Self Worth for the Ultimate Self

Mushkie Lipszyc, North Miami, Florida
Essays 2019 / Self Esteem

Striving. That constant desire for something better. Conflicting emotions. The rollercoaster of feelings constantly fluctuating from a happy ego to a depressing self-pity. Never a stable medium of content. Where would the balance of emotions come from? When in our lives does the healthy state of being take its place, and how do we achieve an authentic stability of self-worth?

In this essay, we will be dealing with our generation’s challenge with self-worth, and the state of mind it produces. This will be primarily based on the Chassidic teachings of the Alter Rebbe’s Tanya and the Rebbe’s Maamer, “Vayishlach Yehoshua, 5736” and Sicha, 28 Sivan 5749. We will be exploring the Chassidic point of view of who we truly are, what defines us, and how to take control of our life by being our ultimate self.

As humans, we are constantly striving to be the best self we can be. But who is this self? How do we define our self-worth and individuality?

Let’s take a look at what Webster’s Dictionary has to say on this[1]

//Self Worth//- a feeling that you are a good person who deserves to be treated with respect.

Our society has defined self-worth as a feeling, an emotion, and a fleeting emotion at that. And as an emotion, which we cannot fully control at any given moment [2], we are saying that we have no control over our self-worth.

Instead of working on painting the perfect picture of an identity of self-worth, we have shifted our focus on creating the perfect frame. We are trying to create a masterpiece portrait of ourselves through form a masterpiece frame instead. This is now our perception of a perfect reality. We are hoping that once we go through the perfect system (frame), to get the perfect career (frame), to achieve the perfect life (frame), we may finally be able to say we have achieved the perfect self (portrait). Maybe then, we think, we can finally define what we are self-worth is.

Now, what happens when something along our journeys of aim towards this perfect absolute reality goes down the drain? Does this mean that our self-worth and who we our goes down the drain? Doesn’t really feel so absolute anymore, right? Or, if we have finally reached our perception of a perfect reality, is that really all there is to us? Is our self-worth just the worth of our career, success, and happiness, the worth of the frame we built around ourselves?

For decades the world has been trying to perceive what is the absolute ultimate reality  for Self, in order for us to understand how to identify ourselves.  Two generations ago society stated, “One is what one does.” We are our actions.  However, on the other hand, today, when society is getting more intuned with our esoteric selves, we presently define our reality as “One is what one feels.” So do what we feel like? We are our feelings, so, we need to know what we feel like.

In truth, are we just a compilation of our feelings or actions? Is not the truest sum total of who we are far greater and far deeper than the sum total of all our expressive parts?

Ultimate Reality vs. Ultimate Self

Constant Waters vs. Inconstant Waters

John Bradshaw in his book, Healing the Shame that Binds You explains that we need to embrace that we are Human Beings and not Human Doings, and that this is how we free ourselves from the deepest shame, that of our lack of self-worth.

Hold up, what is beigness and what is doingness?

From a chassidic point of view, anything that is subject to the laws of relativity, and thus, is constantly evolving, is part of our doingness. Our perception of reality. This includes our thought, speech, action, feelings, paradigms, and our will

Beigness is that of us which is absolute. Only that which is eternal and never-changing is absolute. Thus, not our actions, nor our feelings, and not even our paradigms can fully define our truest self, and thus, nor our truest self-worth. Our essence, the “Truly a piece of G-d above[3],” that G-d has breathed[4] within each and every one of us.

Rabbi Sholom DovBer of Lubavitch, the fifth Lubavitch Rebbe, explains this [5] through the parable of constant water vs. inconstant water, meaning a river that either never does or does dry up. Just like constant water always has water flowing through it, no matter the season, so too it is with Emet (truth). Since truth is an absolute, and thus a constant, if it stops or changes, it is not a constant, and thus, not the truth. So too with our identity and self-worth. All that changes about us are but external expressive trimmings of who we are, but not who we are. Often we truly embrace this truth when a loved one dies, and we suddenly realize that everything we used to identify our loved one as doesn’t exist anymore, while who our loved one is, exists and is eternal.

If we are to switch perspectives from our old perspective of trying to produce an absolute perceived reality, through our external expressiveness of thoughts, speech, actions, and even feelings and paradigms, which ultimately are but the frame of who we are, and instead focus our identity and self-worth on our absolute and ultimate beingness, G-d’s masterpiece portrait of who we are, then we would be able to fully embrace our true priceless self-worth.

So what is Ultimate Being?

How do we take our beingness, the amazing piece of G-d inside of us, the core of who we are, and connect with it on a practical and conscious level?

True freedom is the freedom to be our inner-selves, our beingness, and only from here to define our self-worth.

However, in order to be able to experience this freedom, we must first remove all of our external expressive blockage, as that of negative thought, speech and action, the drive of our emotions, and the box of our paradigm.

So what is Ultimate Being you ask. To experience our ultimate beingness we must connect to the absolute within us. This is done through mastering self-control over all of our doingness.[6]In other words, we must remove the blockage of defining ourselves by what we do, and how we feel or think. Our beingness is the essence of our soul, the illogical and the irrational, which has no need to justify or explain itself to anyone. Our absolute beingness is the simple, “Hineini -Here I am,[7]” Our beingness doesn’t react to what others or even we feel, think, or accept of ourselves as okay.

Action Vs Feeling

Why self-control?

Let us take a glimpse into how are finite bodies work. Our physical and spiritual psyches all have emotions and actions.  An emotion is a natural instinctive state of mind deriving from one’s circumstances, mood or relationships with others[8], while actions are the fact or process of doing something.[9]

As humans we have both constantly. We are constantly feeling and we are constantly doing an action, even if the action is the doing of not doing an action, Therefore we are constantly hearing the voices of our Doingness, which blocks the voice of our Beigness.

The difference of both aspects of doingness, is that we have constant capability to control our expressions through thoughts, speech and action. Thoughts, speech and action in Chassidut are termed as the “external garments of the soul.” [10] Just like garments for the body, you are able to change and take off; so too with the garments of the soul.  While on the other hand, our emotions we don’t always have the capacity to control.

We can’t control our emotion?

Imagine the emotions are the boiling hot pot, while the “garments” are the pots handle. We cannot touch or redirect the hot pot itself, but only though the handle.  Meaning, we can change our emotions we change our emotions through our external expressions.

Let’s take a glimpse of the root of our “garments”. Chassidut teaches us that our physical garments are spiritually rooted in a higher source than us humans, so to with our spiritual garments. [11]

A study was done and published in the “Journal of Experimental Social Psychology”, where Researchers gave Lab coats to people, none that were doctors, and asked them to perform a series of difficult tasks. The people in the Lab Coat made much fewer mistakes than the people who came to do the tasks in regular clothes. They did the experiment again, but this time gave everyone Lab coats, but told half that they were smocks while the other was told that they were lab coats. Once again the people who knew they were in Lab Coats, completed the task with fewer mistakes.[12]

Just as our physical clothing can uplift ourselves, as Rabbi Yochanan stated “My Clothes, My Honoree”[13], so to with our spiritual garments. Not only does the doingness, express the Biegness but rather it is only through the doingess that the beigness can be expressed.

The experience of mastering self-control is more than just stopping us from a particular action, or changing a distinct thought. You see, it is through our actions that we can influence our emotions, which thereby influences our mindset, which has the power to influence our life and our being. We don’t just work on controlling our “garments” of the soul because we are capable, but we control it because this service has a greater effect on us.

Let’s take a diet for an instance. You are craving the sugary dessert, yet you have self-control and you don’t eat it. By the next meal again this over powering wave of desire for this sweet treat takes over, yet you stay determined and don’t eat it. Eventually after this scenario will play itself over a few times: the action will start to influence the emotion to the degree where the sugar treats stops becoming a desire.

Battle is the Victory

But this seems impossible!

Let us take a look at the million dollar prize solution through a million one dollar bills.

It is through the one action at a time that gets us to where we need to go; it is through one seed that grows a whole tree.

How does a seed do it? How can one action do it? Nullification. Giving up control to finally gain control of what true beingness is. Just like a seed is put into the ground, and disintegrates before it flourishes into a beautiful tree, so to once we are able to “disintegrate” into the light of G-d. [14] , we then enable ourselves to flourish and reveal our biegness through our doingness.  Although it’s a lifetime’s work, we must not forget the battle is the victory. The journey is the destination. It is through exercise that the muscles are build and it is through the plowing that brings the growing.

Applying to our lives

How do i do this?

-Mastering self-control over our thought speech and action

-We can then move on from controlling our thoughts  to take control over our paradigms.

-By controlling our paradigms we begin to take control over our feeling and transform it. What we love, what we fear, etc.

-By bringing under control all the doingness that is mentions above, we are finally able to quote the voices that comes from our external doingness and finally here the voice of our beingness, our true self.

May we all have our doingness to be but an expression of our beigness!

[1]  Miriam Webster’s Online Dictionary

[2] Maamor Vayishlach Yehoshua 5736, Tanya Chapter 12

[3] Tanya, Likkutai Amarim, Chapter 2

[4] Berasheit, Chapter 2, Verse 7

[5] Kuntrat Umanyan, Maaomor Beis, Perek Beis

[6] Maamor Vayishlach Yheishua, Tanya Chapter 12

[7] Vayera, chapter 22, verse 7

[8] English- Oxford Dictionary

[9] English- Oxford Dictionary

[10] Maamor Vayishlach Yehoshua 5736, Tanya, Likkutai Amarim, Chapter 4

[11] Maamor Vayishlach Yehoshua 5736, Tanya, Likkutai Amarim, Chapter 4

[12] Journal of Experimental Social Psychology

[13] Bava Kama 91b

[14] Torah Or, Parshas Beshalach. ‘’Veyihi Beshalach Pharoah”