In recent times, it seems there are only three measures of success: Money, looks, and fame. If you don’t have one or all of them, you just don’t measure up. But you’re a senior citizen, and it’s hard to feel self-worth, self-respect, and self-esteem when you don’t go to a job, raise children or possibly don’t drive anymore.. Perhaps you need to overcome feelings of regret and sorrow. Well, you can overcome your feelings… How do you find a sense of significance in a world that seems so very shallow?
1. Cultivate a grateful heart. Gratitude is the one thing that most people who feel a low sense of self-worth lack. If you can look outside your own world, and see how good you really have it, you will feel much more like your life is a worthwhile thing. If you don’t have a terminal illness, have had something to eat today, have a bed to sleep in tonight… materially speaking you have it better than 70% of all the people in the whole world. If you’re reading this on your own computer, you’re better off than about 90% of everyone
2. Know when enough is enough. Take the advice of Mary Poppins. She says, “Enough is as good as a feast.” Think about that for a moment. You can only eat so much, no matter how good the food is, or how much there is. It doesn’t matter if your meal is served in a fancy restaurant at $1000 a plate, or in your own kitchen at $2.79 a plate. When you’re full, you’re full, and if you try to eat more, you will very likely get sick. When you have enough, it’s exactly the same as having sat down to a tremendous feast and eaten your fill. Mary Poppins is right. Well, she is practically perfect in every way, after all.
3. Learn to value deeper virtues. The media seem to be overflowing with images of the young, rich, and beautiful, and unless you fit that mold, you feel less worthy of good things in your life. But those things are so fleeting – youth and beauty fade with years, and in a short while, those celebutantes won’t be so pretty (or at least it won’t be cheap for them to be so pretty). Fortunes can be lost. But love is eternal. Honor lasts. Truth abides. Beauty comes in all forms: a butterfly is beautiful. So is a waterfall, and the ocean, and the sky on a starry night. Learn to appreciate natural beauty, good character, honesty, your family
4. Be nice. Believe it or not, this can be the first step to feeling your own power. Feeling a little … ordinary… can make you feel like it isn’t worthwhile to care about the feelings of others. You don’t realize just how much power you have. Your lousy mood is contagious. It casts a pall over everyone you encounter, from your family to your friends to your co-workers. Instead of being abrupt and surly, try giving each person a smile. Take a moment to make eye contact. People enjoy talking about themselves or those closest to them. So give them an opportunity to do so. Try to remember names, and ask about their loved ones. You don’t know what’s happening in their lives – you might be the one and only person to treat them like a human being today. You may not realize how just one kind word, even from a stranger, can refresh someone’s spirit. Try it and see. It may be very nice to be important. But it’s much more important to be nice. In some circles, this is called ‘projecting loving kindness’ and it takes practice.
5. Realize that being part of your family is important. You may not have family, in this case you must cherish the relationships with friends. If you have children, a spouse, siblings, parents who depend on you, everything you do for them is a good deed, a mitzvah, as they say. When you help your mom find her milk, which she put in the cupboard instead of the fridge, even if she doesn’t remember it 10 minutes later, you’re doing something so valuable and important for her. Let your life with your family and friends rejuvenate you with the feeling that you are with people who love you no matter what.
6. Be humble. Of course if you go around bragging about how amazing you are, people are going to try to knock you down. Plus, people who talk themselves up to others are usually covering up an internal feeling of inadequacy. Just look at celebs – no sooner are they hot than the rumors start and the sniping begins. It’s called “Schadenfreude” – getting shallow satisfaction from the misfortune of those seemingly more fortunate than you. No matter how much you want to feel important, it won’t help you unless you can appreciate it when it happens for the right reasons. By exercising humility, and refraining from all the brag and swagger, you free people to praise you when it’s appropriate instead of hogging attention when it isn’t.
7. Help others. There is nothing that will make you feel like you are valued, needed, and essential like volunteering to help and serve others who are less fortunate than you. This really goes along with the “humility” thing well – stepping up to help the elderly, coach at an after school children’s center, feed the homeless, help build a home for someone (Habitat for Humanity), collect toys for orphanages at Christmas time – these things allow you to be of service to others, and nothing will make you feel better. Give a gift in secret. Tell no one of your deed. Let the satisfaction of helping another stay within your heart by holding on to your little secret. The first time a little child brings you a hand-drawn card and throws her arms around you to thank you for helping her family, it’s practically guaranteed you’ll feel tears of joy flow from your eyes and a big lump in your throat. And that’s when you know your life is not just “good enough” – it’s awesome.
• It’s hard to feel impressive if you do nothing to impress yourself. Go out there and do something wonderful, not just for yourself, but for someone else.
• For some people, it helps if you have a reality bigger than yourself to believe in. If you are a praying person, allow your faith to help you work through this time in your life. If you are agnostic or atheist, you may find solace in meditation.
• Never use someone else’s life or accomplishments as a measuring stick for the worth or value of your own. It’s just like running, or your looks: there will always be someone faster (and someone slower). There will always be someone prettier (or you may be prettier than someone else). There was a song from an old musical that talked about running a race. It encouraged you not to be sad if you didn’t come in first, because “someone else who is last is sure to think you are fast.” Your life is your own. Rise up and live it. If you have enough, despite the fact that you aren’t rich or famous, enjoy the fact that you are not wanting for essentials, that you have family and friends who love you, and that your health is good. You can work for more, as long as you want to!
• Turn off the TV and the radio. Listen to your own thoughts and explore what is inside. Internal dialog is not a ticket to an institution but rather a chance to really begin to make positive changes within.

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