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The Need for Self-Worth

by Nellie Shani  
4/07/2010 / Relationships

At face- value, self- worth seems to be the same thing as the need to belong, but actually the two are quite different. Although some principles may overlap, the need for self-worth is distinctly different from the need to belong.

A child can feel that they belong to a family that recognizes and accepts them as a member of that family and meets all their physical needs, yet still feel that they are not really valued for who they are.

Most people define themselves by what they do because that is how they have been valued most of their life. A doctor, school- teacher or engineer will often connect their worth to their particular career. Does it mean that if an accident rendered them unable to pursue their particular career then they would no longer have any worth?

For a long time many women, when asked what they did, would answer "I am just a house wife." That house wife may wake up at 5.30am to make breakfast and gets the kids ready for school; pack their lunches; take care of a baby all day while cleaning the house; do the laundry; help children with home work when they come back from school; get dinner ready; get kids ready for bed; help look for the remote control so that her husband can change channels and watch his favorite show; clear the kitchen; plan for the next day then collapse in bed at 11.30pm! Meanwhile the society sees her as "Just a house wife!"

A question that a child is born with and which they need answered is "What am I worth as an individual?" How this question is answered for the child as he or she is growing up will determine how they behave as adults later on in life. Here again we will see how parents can impact the lives of their child from a very early age.

Unfortunately there are many parents who having failed to do what they really wanted to do in life, see a second chance to do it through their children. So a mother will insist that her uncoordinated daughter go for ballet lessons. What may begin as a suggestion to the little girl may end up as a full tug-of-war if she resists. The determined mother will push, coerce, prod and threaten until the poor little girl wears those leotards, tights and pink slippers!

The truth of the matter is that this mother had tried ballet and was not quite able to excel in it. Her self-worth suffered a massive blow as two of her best friends excelled and became professional ballet dancers. A second opportunity has presented itself through her daughter and although she was never praised for her own ballet skills, she has settled for boosting her own self-worth as people praise HER daughter.

I remember taking piano lessons for about three months when I was about fourteen years old. Of course I should have started when I was much younger. However apart from seeing a piano from a distance in church as I sat in the congregation, I had never really had any contact with this amazing and overpowering instrument!

So it was with much delight, that I signed up for piano lessons at the boarding school that I was attending at the time. I did not come from a very rich family but my beloved father agreed to pay a little extra for me to take piano lessons.

My piano teacher was a stern-looking Irish lady with very wrinkled and bony hands. I feared her from the moment I saw her! She had a very scolding voice and demanded perfection from her students.

I still remember how she would put two coins on my hands as I did the "do re mi fa so la ti do" drills. The coins were supposed to stay flat on my hands as I played. This was to teach me the discipline of keeping my hands parallel to the piano keys as I started my journey towards being the next piano maestro! It turned out to be a hopeless venture! The more the coins made their way to the floor as soon as I started playing, the more my hands shook from nervousness. Then to add insult to injury, whenever I was nervous which was all the time, I would crack my knuckles. This just drove Mrs. Huckleberry (not her real name) absolutely nuts. "Stop that!!" she would say in her Irish accent.

Needless to say, my piano career hit rock- bottom and dragged my self- worth down with it! For a long time after this, I envied people who were able to play the piano well and held them in very high esteem. So when my beautiful children were laid on my lap at birth I saw in those little hands, terrific piano players! No sooner could they say "Dadah" than I was already planning how I would take them for piano lessons!

I signed up my son and daughter for piano lessons when they were eight and seven years old. I drove for miles to take them to their piano teacher's house. I bought an old but still good grand piano from a missionary. I made sure that my children practiced everyday. I could see that they really did not like piano and that made me quite upset. Many times when I was upset with them for not practicing enough, I was REALLY upset because my dream of having children who excelled where I had failed was slipping through my fingers!

My son dropped out first, but my poor daughter who was a bit more compliant and did not want to disappoint me continued on for another year. My daughter did quite well in piano but when we moved to another country, she was not interested in continuing.

Looking back now I realize that I had been very unfair on my kids. My daughter went on to play the Bass guitar, which is what she was really interested in, and became the church bass player! She also went on to excel in Basketball and played Division Three Basketball for her university college in Pennsylvania.
After one of her games during her basketball career she was interviewed by the press, for outstanding performance.

My oldest son took on drums and also ended up playing professional drums in church. He is also an excellent guitar player and is presently learning how to play the harmonica. My youngest son who was left to chart his own career is an excellent artist and has decided to study Graphic Design.

Every child needs to feel a sense of personal worth and feel valued not so much for what they can do, but for who they are - their inherent value.

Nellie Odhuno Shani is a Counselor, Conference speaker and writer. Her first books are available on, Barnes and Nobles and on her author's websites.

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