So, I needed to earn my place in society through my industry. A weak sense of self meant I needed create the worth I couldn’t simply manifest. I wanted to help people, to be active and useful, to make life better in a tangible, measurable way, even if it was just to run errands.
It was as if I hoped a celestial record could be kept of my good deeds, and in some cosmic audit I could demonstrate my worth by pointing to what I’d done. I felt morally, and thus spiritually, and thus existentially, insubstantial and I hoped I could embody and enact myself by sheer hard work.
As a child or teenager, I might have demanded gratitude for this, almost as a birth-right. As a teenager, I demanded to be heard, as if my words could flesh me out. Now, I just wanted recognition that I’d been of service. I was always hovering on the outskirts frantic to be of use.
“A very important source of the close social integration in an egalitarian community is the sense of self-realization we can get when we successfully meet others’ needs…It comes, of course, from our need to feel valued by others. We gain a sense of being valued when we do things which others appreciate. The best way of ensuring that we remained included in the co-operative hunting and gathering group and reducing the risk of being cast out, ostracized, and preyed upon, was to do things which people appreciated.” (Richard Wilkinson & Kate Pickett, The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone, 2010, London: Penguin, p209)