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Excerpted from Everyday Enlightenment by Dan Millman. Copyright © 1999 by Dan Millman. Excerpted by permission of Time Warner Publishers and Time Warner Bookmark.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.
 


"If you observe your life very closely, you will discover that you don't necessarily get what you deserve. Rather, you get no more and no less than what you believe you deserve. Only to the degree that you appreciate your innate human worthiness will your subconscious mind open up to life's bounty."

Dan Millman, Everyday Enlightenment, Part 2

In setting out, bear the following points in mind:

No one else can give you an improved sense of self-worth. Self-worth comes from doing what is worthy. As the Talmudic scholar Abraham Heschel once said, "Self-respect is the fruit of discipline." This gateway is about discovering your worth, not raising it. Your innate worth has never been lowered, compromised, or touched by fate or circumstance. It exists as a fact of life, like air and trees, and doesn't need to be raised, revitalized, or earned.

The problem is not your actual worth, but your perceived worth. Nearly all of us have lost touch with our intrinsic goodness--allowed it to be covered over by memories of a thousand transgressions, real or imagined, so that we feel only partly deserving of life's blessings. In the gateways that follow, you will find additional keys to resolving and ultimately transcending the critical issue of self-worth. The twelfth gateway provides the final key. We begin now by clarifying the meaning of self-worth, how it differs from self-esteem, and how it impacts the quality of your everyday life.

The Heart of Self-Worth

At its core, your level of self-worth is your answer to a single internal question: "How deserving am I?" Or, to put it more directly as it pertains to your daily life: "How good can I stand it today?" If you observe your life very closely, you will discover that you don't necessarily get what you deserve. Rather, you get no more and no less than what you believe you deserve. Only to the degree that you appreciate your innate human worthiness will your subconscious mind open up to life's bounty. Success involves talent, effort, and creativity, but first of all, it requires a willingness to receive. To paraphrase a speech I heard Ram Dass give many years ago, rain may pour down from the heavens, but if you only hold up a thimble, a thimbleful is all you receive.

When a window of opportunity appears, do you pull down the shade? Each of us has a specific degree of pleasure that feels right and appropriate. If that level is exceeded, it makes us anxious. At a residential seminar I once taught, I encouraged participants to ask for a standing ovation. As each came forward, I noted the variety of ways they responded to enthusiastic applause. Some people opened their arms wide, laughed, even jumped up and down. Others could tolerate only a few seconds of applause before holding up their hands as if to say, "Enough. Please stop. I'm getting uncomfortable."

Self-Worth and Self-Esteem

Because many people assume that self-esteem and self-worth mean the same thing, it seems important to note the distinctions between the two.

Self-worth (associated with self-respect) refers to your overall sense of value, worth, goodness, and deservedness. Your sense of worth can change over time based upon your actions. For example, my sense of self-worth has increased over time as I gradually learned to be a responsible, loving father and husband, and helped others through my writing and teaching.

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