Finding our value independent of our roles in life

The outpouring love & support I’ve received has made me realize I’m more than my accomplishments and gymnastics which I never truly believed before

– Simone Biles on Twitter, after deciding to drop some olympic events to take care of herself

I love that someone in the public eye, and especially one who is the idol of many young people, write and talk about this.

For whatever reason, our culture seems to encourage us to tie our sense of worth to what we have and do in the world. We learn to tie our sense of worth to the temporary roles we play.

I win a gold medal, and am worth more. I don’t have much money, and am worth less. I work hard, and am worth more. I get sick and am unable to work, and am worth less. And so on.

Our value is not dependent on our roles or what we have or do. A baby is not worth more or less than an adult who is an engineer or raise children. A squirrel is not worth more or or less than the acorn it’s eating.

Our ideas about value are human ideas. We create them. They are examples of the creativity of the mind. They are not inherent in the world and they don’t reflect anything inherent in the world.


We can explore this at different levels.

We are not limited to one role in life. We play many roles. If I am unable to compete or work, I still have a lot of other roles to draw on – as a daughter, son, father, mother, friend, student, coach, and so on. One or even several roles may fall away, and there are still many left where I can find a sense of value.

If all of these roles fall away, do I still have value? As mentioned above, a baby has value even without playing any roles apart from being a baby and a living being. As a living being, we have inherent value. as a part of this life and universe, we have inherent value – as we are.

I can explore my ideas about value, and recognize they are ideas. They are cultural. I picked them up from family, teachers, friends, society, culture, and so on. In another culture, I would have different ideas about value. For instance, I may value old age over youth. I may value wisdom over productivity. I may value life, any living being, over any of the particular roles we play. I may value anything at all, as part of life and the universe and existence, over any particular role any of us play.

I can identify and question my stressful thoughts about my own value. I can find the need and sense of lack beind it, and see how it is to give to these parts of me what they perceive they lack.

I can find what I more fundamentally am, in my own first-person experience, beyond being a human self in the world. I may find I am capacity for my experience of the world, and what my field of experience – which includes this human self and the wider world – happens within and as. Here, I find that any ideas of value happens within and as what I am, and what these ideas point to happen within and as what I am.


Photo: Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil, 2016, Wikimedia

Related article from The Guardian: Simone Biles: support has made me realise I am more than my gymnastics

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