That responsibility used to rest in the hands of the religions. There was some consolation in believing that we possess some inate value, given to us by this or that god.
But people don't buy those stories anymore. We have been freed from the shackles of religion by our intellects and now we are free to do anything. Anything. There is no longer an objective system of value to give us guidance, something to compare and measure ourselves with.
We have to make one of our own. A terrifing prospect. One which requires mental effort and self-reflection. But the benefits are much more worth than the effort required.
But there is a shortcut - a shortcut that many people fall victim to. And virtuous people too, which have a lot to offer and are onto themselves valuable.
So what is this dreaded shortcut I'm talking about? What could be so corrosive to ones character and define ones interactions with others? What belief must one hold?
The belief that one's worth is measured by other people - the more other people like you, the more you're worth.
"What's wrong with being liked?" - you may ask. Well, nothing really. Being liked or disliked is a useful guideline. But it is only that, a guideline.
When you're letting other people define your sense of self-worth, you are basically saying that you're worthless. Think about it; if those people would go away,where would you get that affirmation and validation? And that sense of worthlessness is going to influence the way you talk, move, react and your whole character - and people will pick up on it. They will sense from interacting with you, sooner or later, that you are in essence a sad, pitiful human being.
What then is the solution to this problem of unlimited freedom?
You, dear reader, have to take control of your life. With ability comes responsibility, but worry not, because you only need answer to yourself. Take the guidelines from other people, evaluate their criticism, and take it to heart if it is sincere. Other people don't define you. You don't need them. Only what you think of yourself is what's important.