About a year or so ago I started playing a game with my two girls, Samantha (our 6-year-old) and Rosie (our 3.5-year-old). The game goes like this: I ask each one of them, "How much does daddy love you?" They respond by putting one or both of their arms up into the air as high as they can and say, "This much." Then I say, "That's right! And how come I love you so much?" To which they say, "Just because I'm me!"
It's a fun, sweet, and powerful game that I love playing with each of them and something I hope to continue to do for many years. I play this game as much for them as I do for myself. For the girls, I want them to know that my love and appreciation for them is not based on what they do, how they look, how well they listen, or any other conditions or expectations.
For me, I do it for two main reasons. First of all, as a father I find it challenging at times to keep my heart open and to stay connected to my love for my girls when they do or say things that upset, disappoint, or anger me. This game serves as a reminder to me that my intention is to love them unconditionally (i.e., to love them even when I don't like them or approve of what they do). On another level, by playing this game with my girls, I feel like I'm healing something deep within me that I've carried around for most of my life -- the belief that my value as a human being is based on certain conditional, material, or external factors (accomplishments, appearance, approval of others, status, money, outward "success," etc.).
How about you? How much of your own worth do you place in the hands of other people's opinions, material success, or other outside factors or influences? If you're anything like me and many of the people I know and work with, probably quite a bit (or at least more than is probably healthy or ideal).
This belief that many of us carry that we have to do specific things, produce certain results, look a particular way (and so on), in order to be acceptable, valuable, and lovable, causes a great deal of stress, pressure, and suffering in our lives.
From a very early age, most of us have been doing whatever we can (in various ways based on our personality, background, and orientation) to gain approval and love from those around us. It starts with our parents, siblings, and family members when we're very young. As children and adolescents, it extends out to our teachers, coaches, and especially our friends. As we move into adulthood it continues to expand to include our colleagues, clients; anyone we deem "important" to our success in life.
While there's nothing inherently "wrong" with our desire to have the respect, admiration, and appreciation of those around us or to accomplish our most important goals, we often give away our power, consciously or unconsciously, to the people, circumstances, and results (or lack thereof) in our lives.
What if we stopped doing this so much? Our true value has nothing to do with any of these external factors. At the deepest level, we're valuable as human beings just because we're us -- not because of what we do, how we look, what people think of us, or what we produce or accomplish. What would your life look like if you got this, embodied it, and lived from this perspective?
Mike Robbins is a sought-after motivational keynote speaker, coach, and the bestselling author of Focus on the Good Stuff (Wiley) and Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken (Wiley). More info - www.Mike-Robbins.com
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Flickr photo by mockingbird_