There is an old proverb that says: “Don’t cast your pearls before swine.” I grew up on a small family farm in Minnesota in the 1960’s. We had the usual assortment of amusing farm animals including cows, chickens, horses, cats, dogs, and of course pigs. I wouldn’t say that the whole of my psychology of people has its foundational roots in the care of farm animals, but it has offered several useful nuggets including insights about pigs and pearls. Pigs are fully focused on their own customs and habits which generally includes eating and looking around for more to eat. They seem largely consumed with anything that can be consumed and appear disinterested in anything else. This food focused self-absorption is what makes pigs such poor users of pearls. Throw a fine pearl necklace into the pig pen and it would likely go unnoticed.
You’re the Pearl Necklace
The pig has no use or appreciation for the necklace and therefore the pearls hold no value. They are disregarded and quickly become trampled into the mud. I want you to understand that you are the pearl necklace. Maybe you have presented yourself to someone who doesn’t see your worth or value. You wanted respect, affirmation, and approval. You are valuable, lovable, and to be respected. Perhaps you have been unappreciated by others in the past. You have great worth even if it goes unnoticed by the self-absorbed. In the proverb, we’re cautioned against the futility of throwing pearls to pigs or in other words, expecting to be admired, respected, or treated well by someone who doesn’t appreciate our value.
The Pain of Being Trampled
Wanting respect from a select few, and not receiving it, is a painful piece of relational reality. It hurts to be unnoticed, unappreciated, and disregarded. You are valuable and worthwhile. When you are not treated that way by others it can cause disappointment and insecurity. You may begin to doubt your value, placing more weight on the opinion of others while ignoring the truth. Others make a greater effort to get noticed, going back repeatedly only to be rejected once again. This is like going back into the house, finding even more valuable jewelry, such as earrings and a couple of bracelets, and slinging them into the pig pen. Perhaps you are trying to convince yourself you needed to increase the value of your gift to be noticed. The problem isn’t with the value of the pearls – it’s with the nature of the pig.
The Futility of Reasoning
Can I say something that may seem harsh? Too many people try arguing with the pig. They want the pig to be different – to be a better user of the pearls. They try reasoning, debating, begging, and pleading with the pig to accept and honor the pearls. They seem endlessly disappointed that the pig keeps doing pig things and they remain convinced that the problem is in their presentation, their attitude, or their worthiness.
The key to overcoming this frustration is to accept yourself as valuable and give up on trying to change the pig. I am using the term “pig” as an analogy for someone who under-appreciates you and is inconsiderate of your worth. I don’t mean to imply that our friends and family members are pigs. Accepting yourself as valuable is the necessary starting point. As we value ourselves, we more quickly reject the inconsiderate and disrespectful treatment that comes our way.
The Power of Acceptance
Many people with mental health and substance use disorders desperately need support and affirmation. For the discouraged, hearing something positive can be like a cup of cool water in a hot, parched desert. All too often, people look for approval in places where it is not kept. Instead, accept yourself and seek out people who can echo and applaud your true value, identity, and worth.
Recovery is a journey. Enjoy the ride!