August 12, 2020

From “Damaged Goods” to Damn Good: Reframing our sense of Self-Worth.

Do you ever feel like you’re not good enough? 

Do you feel like you’re not living up to your potential? Maybe not even knowing if you have potential? 

Have there been times in your life when you’ve felt like “damaged goods”?

It seems like an unfortunate aspect of human nature is to doubt ourselves and question our worth. The stories we tell ourselves often spin negative perceptions about who we are and what we have to offer.

In our current social climate, within the restrictions of this pandemic, many of our loved activities have come to a screeching halt. Some of these missing ingredients once dictated the parameters of our livelihood, our standing in the community, and our engagement with our family and friends. And with this absence, we have to redefine our sense of accomplishment and our sense of worth.

To add insult to injury, we may be seeing our peers establish themselves in new, fulfilling ventures that appear forward-thinking and accomplished. We feel like we’re strongly lacking when we compare ourselves to others.

It’s essential to build the skill of reframing the stories we tell ourselves so that they edify us rather than tear us down.

Let me tell you the story of the cracked pot. It might just help you reexamine your own worth:

Once there was an elderly man who was well-seasoned by time. His name was Henry. He was wise, kind, and lived a slow-paced life about three miles from the river at the edge of town.

Every seven days, he gathered two clay pots and a backpack. He then walked to the river to retrieve water and fish. The clay pots held the water; the backpack held the fish.

Henry was a master gardener. He grew seasonal fruits and vegetables that rivaled any other garden within a 20-mile radius. He had planted several fruit trees that bore apples, plums, citrus, and delectable figs. His vegetables were plump and colorful, always bursting with flavor.

Henry prided himself on the bounty of his harvests and readily shared food with all of his neighbors.

However, there was one thing that was a disappointment to Henry. He loved flowers. He had planted beds of varietal color around his home and delighted in the flower gardens’ scent and vibrancy. But he had also planted seeds of flowers along his path to the river in hopes that he would be blessed with a fragrant and colorful walk. The gardens needed rain to thrive, and the skies had simply offered no rain, so the flowers failed to grow—Henry’s walks were barren.

One day, as Henry filled his clay pots at the river, he noticed that one of his pots, the one he always carried in his right hand, had begun to crack. The water in the pot no longer remained in the pot. It slowly leaked out onto the ground. By the time Henry reached home, the pot was empty.

Though he had noted these cracks in the pot, Henry never replaced it. He continued to carry the pot to the river, fill it up and carry it back home again. Only to find it empty when he reached his porch.

Henry continued walking with the cracked pot week after week. The neighbors who observed this asked Henry why he continued to carry the cracked pot when it no longer served him. He simply replied, “There is a sacred purpose for everything and everyone. You’ll see.”

Soon even the cracked pot questioned Henry’s wisdom in continuing to carry it to and from the river. One day the selfless pot made the courageous decision to speak to Henry about this. “Master,” he said, “I feel horrible that I am no longer serving you. My brother, who is held by your left hand, gives you a full load of water each week while I give you nothing. I am so ashamed. I believe it may be time for you to smash me into the ground and get a new pot that will better serve you.”

To that, Henry said to the pot, “Each person and each thing is gifted with something they bring to the world that no one else can. Sometimes those gifts are readily seen by others and embraced by the one who has the gift. But other times, the gifts are more difficult to see—more difficult to claim as one’s own. You, dear pot, have a gift that your brother does not have. You serve me in a way that delights me and brings me joy.”

With that, Henry took the pot in his arms and walked slowly along the river path. As they walked, Henry pointed out that the flowers he had planted on the north side of the road had not bloomed. But those on the south side, those on Henry’s right side as he walked home from the river each week, were at the peak of their beauty and color.

Henry showed this to the pot and explained how the pot’s cracks, through which the water had leaked, offered the flowers the drink they were craving. “Only you, dear pot, could have provided the missing ingredient to help these beautiful flowers bloom into their own radiance. Don’t you see, dear pot, that this is your gift? This has been your selfless act, and I am forever grateful to you.”

Much like Henry’s broken pot, we sometimes miss our own gifts. We compare ourselves to others and condemn ourselves if we don’t measure up. Sometimes the crack is the very thing that makes us more beautiful.

And, just like Henry’s pot, it is certain that we each possess something that makes us unique and gives us the ability to offer a gift that no one else can. When we make the best use of “our cracks,” they can nurture ourselves and others along the way.

I hope we can all take a look at the crack that makes us beautiful and use that realization to reframe our own story.

We may feel broken; we may find cracks in our carefully crafted veneer; we may feel too vulnerable to embrace those parts that make us different. But as we spend more time celebrating and nurturing our differences, we’ll begin to understand how diversity is the one thing that offers true beauty in our world.


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