I’m not a big fan of watching movies.
It’s not that I hate them. I just watch movies less than the average individual for reasons that are still unknown.
Recently, I have sat down to watch Spider-man Homecoming. It was just for entertainment. I was not expecting to find something deep in it.
But it turned out that I was wrong. Inside the movie lies one of the secrets of self-respect and the antidote to neediness.
Having a healthy self-esteem is associated with having enough self-respect. Self-respect is about having reasons to look up at yourself. Therefore, the reasons why we respect ourselves determinate how healthy or unhealthy our self-esteem is.
In other words, we sometimes search for self-love in the wrong places. We stupidly and naively assume that if we do X, we will be good enough. But more often than not, it’s this X that keeps us from any real self-respect. X is not the solution to our problems as we hope.
And until we let go of this X, we will run in closed circles chasing nothing but an illusion. Surprisingly, when we let go of it, it’ll work for us and serve us.
This intellectual mess was explained very nicely in the movie in just 2 lines. And then, it was demonstrated throughout the rest of the movie. Here are the magical two lines:
Spider-man: But I’m nothing without this suit!
Iron Man: If you’re nothing without this suit, then you shouldn’t have it.
In the movie, Spider-man is an enthusiastic and an eager-to-help teenager. He is so caught up on the idea of being the Spider-man that he puts off school and other important activities in his life. He also goes the extra mile and interferes with what he is told not to interfere with.
And by his interference, he makes a series of mistake that could have killed many people. In the last moment, just when it’s clear that he can’t do anything to save the situation, the iron man steps in and fixes the damage.
After that, Mr. Tony Stark (Iron Man) gives Peter Parker some tough love by scolding him. He was right. Peter was acting based on good intentions. But he was making stupid decisions that could hurt him and everyone around him.
So, Mr. Tony decides to take the suit away from Peter.
And Peter cries. He tries to justify why he should keep the suit. But his justification is as bad as his decisions. It gives Tony another reason for taking the suit back.
-But I’m nothing without this suit!
It’s as if Peter ties all of his self-worth to this suit. This suit is what makes him him. Without it, he would lose not only his best qualities but also himself.
Tony must be a bad man for doing all that to Peter.
Well, Tony told Peter why he is taking it away. Peter probably didn’t get that right then because he was angry. But he’d definitely learned the lesson by the end of the movie.
=If you are nothing without this suit, then you shouldn’t have it.
Clear. Honest. And plain simple.
It was as if Tony was saying, “If this suit is what makes you you, then you are doing it wrong. What makes you the spider-man should have nothing to do with this suit.”
Now let’s take this and apply it to our daily lives.
Where Is Your Suit?
You are not the Spider-man. You are [insert your name here].
Just as the Spider-man thought he needs a suit to be the spider-man, you sometimes believe that you need a (suit) in order to be [insert your name here again].
And you believe that you are nothing without this (suit). You believe that this damn (suit) is the reason you are of any good and worth. And were you to lose it, you would be nothing.
Here are a few examples of the suits that we wear and blend in and tie all of our self-worth to:
- Relationships. This is a big one. I can’t live with him/her.
- Job titles. I’m an engineer. I’m a programmer. I’m a teacher. I’m an entrepreneur.
- Expensive shit. I have a nice car. I have this big, beautiful house. I have this big company.
- Social status. I have 5000 friends on Facebook and 15k followers on Instagram. I’m popular and everybody knows me.
Those are examples of the popular suits. But I believe every one of us has a few unique suits that fit our personal situations and lives. You need to find those, too. Usually, they are roles that you play or possessions that you own. You find them by dismissing them and seeing how that affects your self-esteem.
Here Is Why You Shouldn’t Have (It) If You Are Nothing Without It
Because you will have it for the wrong reasons.
You are not going to have a relationship because you want connection, but rather because you derive your self-worth from having a romantic relationship or an attractive partner. Your job title doesn’t only describe what you do but also makes you sound important.
Those are not the original reasons those things should exist in your life.
You will likely have all that to fill a void inside of you and to elevate your self-worth.
And should you lose that, you will also lose your sense of self.
And because you tie your self-worth to this something, letting go of this it means letting go of what makes you you. You’ll be worried about losing it. And this worry and anxiety are what will make you desperate and needy.
All this neediness in turns will make you more likely to lose this thing in the first place AND suffer badly when you lose it.
Elevating your self-worth from your roles and possessions, and then being needy to ensure you don’t lose them, is a recipe for an emotional disaster. An emotional disaster that will hurt not only you but also a few people around you.
(Hint: being around people who do so may also hurt you).
Spider-man Did The Right Thing
After losing the suit, Peter Parker accepted the loss and moved on.
Sure, he was devastated. He was frustrated and probably angry.
But he didn’t dwell on what could have been and what should have been. He didn’t call Mr. Stark crying at night and begging to get his suit back. And he didn’t believe that his life was over.
Instead, he started doing many of the things that he had neglected when he was so caught up using and abusing his suit. He used to neglect school. Now he started to focus more on studying and other school activities. He started taking care of himself. Heck, he even finally asked Liz out!!
He started accepting the loss of the suit. He gave up trying to get it back. He gave up trying to be the Spider-man. And most importantly, he started investing more in Peter Parker and in what he believes in.
How did I know that?
Because when the time came and he needed to be the spider-man and save people’s lives (the real purpose of being a super-hero anyway!), he stepped up to the challenge and became that amazing spider-man without the suit. He fought without the suit not for the thrill of being a super-hero, but for a real cause and a real call, and he did save the day. He saved the day not because he was cool –he actually sucked without the suit– but because he did the right thing.
And in my own opinion, if spider-man, or iron man, was nothing without his suit, then he doesn’t deserve it. If the suit was what makes him him, anyone can wear it and be another super-hero. It’s about the person inside the suit and not the suit itself.
Now, what about you?
Let’s stop talking about imaginary super-heroes and talk about you doing the right thing.
When you derive your self-worth from something external, you will not only be a slave to it but also you will never have a peace of mind. Why? The anxiety. The comparison. The never-enough mentality. The neediness that follows. The constant fear of losing it. The fact that you have invested so much in it that you actually have nothing outside of it. And the list goes on.
But when this sense of worthiness comes from within, not only are you so relaxed but also you will respect yourself more.
Don’t let anything, namely roles and possessions, make you think that they are what make you worthy. Don’t let anything or anyone make you believe that you are nothing without them.
Are There Any Exceptions?
But there is a misunderstanding that may happen.
Some of you may read this and decide that they will become god-like iron men (and women but, yes, especially men!) and that they need nothing from anybody.
That’s not what I am saying.
First of all, one of the things that we all as humans need is connection. We can’t live alone and we can’t tolerate isolation. This is a need that you can’t “unneed” (I just made up a verb! Yippee! ).
Eating, for instance, is something that you literally can’t live without and therefore it’s a need. Connection, also, is not a suit. It’s a need.
However, you get this connection (and any other need) with respect and dignity. Otherwise, it’s not really connection –it’s yet another suit that you are nothing without.
Second, for the roles and the possessions, go ahead and be and have anything that you want. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be an entrepreneur or an engineer or even the iron man! I’m not saying that you can’t have some expensive shit. What I am saying is that you shouldn’t define your worth by what you do or what you have.
Don’t live your life alone or stop your progress to prove that you can live without something and that you are strong on your own. This is insecurity.
Last but not least, whenever you feel that something is enslaving you, let it be a relationship or a role or a possession, then you should be careful.
In fact, you should try and live without it. Invest in yourself without that thing. Become a super-hero without a suit. Paradoxically, you might become more qualified to get it. And anyhow, you are comfortable with either case.