feel like part of who I’ve been created to be is to love those around me. I’ve been given the ability to really see who they are, who they want to be; I’ve been given a bold spirit, one that is unafraid to speak the beautiful things that I see in others. Don’t underestimate the power of words to build another person up and to push them forward. Sometimes we just need to know that someone else cares about what we’re going through, that they understand us. Such a simple thing, isn’t it?

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Okay, so here comes the tie-in. What makes me feel valued? Intentionality. I guess that’s not really a word, but for the sake of all concerned, lets just pretend it is. In my relationships with others, I strive to be intentional; I want my time with them to be meaningful, to be what is needed in that moment, whether that means a listening ear, somebody to laugh with or a hug to counter tears. My life is crazy busy, but I think it’s so important to make time for those around us. I think because I put such an emphasis on this practice, that’s why it means so much to me when someone takes time for me; asks me how I’m doing and really wants to hear the answer. I feel valuable to them. They care enough to invest in me and that makes me feel that I am worth something… I have always had trouble asking for anything from anyone. I know that I’m capable of doing a lot on my own and its almost easier for me to struggle through something than to be vulnerable enough to ask for what I need. It’s hard for me to talk about what’s going on in my heart, the things I’m afraid of, my insecurities. That’s not because I don’t feel the need to talk about them or that I’m afraid to do so, I just don’t want to burden anyone else with my baggage. We all want to be known by someone. We want to know that our life matters, that we won’t be forgotten if we suddenly disappeared from this earth. We are such relational beings, searching for connection. However, that requires openness on all sides. Without it, we lose genuineness and authenticity. C.S. Lewis said, “to love is to be vulnerable.” That’s true for the giver and the receiver. I’m learning how to do this through practical application. I’ve been so blessed to be surrounded by people who care for me, love me and invest in me; who are teaching me, by example. There is a responsibility that I have to pass it on.

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Like I said earlier, this concept of personal value is something that has not been easy for me to grasp. The view I have of myself is greatly colored by the view I feel others have of me. I love and value people greatly. But like everyone else, I have been hurt by someone that I trusted, having placed a great amount of value on the relationship, only to walk away from it feeling that whatever had gone wrong was my fault because I wasn’t ____. You fill in the blank. There are so many layers of “you’re not enough of this” or “you’re too much of that.” It’s a continuous debate going on between the head and the heart: there’s a disconnect between what I KNOW to be true and what FEELS true. I’ve found that most of the time, those two things rarely coincide. I know that I have value, but because it’s almost painful at times to wade through the doubts and my perceived ideas, I choose to not really think about it at all. That’s been true up to this point. I’m learning through this project the importance of valuing oneself, because how can we share the importance of this idea with others if we don’t believe it ourselves?  It takes courage to face our insecurities, to work through the things that are holding us back and to be open to loving someone else through the same struggles.

“Courage, dear heart.” ~C.S.Lewis

Okay, last confession for this post. Having my picture taken is an INCREDIBLY awkward experience. I’m a photographer. I totally get why that statement makes no sense, yet I will continue to make it. Honestly, it’s not the process that’s difficult. That’s pretty fun most of the time. It’s the end result that I have trouble getting my head around. Why, do you ask? Because I’m just so disappointed with what I see. The image I have of myself in my head doesn’t translate to what is produced by the camera. I’m much cooler in my head. I don’t stand awkwardly, I don’t do weird things with my face, I look like a competent human being, etc. So, when I see an image of myself, it just bums me out because I only see the things that I don’t like. Then I’m faced with the reality that this is what everybody else sees, all the live long day. Sheesh. I don’t say that to tear myself down or because I’m looking for affirmation from other places. It’s simply an honest look at how I feel and I’ve accepted it as such. I just choose not to think about in general. However, because the photographs are half of this project, it was a necessary process. Thankfully, I had a dear friend who knows how to make me laugh, help me with one part of the shoot. The other part, I had to do on my own because it seemed less awkward if no one was around to see it. Go figure.

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Thank you to all of you who have supported me in this undertaking so far; Thank you for your kind words, for the way you have affirmed me and encouraged me. I am especially thankful for those of you who have participated in this project. I have learned so much from each of you. I deeply value the relationships that have come out of this and am humbled by the trust you have placed in me. Much love to each of you.