There’s a lot of talk, research, books devoted to self-worth, also referred to in many contexts, as self-esteem. So what’s the big fuss? Well, in my humble opinion after sixty years on the planet and helping others as a teacher, school counselor, and now a psychotherapist, knowing and feeling, at your core, SELF-WORTH is EVERYTHING!
Your relationship with self is the spring from which all your relationships flow. If you have a healthy sense of self and value you, with all your strengths and growth areas, then and only then, can you come from a place of centeredness, authenticity, and genuineness. With this internal core strength in place, one can meet the external challenges of this world in alignment with the consciously chosen, personal values, goals and self-care that allows one to stay in balance and feel content.
I have worked with many a fine woman and devoted man, who give and give, not from a place of conscious choice but out of a drive placed from external influences that fans an insatiable desire to prove themselves worthy. In many cases, self-sacrifice is placed at a premium to the detriment of self. This can lead to resentment, self-loathing, depression, anxiety and other mental health challenges.
I can so relate to these challenges and thankfully through my bumpy journey, spirituality, therapy, and learning from others, have found paths to reclaim the wholeness that I and we all deserve. These paths towards: unconditional regard/radical acceptance; healing over past traumas; self-compassion and forgiveness for our and other’s dark sides and actions; appreciation and internal anchoring of our inherent value, strengths, and accomplishments - are all necessary to reprogram the misguided reactions and messages that undermine our self-worth.
This, my friends, is a big job since many of these messages came from multiple sources, such as, caregivers and society, and span from birth to the present. Nonetheless, this process and daily practice is tantamount to living our best life.
So where to begin:
Take an INVENTORY by answering the following questions:
- Do I like myself?
- Am I my best friend?
- Do I treat myself as well as I treat others?
- Do I deserve a good life and healthy relationships?
- Do I feel shame (different than guilt) for my past or darker sides?
If you answered “no”, “sometimes”, or “I don’t know” to any of these questions – you need to get yourself on a serious, self-worth training program! The following are some first steps:
To get started: Write your answers to the following questions. Visit, meditate/pray on these often. Add to them! Some of my clients also express the answers in visual ways, such as, making a collage, using art, or placing things on their dressers as daily reminders.
- What QUALITIES do I like about myself? Can be physical, mental, personality, values. Ex: humorous, caring, ambitious, strong, nice eyes.
- What are my ACCOMPLISHMENTS? These can be many things, such as, relational, like: “I’m a good sister”, or career, “I created a successful business”, or task oriented, such as, “I ran a marathon”, “stopped smoking”.
- Who or what do I LOVE. This can be family members, faith, animals, a passion. But remember these are “your go to people/things”. If you think you are unloved or don’t have love in your life just remember the many things that bring and you give love to. These things/people matter - not some “jerk” at work that makes a derogatory comment because he/she defaults to the unhealthy coping strategy of putting others down to feel better!
- What are my VALUES (not what someone else has imposed on you)? This list is critical for this should guide what and who is important to you. For example, if someone rejects you that does not hold your same values, then, of course, you are not in alignment. It is NOT you but the difference in values, so the so-called “rejection” is actually a good thing. This can include family members, just saying. These values help you make decisions of who and what you want to spend your time on.
- What are my GOALS/DREAMS? These can be future accomplishments/activities/how you want to live your life, like: have a family, serve God, become a Buddhist, etc., - or fun stuff that dreams are made of, such as, travel, write a book, raise chickens. These are important because living a purposeful and enjoyable life gives meaning, plus how you spend your time should align with these as well as your values NOT what society or misguided influences have imposed on you.
OK, that is more than enough for one blog. Congratulations, you got this far! We’ll leave the other steps, such as, processing and healing over trauma (emotional not just physical patterns of being devalued), forgiveness, self-compassion, as well as accepting our shadow sides - to some future blog or your next visit to your favorite therapist!