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How Do We Find Self Worth?

A teenager with curly black hair and dark eyes wearing a bright yellow t-shirt and smiling against a worn gray wooden wall

The word "worth" written on a black chalk board in white chalk.

The first question to ask ourselves is: where do we get our sense of worth?

If we get our sense of worth from the approval of others, our worth will be relative to the opinions of others and we will strive to live up to their values and standards. Who made other people the authority on our worth? Also, we sometimes anticipate or assume what other people think, which is often faulty (i.e. what we think others think is not always true).

If we get our sense of worth from an outward accomplishment (like securing a well-paying job or finishing a degree program) we base our worth on a definitive action that has a limit (for instance, formal education only goes so far and a job can be terminated or changed). Naturally, when that course of action comes to an end or changes, we look for the next accomplishment to replace it. We may never feel like enough if our worth is based on what we do.

If we get our sense of worth from self-assessment (usually on a continuum of good and bad) we subject ourselves to personal judgment, which is often unbalanced. For instance, if we have a low sense of worth, we tend to put a lot more weight on qualities in ourselves we consider “bad” and very little weight on characteristics we consider “good.” If and when we make a mistake or fall short somehow, we internalize the behavior (i.e. I made a mistake, therefore, I am a failure). Our feelings tend to be internalized as absolute truths. We may even feel great discomfort questioning our self-perception or attempting to see ourselves differently. Our sense of worth can be suffocated under these judgments.

Defining Our Own Self Worth

So, if we don’t get our worth from what other people think, our outward accomplishments, or what we think about ourselves, what is the other option? The other option is that we have inherent worth. We are born worthy and we die worthy. We cannot add to this worth nor can it be diminished. Every human being, then, is worthy. This is the only way our worth is untouched. Other people may think and say what they want. We may have many outward accomplishments or very few. We may think or feel a certain way about ourselves. But that worth remains unchanged.

If we believe we are inherently worthy, we have reason to treat ourselves and other people well no matter what. We will be free from judgment, and in that freedom, we will naturally expand and grow.

A New Mindset

To do this, we have to let go of the way we have been thinking. We have to make a conscious effort to step back from the harsh judgments, the unrealistic expectations, the guilting and shaming, and nursing the low moods that come along with the self-deprecating thinking. We do this gently and with compassion. We don’t beat ourselves up more when we find this process difficult. We simply notice it, take a deep breath, and continue to turn toward ourselves with care and kindness.

The negative thinking might feel like a facet on full blast hot at first. While we turn the heat down through being gentle and compassionate, we can also bring in a refreshing flow of cool water  through other means, like guided meditation, physical movement, inspirational material (books, movies, music, prayer, etc.), positive and supportive people, life-affirming activities…anything that will aid in healing our mind, heart, and body. We will intentionally immerse ourselves in healing. The more we can do this, the more resilient we make ourselves to negativity, the less time we spend nurturing low-self worth, and the more open we become to opportunities for growth and feeling good.

Deciding to Be Well

The task then begins with a decision to do whatever it takes to be well. We will likely have to make this decision many times throughout the journey. We’ve had years to repeat negative thinking and reinforcing feelings of low self-worth, so it’s going to take effort to change. Yet, it is definitely possible, and every moment is an opportunity to choose kindness, to let go of the inner critic. Decisions are powerful. They set healing into motion, and our body and mind will respond. That part of us, no matter how small or fragile that wants to be well, perks up and prepares itself to be strengthened.

Are you willing to begin valuing yourself?