One thing is certain: It is not the amount of accumulated material wealth, baubles and toys, which lead to self-appreciation and ease with one’s life. So, what is it?
The genuine appreciation of our worthiness and quality depends on our achieving the state of what I call The Four B’s: Being, Belonging, Believing, and Benevolence.
Being (Personal): People with a sense of Being have a sense of inner peace and self-acceptance, and feel grounded and at ease. They are grateful for who they have become and how they’ve acted with others. They have a realistic self-image in that they’re aware of their faults and limitations. They appreciate themselves in spite of their mistakes, imperfections, and yes, physical and emotional scars. They’ve been caring and generous to others, and have redeemed and forgiven themselves.
Belonging (Social): People with a sense of Belonging are members of at least one group or community that is important to them, where they feel liked and appreciated, and they reciprocate those feelings. This could be a family, a congregation, club, gang, team, platoon, or other community. Members feel an organic affiliation and comfort with others who share values and traditions, and provide support, respect, and friendship. These relationships prevent the anxieties of loneliness, provide pleasure and enhance life. The warm glow of belonging contributes to physical and emotional health, and quality of life.
Believing (Ethical/Spiritual): A sense of believing refers to guiding values and ethics of behavior. Millions of people venerate a God who gives them comfort and hope, and provides a set of moral rules for their conduct. But one need not believe in a Supreme Being to be ethical. Religious followers are no more principled or compassionate than agnostics and atheists. What is critically important to human beings is their need to believe in a system of moral principles and civil behavior. When we adhere to principles based on religion, or humanism, or other humane social philosophy, our lives are more meaningful, in times of joy as well as pain. When we humans wonder about issues beyond everyday materialism, and are in awe about how minuscule we are in the millions of universes, we are removed from the fray and transported to a spiritual realm.
Benevolence: A sense of benevolence is an awareness of how kind and generous we have been, or the positive effects we have had on others. Benevolence is a culmination of the other B’s. Our personal legacies are best represented by our acts of decency and caring to each other. Notwithstanding our history of aggression and violence, we humans are genetically predisposed to be helpful to others in need. We can also learn to behave with more tolerance and generosity. The kindness and goodness we bestow on others throughout our lives is the essence of a sense of benevolence.
The Four B’s are essential to all who are honestly evaluating the worth of their lives. They are the foundation of our emotional footprint.
Saul Levine M.D., is Professor Emeritus in Psychiatry at the University of California at San Diego. Excerpt above is based on his research on resilience. More of his article are archived here.