The Worth of Feeling Valued

I recently ran into an old friend, and we had the typical exchange former classmates do. We hugged, caught up on our families, and shared a laugh or two. Most times, even I’d consider such a meeting mundane—or, depending on the person, awkward—, but this one left me feeling anything but bored or uncomfortable.

In my friend’s eyes, I saw an expression I’m not accustomed to in my everyday life. In fact, it took me a moment to identify what it was, which says a lot for one whose work is describing people. I had to consider in whom I’d seen that look before, and at last, I could define what it conveyed—his value for me.

On the last episode of Oprah, Ms. Winfrey made the statement, “I’ve talked to nearly 30,000 people on this show, and all 30,000 had one thing in common—they all wanted validation… They want to know, ‘Do you hear me? Do you see me? Does what I say mean anything to you?’” I’ve never meant Oprah, but I, along with probably everyone else who’s ever lived, yearn to be seen, heard, and valued.

On average, I feel both undervalued and underestimated because of having a disability. My Cerebral Palsy affects my speech, but you could hardly say it sounds like Swahili! To understand me just takes a little extra concentration, which many are willing to give me. Throughout my life, though, I’ve had countless conversations with individuals who pretend to hear my words, but by their insincere nods and lack of appropriate replies, I can tell they really don’t. I appreciate that people are busy and can’t always take the time to ask me to repeat myself, but I often get the idea that some simply deem what I have to say as worthless.

Okay, enough with the pity party. I enjoy beautiful friendships, and we mutually value one another. I realize, too, that able-bodied people have as hard of time as anyone feeling valued. As Oprah observed, everybody seeks validation. While it’s true that you have to value yourself foremost, self-validation and empowerment can only take you so far. We all need someone else to reinforce our worth, whether it be through a spoken word, a note, or a mere look.

There’s no way to write a tutorial about how to show someone you esteem him or her. Each person has his/her own needs and preferences. Regardless of how you express it, valuing a person is rooted in the heart, and you can’t go wrong letting that naturally manifest itself.

This world offers plenty of matters that have little value. Thus, we spend our time discussing them, and in the shuffle, we come out doubting our own worth. Instead of placing them above what really counts, why not focus on showing others we value them? If we don’t, who will?

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