5 Ways I Define My Worth When I Don't Have an Answer for 'Where Are You Working?'

When I meet new people for the first time or people who haven’t seen me in a long time, I seem to always get the same question: “So are in school?” or “Where are you working?” It seems to me that our society has calculated our worth based on one or both of these things.

Since I have struggled with mental illness since age 11, school and work have been difficult for me to attain despite my best efforts. At times, I feel trying isn’t even enough. It has left me feeling worthless and like a waste of space in society. It has left me feeling extremely shameful. This in turns feeds into my suicidal thoughts of, “What’s the point?” or one of the worst lies, “People would be better off without me.” It has left me feeling like I have no meaning in life and that I don’t deserve to live.

So those thoughts and that initial question got me thinking. What is my worth based on? How does that tie into a life worth living without school or work in the mix?

Here are my five top answers:

1. I want to help others and make a difference.

I believe I am on earth for a reason and a purpose even though I can’t see it or don’t know it yet. It’s hard to know the lives I’ve touched when at times I have only crossed paths with them in the hospital, residential or outpatient care. However, I have gotten feedback from my loved ones and even those in the same facilities, who have validated my statement.

2. I can volunteer and serve other hurting people.

It has helped me focus on others, as opposed to just myself. I volunteer when I’m able to at a church food pantry. The irony is the people we serve don’t know I’d be in their shoes without the assistance and help I get from my church friends and family.

3. My family and friends love me.

Despite the fact that I feel like a burden, I still bring them happiness and joy. They also love me on my bad days, as they do their absolute best to understand and validate me. One of my church friends once told me I bring her joy by just being me. It made me understand unconditional love in a whole new way and that I don’t have to be perfect.

4. I can impact others by showing kindness.

Sometimes just going to a store and saying hello to the employee or asking how their day was can make a difference. Showing them you care and being friendly despite the many negative comments they get can in return brighten their day. I reached out and befriended a boy who was known as the “fat kid” in middle school. I, by no means, was skinny either. I took the ridicule and the bullying because I knew this kid needed a friend, as did I. My mom told me at his birthday party that his mom told her how much he needed a friend and that in a big way I saved his life. I think about that when I feel like I have not made a difference or when I don’t even realize I have.

5. I want to use my pain for good.

My biggest reason besides my family for staying on this earth is that when I die I don’t want to feel like the pain I’ve gone through was wasted. Before I leave this earth, I want to know I used my pain for good by helping others. More than likely, I’d love to work for a nonprofit organization that specializes in foster care. I hope and pray one day I can. For now, that’s a strong goal I try to keep in mind.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

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