I want you to think of a female caretaker you deeply loved when you were a child. Maybe it was your mother, or a beloved aunt or grandmother.
I want you to recall some of your fondest memories with them, remember how much they meant to you, what impact they had on your life. Look at old photos, read old letters, whatever you have to do to most effectively conjure your best recollection of them.
When you’re misty-eyed, I want you to consider this: Do you remember what pant size that woman was wearing during all those years? Do you remember how much money she had in her bank account? Do you remember how many friends she had, how nice her photos were, or how “cool” she was?
Of course you don’t, because the reason that person was valuable to you was that she showed up for you. Consistently.
We often think that relationships are a pageantry of sorts: we partner with people who are most desirable in external, measurable ways. We assume that those who exhibit the highest degrees of attractiveness, intelligence or wealth get partnered first, as though it’s a lineup through which we get chosen, and those who are less valuable are chosen last.
Then we think that if someone makes us weak in the knees, we are destined to be with them, in a soulmate, forever-love kind of way.
Of course, we’re pretty much sidelined when we find that none of this is exactly true. People are attracted to a myriad of different traits, some of which we do not understand on the surface. People partner based on compatibility, and that has little translation into worthiness. Then, the biggest kicker of all: to seem outwardly compatible with someone does not mean you have a “forever” kind of love, because lifelong relationships are not built on those measures.
They are built on whether or not you show up.
… Even when it is hard, even when you are angry, even when it is inconvenient, even when you don’t feel like it.
This is how every friendship is built and sustained: through a consistent presence in another person’s life. Through shared experiences. This is what creates bonds, and those bonds are what create worth and value.
There are no relationships stronger than the friends you’ve had forever, the family who has been there from the start.
It’s the reason why people care so deeply about their pets. Their value is not based on how they are built, how they look, how many dog or cat friends they have, how they fiscally contribute to the household. Their value is that they show up for you, unconditionally, far beyond what most human beings are capable of.
In the same way, we do not have to “sell” people on our worth, we have to build it by how active we are in their lives.
When we show up, we become invaluable to others, because we have put in the time and effort and presence.
Someone else could come along and still could not take our place, because no matter how attractive they may seem at the onset, they do not have the time, nor the experience, to share.
This is true in love, in friendship, and at work.
This is why we tend to bond with people who are similar to us. We have shared interests, so it’s easier to do things together. We think alike, so it’s easier to talk, and to connect. The easier it is to do these things, the more frequently we tend to do them.
On the other hand, almost every discordant relationship in your life is a direct result of the unwillingness to fully show up for that person.
If you have a parent whom you are not close to, who walked away when you were young, or were unreliable, you would have likely developed a less desirable attachment style. From them, you developed a mistrust, an unwillingness to fully open up and trust others, as you were inherently damaged by a person who did not show up for you.
That is how powerful this practice is: it is the root determination of whether or not a relationship thrives, or fails.
We spend so much time trying to groom ourselves to appear worthy. We spend so much time trying to verbally or visually convince a company we are worthwhile, or trying to do the same with relationships, or friends.
We stage photos from behind a phone screen, not realizing that the connection we desire is actually a matter of putting that phone down and being with the people in front of us.
We worry about résumés and recommendations, not realizing that showing up and proving what impact we could have on the company over time is what would make them an invaluable asset to them.
We worry about being fit and stylish to compete with other contenders, not realizing that the people who love us will love us not because they see us and think we are attractive, but because we have become an unmovable and essential part of their lives, the ones they want to call, to share everything with, to be there on a lazy Friday night, and at the monumental milestones.
If you are someone who has low self-worth, it’s because you’re measuring it on how “good” you think people see you as, and not on whether or not you actually show up and create worth to others.
Show up. Bare-faced, imperfect, trying your best.
If you say you love someone, show them.
That’s the only way it works.