By Audrey Gothard
Ask anyone to define self-worth and you’ll receive endless answers, but there is one universal truth: Self-worth is complex. And there is always room for growth.
Our self-worth correlates directly with our mental health. If we don’t feel worthy of good things or look down on ourselves as a person, we lose sight of our unique purpose in this world. Our internal self talk becomes negative, and we lose hope about the possibility of things changing for the better. We then can suffer from serious mental health conditions, specifically anxiety and depression.
However you define self-worth, the trick to improving it is recognizing that it needs to come from within. So often we give others little pieces of ownership to our self-worth, but in doing so, we give them control of our worth and made ourselves dependent on them to decide how we view and feel about ourselves. Each day, then, our sense of ourself is out of our control, and we’re faced with the fluctuating opinions of others, which of course feels unpredictable and unstable.
We are the keepers of our own worth, and it needs to stay whole and intact, in us. You can build a respectful, nurturing home within yourself that you can return to, no matter what your outside life feels like.
Here are seven steps to help you come back to yourself and grow your self-worth from within.
Examine Your History with Self-Worth
Even though it may feel like your relationship with self-worth has been rocky since the beginning, it’s important to realize that we were not born into this world with instinctively negative self-worth. At some point in our life, different events, relationships, and experiences have taught us that our authentic selves are flawed in some way and thus altered the way we view our worth. The first step in building self worth is identifying what events those were. What about them altered your view of your worth? What messages did they send?
Identify the Person You Want to Become
Pause and think of what you want self-worth to look and feel like for you. What inner dialogue would you have? What feelings do you wish to experience in the future? How would you like to react to things? Next, see if you can pinpoint what stands in the way. Are you facing limiting beliefs, loud inner critiques, unprocessed experiences? Write these down if you can. The more you’re aware of the obstacles you face, the more direction you’ll have in moving forward.
Give Yourself Credit
When we overcome difficulty, we often quickly move on and forget to give ourselves credit for what we’ve overcome. We might have forgotten many obstacles that we’ve successfully overcome throughout our lifetime. A useful way to increase our feelings of worth can be to reflect on these obstacles—which at one time felt permanent and ever-defeating—that we overcame and yet now occupy only a small snippet of our memory. Identifying the things you have persevered through can help to remind you of your resiliency, strength, and capabilities. Factor these into your views of yourself and know that these current hardships are no exception to the rule.
Identify and Challenge Negative Thought Patterns
An important element when it comes to self-worth is understanding that we are not our thoughts; we are the keepers of our mind, whose job is to create thoughts. With this being said, not all of our thoughts are inherently true. Our brain may be trying to protect us, help us process elements of life, or simply occupy itself. Learning to create space between ourselves and our thoughts can be tricky, but doing so can go far in decreasing the power our thoughts have over us. Here are some common thought patterns that may keep us stuck in self-limiting beliefs:
- All or nothing thinking: I’ve been sad for so long, I’ll never be happy.
- Mistaking feelings for facts: If I am experiencing feelings of guilt, it must mean I am a bad person.
- Discounting the Positive: Anyone could’ve completed this job.
- Personalization: My parents must be fighting because I’m not enough to keep them calm.
- “Should” statements: I should have worked out this morning to lose weight and be more attractive.
Of course, learning to spot and reframe these negative thought patterns is difficult, and it can be critical to see a counselor who can help you identify ways these thought patterns appear in your life and learn to challenge them together.
Examine Your Relationships
Our relationships teach us how we should view and treat ourselves. Some relationships can reinforce negative self-views. Notice how you feel during and after your social interactions with the people in your life. If you consistently experience heavy emotions after being with certain people, it may be time to revise elements of the relationship and create boundaries. You deserve to spend your time with people who make you feel happy.
Forgiveness is a powerful tool…particularly when you can forgive yourself! It is common to find ourselves fixated on things we have done in the past that we wish we could change. Shame, guilt, and frustration can lead us to feeling entirely stuck. Forgive yourself for doing the best you could with what you knew at the time. Forgive yourself even when you didn’t do the best you could. Forgiveness allows us to release harmful energy and allows space for new experiences. If you cannot change it, you must forgive yourself for it. Allow yourself space to be a human. No human has something they wished they couldn’t change. You can learn from it and implement change from it, but holding onto self-resentments keeps your healing journey on pause. Speak to yourself the way you would a friend. Would you be speaking to them in the same manner you speak to yourself?
See a Counselor
All of these changes are easier said than done. Counseling can be a valuable tool to help you reconnect with yourself, conquer barriers, and build greater feelings of self-worth. You are not alone in your experiences, and it’s important for you to know and feel that. Counseling can be a helpful reminder that you are on track, there is hope, and you are deserving of seeing all that you offer to this world.