What is self worth and why does it seem to affect everything?

Most people I meet are struggling with low self worth in one way or another.


You may be wondering why you're forever struggling to motivate yourself and stick to what you're saying you're going to do. You might be battling self criticism and overthinking on a daily basis. You're probably wishing things could be even just a little bit easier.


If this is the case, it's likely you have a problem with low self worth.


I've spent years battling with my own self worth so I know what it's like. It can be draining and so frustrating.


But once you get to know a bit more about self worth, you can start to make changes that have a long-lasting effect.


I'm here to help! In this blog post, I'm going to break down what self worth is, why we struggle with it and where to get started if you want things to change.


how to build a sense of self worth

So... what actually is self worth?


Let's start with the official stuff. Merriam-Webster defines self worth as...


a sense of one's own value as a human being

I think this is generally how most people would define it. However, I want to make an important distinction. The problem is not with your actual worth. You are worthy. There is nothing you have to do in order to be worthy.


It's natural to want to attach conditions to it. You might be telling yourself I'll be worthy once X happens (and replace X with when I get a new job or when I lose weight etc).


But we are all born inherently worthy. The problem is the way we view our self worth. The way that we assess our own value.


How we tend to assess self worth vs. what it actually is


I find that most people attach their worth to external achievements and validations.


It's also worth noting that these conditions we subconsciously attach are rarely our own ideas. We take in messages from society about what it means to be worthy. This often involves being attractive, well-paid, owning your own home and being part of the traditional, nuclear family.


It's easy to see why so many of us feel like we fall short of being worthy if this is our take on it. To read more on these misleading attachments, check out Stephanie Jade Wong's article on 13 Things That Don't Determine Your Self Worth.


Self worth is inherent value.


It's there when we wake up and it's there when we go to sleep, no matter what we do with our day. It comes from within and cannot be determined by things that are external to us.


We might not always feel worthy, but that doesn't mean we aren't worthy.


I encourage you to start making this distinction. Instead of saying to yourself "I'm not enough" in whatever particular style your inner critic loves to pipe up with, start recognising "I'm feeling like I'm not enough right now".


This simple shift can start making things feel less hopeless.


Why is self worth important?


You might have started to realise that self worth can play a huge role in our lives and what we feel capable of.


If you think you have low self worth and mistakenly assess that you don't offer a lot of value, this will show up in your everyday life.


Everyone is different but the key effects I've seen in my clients are:

  • Constantly second guessing their actions

  • An unbearable barrage of self criticism that doesn't ever switch off

  • Not going after what they really want in life

  • People pleasing as they think that's the only way to add value to their relationships

  • Feeling firmly stuck within their comfort zone

  • Sabotaging themselves when things start to improve

  • Following the crowd even if it doesn't make them happy

And that's just to name a very select few!


Low self worth is often at the root of so many problems that affect our mental wellbeing. In extreme cases, it can contribute to chronic and severe mental health issues.


It always baffles (and enrages) me as to why the people in charge aren't trying to tackle this unworthiness epidemic - but that's a whole other blog post.


Feeling unworthy is such a common problem. It's also important to mention - it's not your fault you feel this way. It's not as if you woke up and decided to be a d*ck to yourself.


However, it is your responsibility to tackle it.


Self worth coaching can help with this - read this post to find out more.


What contributes to low self worth?


As with most things, low self worth often starts in your childhood.


Unfortunately, many parents simply don't know how to cultivate a sense of self worth in their children. If you think about early experiences, it's all about milestones and achievements.


Many parents want their children to do well but they're not quite sure how to go about it.


We also haven't been aware of the importance of social and emotional skills until very recently. Teachers and parents are still unequipped to teach kids how to handle life and that external achievements don't determine their value.


Once we get to adulthood, we start to experience other pressures of life - finding a job, keeping a roof over our head, and starting a family. We're often coasting through life without assessing how we actually feel about our life.


And one thing that keeps low self worth in business is shame. We tell ourselves that we're the only one feeling this way and we can't possibly share our thoughts with others as it will only make us feel worse.


Tackling your self image then becomes a secretive process.


You order self help books online because you can't bear the embarrassment of buying them in public. You scroll through social media to see everyone happily getting on with life and try to re-create the charade yourself.


You try everything except admitting to yourself (never mind anyone else) that you don't feel worthy, and probably never have.


You can start to see how being unable to see our worth becomes a vicious cycle that society doesn't prompt us to recognise and change. We're all in on it together in a very depressing way.


What does having a sense of self worth look like?


Let's talk about the other side of the coin and what can be possible before you close this article and cry into a tub of Ben & Jerry's while listening to Taylor Swift (no judgement here - I've always been a sad playlist to make me feel sadder kinda gal!).


It's important to note that all of this is a sliding scale. We're not separated into two camps - those who have a sense of their worth and those who do not.


At different times in our lives and in different circumstances, our sense of worth will fluctuate and this is totally normal. Perhaps you can tap into your worth more easily when at home with your family, but it's more difficult when you're delivering a presentation at work.


What I'd love for you to aim for is feeling a sense of worth no matter what's going on in your life.


Now I'm not talking about loving yourself 24/7 each and every day, sadly that's simply not realistic.


I'm talking about being able to navigate through your struggles and difficult emotions and knowing "I'm going to be okay".


Having a sense of self worth is knowing who you are, beyond all the labels and the shiny stuff on the outside. Remember what we talked about a few paragraphs ago? Yeah, those things don't actually influence your worth.


Start to think about who you are as a person and what you value about yourself.


Amy Morin talks about switching up your measuring stick when it comes to your self worth in this article. She advises using factors that are within your control and recognising who you are at your core.


This can be a pretty abstract concept if you've never come across it before. Having a sense of self worth looks different to all of us, but some of the common themes are:

  • Knowing that your abilities in your profession, hobby or social life don't determine your value

  • Feeling a sense of wholeness no matter what's going on in your life

  • Committing to your goals, dreams and desires

  • Being able to prioritise your own needs and look after yourself

  • Having the knowledge that results don't equal value or worth

  • Trying new things and trusting that you'll be okay even if it doesn't turn out how you hoped it would

It's important to note that it's unlikely these will be true for us all the time. It's normal to have wobbles.


I've been working on my self worth, on and off, for close to a decade now and I still have days where I blame myself for not getting enough done or doing as well as I wanted to.


The difference is that I remind myself that feeling this way doesn't affect my worth. Some days it's more difficult than others, but it is possible to feel whole and at peace with yourself on more days than you don't.


Why is self development important?


Self development is my catch-all phrase for any kind of work you're doing on yourself. It can involve self help books, therapy, coaching, healing, journaling, inspirational videos or podcasts or all of the above.


It's something I've invested a lot of time (and money) in and I support all of my clients with their self development.


You often hear motivational speakers talks about the importance of mindset and personal growth when it comes to leadership or business.


I'm not as interested in that side of it, but of course, we know it's true that it becomes easier to lead or make sales when you're not telling yourself you're not good enough all day.


I believe you deserve to feel worthy and unfortunately, the world doesn't help us spontaneously feel good about ourselves.


We have to put in some work. It's likely that the vicious cycle of low self worth you're experiencing didn't happen overnight, therefore it won't disappear overnight.


Self development is how you put things into practice. You've made a great start by reading this blog!


But nothing will change if you don't start to apply what's been discussed to your everyday life. Knowing something and doing it are two very different things - annoying I know.


Spending time on your growth and development is an investment worth making. It doesn't have to be a huge amount of time each day, but what I will say is aim for little and often.


Self development isn't like Amazon Prime - you can't journal one day and have your self worth be boosted the next day.


But the more you practice, the more those effects will add up. And months or years down the line, you'll start to forget what it was like to feel so unworthy. I've experienced it and it's exactly what I help my clients with.


I want that for you too!

 

So there's a (not so) short whistlestop tour of what self worth is and why it matters.


It's a lot of information to take in, so don't expect yourself to act on it all straight away. Pick one area to focus on and start there.


If you want more in-depth strategies about how to build your self worth and confidence, you can check out this blog post.


If you want my support as your coach, you can check out my coaching programme here.

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