For most of my life I have been told that I am very hard on shoes and purses. After only a short time, many of the items that I utilize will have some kind of scuff, mark or tear. This is not intentional, and I would find myself frequently upset because I wanted my belongings to look nice. I would try to be extra careful, taking extra effort to not drag my feet or bump against things, and I would have special places to keep them so they would not get messed up. But imagine my frustration when there would be some kind of damage on them anyway. This was very disturbing to me and I had to reflect on why it was bothering my so badly. I came to realize that growing up part of what I had internalized was the importance of outer appearance and having everything look perfect. Having a lot of possessions meant you could rotate them often and keep them in good condition. But as I have come to know myself better, I realize I am not that kind of person. I don’t care to have numerous purses to change and rotate with various outfits, but instead one durable bag I can carry every day. I don’t prefer a closet full of shoes to switch every day of the week, but a few comfortable and versatile pairs that I can rely on. I then realized that my current preference did not match the quality of items I was purchasing. If I was going to rely on only a few items to be both functional and fashionable, I would have to invest in items that would meet that need. Once I started purchasing high quality items, I have had little to no issues with scuffing, scraping, peeling, or ripping. Since this discovery, I have considered that maybe I wasn’t as “rough” as I thought I was, but maybe the items I was using before weren’t made of the materials that fit my level of usage.
There are many lessons I have been able to learn from this seemingly insignificant part of my life. One of the first is that the appearance of quality and actual quality are, in fact, not the same. I grew up in Detroit, a city where almost every corner store, gas station, beauty supply store, barber shop and beauty salon could afford you the opportunity to purchase “designer” items. And while the exterior of the items may look almost identical to the actual designer items they are intended to replicate, they are not made of the same materials, provide no warranty, and don’t require the same level of investment. So, at a distance the items look good and seem authentic, but they lack the value of the authentic designer and that becomes evident the more they are worn. But because it was cheap and there wasn’t a significant investment, throwing it away is much easier than if it was the real thing, and repair isn’t an option because there was no accountability from the dealer. I can generalize this concept to relationships. Many of us are afforded numerous opportunities to be relational with others. The appearance of many interactions may suggest a genuine relationship; however, the quality, durability and authenticity of the relationship can sometimes only be observed up close and becomes more evident as time passes. Don’t settle for a knock-off relationship. Be careful to assess the true materials and be cautious of relationships that require little investment.
Further reflection on this matter revealed that I was conditioned to blame myself for things without considering alternative options. When something I owned was broken, lost, or damaged the first response from others was to tell me how I should have been more careful, appreciative, and respectful of my belongings. And while taking care of my belongings is important, never having someone explain that the quality of those items may have contributed to their quick wear and tear, taught me to take full responsibility for many things in life that were, in fact, not my responsibility to shoulder. When people hurt me, or situations didn’t turn out the way I had hoped, I had been trained to look within and find a reason – it must be my fault. Thankfully, as I have grown, I have come to value self-reflection and self-awareness. Assessing the quality of the broken, lost, and damaged goods in my life has helped me to rightfully assign responsibility.
One final lesson I have gleaned is that I am a person of value. When I was trying to be everything to everyone, I found myself trying to replicate other designs. I was getting broken, lost, damaged, and discarded because I wasn’t my authentic design but whatever I thought I needed to be for everyone else. And because I was a counterfeit, I kept up appearances from a distance, didn’t let people investigate too closely, and required little investment. But since discovering that I don’t want to be a cheaper, knock-off version of someone else, I had to take a good honest look at myself, figure out who I really am, and I invest in high quality materials. Now that I am my authentic design, I can no longer be acquired for the price I could before. Because of my self-care and intentional quality, I require an investment of time, authenticity, and genuineness that many are not willing to pay. But I have learned that my value and someone’s ability or willingness to invest in my value are almost always mutually exclusive; my value doesn’t decrease because someone can’t afford it.
Taking a genuine look at ourselves and our relationships is not always an thing to do, but is most often worth it in the end. If you need to support while identifying your value Labors of Love would love to assist. Contact us at www.thelaborsoflove.com.