How would you describe your Self-Worth? There are several terms commonly used to describe Self-Worth: Self-Esteem, Self- Respect, Self-Confidence, even at times, Ego. Depending on how you think of your own Self- Worth, you are likely to react differently.
According to the definition in Webster’s Dictionary: Self-Worth is: a feeling that you are a good person who deserves to be treated with respect. Self-Worth is the opinion you have about yourself and the value you place on yourself.
There are many ways for a person to value themselves and assess their worth as a human being, and some of these are more psychologically beneficial than others. For example, see: https://www.psychalive.org/self-worth/
Think for a moment on how you arrive at your own definition. What are the factors you base your own personal conclusion on? (Rate the following in order of importance):
- How smart I am
- How others think of me (based on words, behaviors, perceptions)
- Family members
- Romantic relationships
- How successful I am (at work, at home, with friends, etc.)
- How I see myself in comparison to others
- Social Media connections
- How I feel about myself independent of above influences
In other words, to what extent do you identify your self-worth from external influences, and to what extent does your self-worth come from who you are as opposed to what you do? Studies now show that basing one’s self-worth on external factors is actually harmful to one’s mental health. One study at the University of Michigan found that college students who base their self-worth on external sources reported more stress, anger, academic problems and relationship conflicts. The same study found that students who based their self-worth on internal sources, not only felt better, they also received higher grades and were less likely to use drugs and alcohol or to develop eating disorders.
You are a unique individual. While you may have many traits in common with others, there is no one else exactly like you. For many, there is an internal struggle between wanting to be an “original” or special individual and the desire to be more like others, in order to feel connected. Seeing yourself as unique can feel lonely. It also requires you to be willing to engage in a significant exploration of your self-awareness.
Truly understanding your Self is challenging. You need to be able to separate the influences others have on your concept of who you are, the early and subsequent messages that have taken up residence in your head and heart, and your own true feelings about your value. This can be an ongoing or regularly occurring struggle, especially when faced with choices you need to make that have important consequences. It is often difficult to separate the voices that run like tape recordings in your head, with no easy way to switch them off and allow your own natural instincts to prevail – and to trust them.
Your lack of awareness of your True Self has many consequences. In addition to some of the effects described in the study of college students (above), It affects your confidence in taking action, sticking to your opinions or beliefs, and maintaining healthy and productive relationships whether at work, at home, or in your friendships. When you base your self-worth on the opinions or valuations from others, you will come across as less authentic, and less trustworthy.
As human beings, we all are subject to times of low self-esteem, because being human means being imperfect. It is how we manage those times that affects our relationships, and our feelings about ourselves. True self-awareness is the key that makes the difference.
There are many examples of how a person’s low self-esteem shows up in their actions. When you are aware of feeling less confident, less comfortable with yourself, you can process the feelings internally and not inflict them on others. Some ways the discomfort shows up:
- Needing to be “right”
- Needing to control people or situations
- Being the “expert” or having more knowledge than others
- Putting others down—being judgmental of others
- Reacting defensively to others’ comments
- Difficulty in acknowledging other’s accomplishments
- Putting yourself down in your interactions with others
- Regularly apologizing even when you have done nothing wrong
- Constant focus on self rather than others
You can see how these examples can negatively affect your relationship with others. You may be able to think of other ways low self-esteem shows up. Feel free to add your own examples that you notice in others — or yourself.
An important step to increase your self-awareness is to write down your thoughts when you are feeling uncomfortable or unsure of yourself, as soon as you are able. Pay attention to the thoughts that are negative or judgmental. These thoughts are not coming from your own true self. Writing them down helps you see this more clearly. Next write down a thought that is more positive or constructive. Doing this regularly is a way to empower yourself.
True self-awareness results in self-respect, pride in your abilities, faith in yourself, dignity, morale, self-confidence, and self-assurance. It allows you to be objective about yourself and your actions towards others, without judgment. If you find yourself being critical or judgmental about your thoughts or actions, recognize it is coming from external voices that reside in your head. When you are trusting your Authentic Self, you can evaluate your thoughts and feelings in a neutral or impartial way and therefore will be able to make choices that will have the best outcomes.
If you’d like a worksheet to help with this, and some additional tips, send me an email. Your comments on this subject are also appreciated.
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