One of the most common conversations I have in therapy is about self-worth, usually a lack of it, many times a complete lack of it.
As a therapist it’s so hard to see someone across the room from you who so clearly to you has so many strengths and positive attributes, you can see it, their family and friends can see it, but they can’t. They only see what they perceive / believe to be negatives and believe that’s all others see in them too.
I like analogies, they help me make sense of the world around me and I’ve found them to be one of if not the most useful therapeutic tools available to me to help the people I work with see the world in a slightly different way than when they first came to me.
Technology is often painted as the big baddie when it comes to our mental health. I think Covid19 has taught even some of the most sceptical that it has it’s place as a communication tool not withstanding the obvious risks that come along as part of the package too.
What I realised today was that our phones operating software and the regular software updates that we have to download could hold the key to looking at our self-worth in a different and hopefully more positive way.
When we buy a new phone it comes pre-loaded with an operating software to make it work. It’s not perfect, it’s the good enough version of the software that’s available at that time to make it work and meet our needs and with a few basic apps.
When we’re born we come pre-loaded with the genetic structures our parents have passed onto us, our operating software if you like. We have few abilities beyond crying, sleeping, pooing, basic enough but they do the job we need.
With our new phones as we get used to it and figure out it’s uses we download more apps and it becomes more functional, as we add things to it and adapt to it, it can do more. Alongside this as time progresses we download new updates to the operating system that patches weaknesses and/or improves functionality. It’s never perfect, it’s always awaiting the next update to download and improve how it functions.
As infants, as we grow and develop we learn and develop new milestones, crawling, pointing, talking, picking things up, essentially our developmental stages are IOS updates that improve our functionality, and allow us to interact with the world in new ways. This continues at different stages of our life, and at each stage it is good enough at that time and has room for continued growth.
Asks an apple fanboy and an android believer to debate which one is a better system / phone and you better pull up a seat and get comfortable because you’ll be there for a while. I’ve a simple solution to this complex debate. Neither are perfect. How do I know? Because both have frequent updates to their respective operating system, both are continuously looking for improvement, their self worth as operating systems are not fixed points in time.
There is a saying within Dialectical Behaviour Therapy that two things that seem contradictory can actually be equally true at the same time. With our phones when we use them they’re usually good enough for what we need them to be / do at that time and it’s also just as true that they can be better, thus when a software update comes along we accept that the phone was good enough and also can be improved by a software update. Usually to complete the update we need to leave the phone down and plug it in for a charge, we’d never expect to upload a new update with only 10% battery left. More on this below.
We come with a pre-programmed operating software and as we move through life we survive by learning to adapting new “software” updates to our programming and how we operate. Our self worth shouldn’t be a black and white we have it or we don’t scenario. If one app stops working on our phone we go looking on the app store for an update, we don’t throw our phones in the bin. In life it is inevitable that there will be times when things don’t work out as we hoped or planned, it’s in these situations we also shouldn’t throw out our self-worth in the bin too.
We accept that our phones aren’t perfect and can never be, the pace of technological change occurs too fast to stand still to ever be perfect, so we accept updates, we accept than things can be in need of tweaking and improving. Life feels like it moves pretty fast too, and when we accept that we’re not perfect, that we can’t ever be but every now and again we need to plug ourselves in for a re-charge and a software update.
I know the (understandable) mantra is to unplug ourselves from technology but to stick with the analogy I’d argue that we also need to plug ourselves in for a re-charge too, to value our own self worth enough to believe that we need, that we deserve a re-charge before our batteries empty.
Let’s move away from falling into the trap of thinking that we have self-worth or we don’t and instead believe that right now in this moment we’re good enough and it’s ok that every now and again selected apps will benefit from a tweaking or upgrade.