Stuffed Animals and the Validation of Personal Value

MLPIn the last few months, my parents have been going through their possessions in anticipation of moving. And there is a lot to go through. They have lived under the same roof for 23 years, housing three daughters, seven cats, and one business. So now and then, I’ve been helping them a little. Most of my childhood stuff is still there, and most of it needs to go.

Now, you are probably familiar with the difficulties that may arise when you want to throw things away. I made pictures of everything I fondly remembered to make it easier, but still I noticed a strange, irrational behavior in myself. Quite a lot of my old toys, books and stuffed animals are still in a good condition, and I had no problem at all selling them for a few cents each at a local flea market. Nevertheless, this made me little money and I would probably never see anything I sold again, so it was practically no different from just throwing things away.

And yet, actually throwing stuff away was so, so much harder than selling it. I wondered why that was. I realized that I somehow wanted the toys to keep their emotional value – to see that someone else valued them as I had. I was thrilled when my favorite stuffed rabbit was sold to a small girl who was obviously very happy with it. Seeing that was worth much more than the 20 cents I asked her father for it – and not because of some saintly wish to make children smile. It was more a validation; I knew it was an awesome rabbit! Thank you for recognizing that!

An easy pitfall is to want emotional value reflected in monetary value. I’ve had indignant responses on bids at online auction sites by sellers who thought that surely their item must be worth more – even when other offers for similar items suggested otherwise. Likewise, the salespeople at my local thrift shop have a knack for asking more for clothes they like or that are neatly folded. You serve your own budget by wrinkling your intended purchases into a ball before you put them on the counter.

Sometimes, value has a clear reason; if many people need something and there is not much of it, it has a high value, and vice versa. Sometimes, value is just chance and fashion; something is arbitrarily in large demand – or it has a good marketing campaign to back it up. But for your personal value to be accepted, there always needs to be a sufficiently large group of people that agree. If there isn’t, your personal value isn’t validated, and that can be frustrating.

I still have some boxes with old childhood drawings. The prospect of going through them is hard, because I know that the value I assign to them is shared with nobody – I either have to keep them, or put them in the thrash.

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