4 Steps to Create Lasting Self-Worth
It does not seem like it is enough to simply be. We must constantly gain more, whether that is money, materials, or status. What this type of thinking leads to is a community of people whose self-worth is wrapped up in the external world.
If I attain a certain amount of money, then I will feel happy. Or once I land this job, then I will feel good about myself. This is terrible for our mental states and leaves us vulnerable to all sorts of outside interferences.
What is the solution you ask? To cultivate true self-worth, and in order to do so, we must first begin by explaining what self-worth really means.
What is Self-Worth?
As we begin to define self-worth, the word value comes to mind a lot. When we value an object, let’s use a car for example, we tend to think quite highly of it. The car becomes something we take care of, and view as having high quality, otherwise, we would not value it very much.
Or, we can use a job as another example. If we are in a job that is seen as having a high value, we will take care of all the ins and outs of our responsibilities. Nothing will be done to threaten the job since we believe it is necessary and meaningful in our life.
So, along those same lines, self-worth is defined as the amount of value and worth we place on ourselves and how favorably we see ourselves.
It is not abnormal to think about the amount of worth given to parts of our lives, such as a house, a job, pets, or hobbies. However, when it comes to ourselves the idea can sometimes be lost.
How much value we place on our own lives is not a mainstream thought engraved in most of us. I wonder why this is. It seems strange to overlook the area in which all other parts of life stem.
The very way we view ourselves makes such a huge impact on the other areas. Our thoughts, feelings, and actions are so closely tied to how we favor ourselves. So much so, that this should be one of the first skills really impressed into the younger population.
Why Don’t We Push Self-Worth?
I think that one of the reasons we do not push the need for understanding and improving self-worth is that it can feel kind of silly.
This takes two different forms, with the first one being, “why wouldn’t I think highly of myself?” That seems like a fair point. I mean, we all should like ourselves since we must deal with who we are every second of every day.
However, this is not the case. Many individuals hate who they are and cannot even stand to look themselves in the mirror for one moment. I find this so sad.
Knowing that true happiness and joy can only come from within, this type of disharmony will result in nothing but turmoil as the individual seeks external resources to try and find peace.
The other form consists of those who believe that working on self-worth is stupid and actually selfish.
Their view seems to be the more we focus on loving ourselves, the less we care and love other people. This viewpoint cannot be further from the truth. I believe that there can be no true love or deep consideration for others unless it comes from a place of love within ourselves.
If we do not see ourselves as having high value and worth, then how can we give anything positive to others?
From self-worth stems all kinds of positive emotions and beneficial actions. So, if you’re thinking that improving your own self-worth is selfish, you are sadly mistaken.
By building high self-worth within ourselves, we can then present the world with the most beautiful and positive version of us. This will translate into higher quality work, no matter what field we are in.
By cultivating self-worth, strength of mind is gained. Rather than seeking the external to build value within yourself, you will have built a strong foundation to fall back on.
Building this type of worth does not happen overnight and will take time. Moving in that direction, I think it will be beneficial to take a look at some of the signs of low self-worth.
"Knowing that true happiness and joy can only come from within, this type of disharmony will result in nothing but turmoil as the individual seeks external resources to try and find peace."
Signs of Low Self-Worth
Low self-worth has a major impact on an individual’s life. Almost every area is affected by this frame of mind, which makes it easier to see when someone lacks self-worth.
Identifying the signs of feeling like you have low value is the first step in working to improve. There are certain qualities that will be universal for all who do not see themselves in a favorable light.
If any one of these resonates with you, then it may be a sign that you have less self-worth than you previously believed.
This is an area I was very much guilty of falling into. I would constantly try to please those around me. As a result of this fear of conflict, I would always be appeasing to the wishes of others.
Instead of expressing my own opinion and point of view, I kept quiet and did my best to ensure the situation went smoothly.
Now, there is nothing wrong with avoiding conflict, especially since most disagreements are pointless. However, there is something wrong with never sticking up for your own views and beliefs.
If you find yourself never speaking your mind and always cowering to others, then you may be experiencing low self-worth.
When we do not see ourselves as having a high value, we immediately believe we need the approval and admiration of other people. To do so, we must be constantly trying to please them.
If you do not have a high sense of self-worth, there is little chance the way you speak to yourself will be positive.
Someone who deals with low value is riddled with thoughts of inferiority. Every situation is an opportunity for the mind to remind you how awful and unimportant you are.
Negative self-talk can take many forms, but always has one commonality. The desire and aim to tear us down.
The importance of internal dialogue is becoming more well known. It can have either a positive or negative impact on our lives, depending on what we are thinking. The lower our self-worth, the worse we will likely be speaking to ourselves.
Unable to Take Criticism
As an athlete or anyone else who is trying to improve themselves, feedback is necessary for growth. Without an objective outside view, our progress can often become stagnant.
We have a personal bias about ourselves which makes it difficult to truly examine our weaknesses. No matter what your profession is, knowing where you fall short is incredibly important in becoming better at what you do.
If you have low self-worth, any tiny bit of feedback could be seen as a personal attack. When you do not feel strongly about who you are, it is easy to get wrapped up in what you do.
As a result, any condemnation regarding the way you perform will be taken incredibly personally. This leaves no room for improvement since you can never take the criticism needed for further development.
Constantly Comparing Yourself to Others
If you have a low sense of self-worth, feeling good about yourself comes at an awful price. This price is based on the external world and leads to a constant pursuit, in which the finish line is never drawn.
I have mentioned how a person with low worth feels they must find their value in what they do. I fell prey to this a lot with baseball, where I would feel good about myself only if I performed well that day.
What this causes is a constant comparison of ourselves with those around us. Success in this way can only be measured off of other variables, so naturally, we are always looking at how others did.
Rather than focusing on ourselves and how we can improve, our sights are locked on our peers.
Another terrible form of thought which accompanies this is the wishing of others to fail. See, when we are comparing ourselves, it makes for an easy win if those around us failed miserably.
Rather than wish our teammates and peers success, we wish them doom, all for a boost to our own falsified self-worth.
"If you have a low sense of self-worth, feeling good about yourself comes at an awful price. This price is based on the external world and leads to a constant pursuit, in which the finish line is never drawn."
Poor Body Language
It can be surprising to learn how intertwined our bodies are with our minds. This comes greatly into play with self-worth.
If an individual feels they have low value, it becomes quite apparent in the way they carry themselves.
Shoulders are often seen slouched, their head is down as they walk, and in speaking with someone eye contact cannot be held.
If you do not believe me that our bodies have a large impact on how we feel, then start to walk with your chest and head up, I guarantee you will begin to feel more self-assured.
If any of these five signs resonate with you, then there is a good chance your self-worth is not where it should be. I used to deal with all of these on a regular basis.
Walking down the hallways in high school, my head was always down. My self-talk was atrocious, people-pleasing was a norm, and any bit of criticism really hurt me to the core.
I also constantly compared myself with teammates and friends, secretly hoping they would not perform well so I would look better. All in all, it was a terrible thing to deal with on a daily basis.
I am still continually working to improve my self-worth since it is an ongoing process. But now I can at least say I have gotten to a point where the benefits are greatly felt, which are all of equal significance.
Benefits of High Self-Worth
Having a high sense of self-worth generates a feeling of security and worthiness. It is a wonderful inner state of understanding in which you accept who you are and appreciate the value you bring to the world.
Having just explained the signs of low self-worth, I think it is easy to see how negative of an impact they can cause. On the other hand, when self-worth is high, there are many benefits that can be expected.
Hold True to Who You Are
As someone with high self-worth, you will be able to stick to who you are. This means holding onto your values, passions, purpose, and desires.
Rather than please everyone, there will be a general sense of security within yourself. As a result, you will not be afraid to stand up for what you believe.
Also, it takes a great sense of self-worth to chase a dream or pursue a goal. Knowing all the roadblocks that will present themselves along the way, and still moving forward takes a person who sees themselves as worthy of the outcome.
"Also, it takes a great sense of self-worth to chase a dream or pursue a goal. Knowing all the roadblocks that will present themselves along the way, and still moving forward takes a person who sees themselves as worthy of the outcome."
You Can Handle Disagreement
With high self-worth, you will no longer be afraid to stand up for yourself. This means confrontations that normally would have led to you yielding to the other person’s requests go differently.
Whenever a conflict arises, you are able to stand firm in your viewpoint. Also, by seeing ourselves as having value, we will do a better job at examining the other side of the argument.
Being able to argue your case and simultaneously understand why the person thinks the way they do is very powerful and a wonderful benefit of high self-worth.
You Chase Your Dreams
One of the most amazing journeys anyone can take is the one in which they chase their dreams.
However, in order to do so, we must not be afraid. Fear can come from many angles, one being fragile self-worth.
If a person views themselves as having low value, then any risks that go along with chasing a dream are too dangerous to their image.
Although, if you see yourself in a favorable light, you will be much more willing to take a chance and venture down a pathway towards the desired goal.
You Become More Decisive
The ability to make effective decisions efficiently is vital. Decisiveness is not likely to be found in someone with low self-worth. Since this person does not see themselves as capable, there will be great difficulty in making decisions.
A constant back and forth will take place, never settling on an option. In contrast, feeling like you are of high value leads to quick decision making.
You believe that you have the ability to make good decisions and so you can decide on a choice without a second thought.
"The ability to make effective decisions efficiently is vital. Decisiveness is not likely to be found in someone with low self-worth. Since this person does not see themselves as capable, there will be great difficulty in making decisions."
These four benefits are just some of the incredible effects high self-worth can have on your life. Once you understand the importance of building this skill, then the next question I am sure is on your mind relates to how self-worth can be developed?
Some people are lucky enough to have built it unknowingly throughout their childhood. This usually is due to parents who understood the need to engrain this strong sense of personal value within their kids.
However, most of us, for whatever reason, reach our teenage and adult years with less than optimal self-worth.
Luckily, it does not have to stay this way. There are certain steps that can be taken, which will be outlined in the remainder of this article, that you can use to catapult your self-worth to a whole new level.
Four Steps to Build Self-Worth
#1: Identify Negative Beliefs
When we hold onto the feeling that we have low value, there are many accompanying negative beliefs about ourselves that come along with it.
Think about it like this, if we think poorly about another person, there are attributes they possess which we despise. We believe that the individual displays certain characteristics that make us view them unfavorably.
Likewise, when we have low self-worth, there are many negative beliefs that we will think about ourselves. So, the first step in working towards higher self-worth is identifying what these beliefs are.
In order to understand ourselves better, we must become more mindful. This is a great practice that allows us to begin observing our thoughts, creating a disconnect between us and them.
Mindfulness meditation can be performed as a seated exercise, walking, running, or any other meditative activity. There is a great article on mindful.org that teaches how to practice mindfulness. If you would like to learn more, check their article out here.
Identifying our negative beliefs takes more than meditation once or twice a day, it requires constant observation and awareness to take place.
The best time to catch our mind filling up with negative thoughts is during the waking hours of the day when our attention is pulled in all directions. Here is when mindfulness is really important, otherwise the negative beliefs will continue to evade you.
One great way to capture these thoughts is to keep a little journal of all the negative views you have about yourself.
This can be on your phone for convenience or on paper. Begin by listing all the beliefs you currently hold about yourself.
Then, as you catch other ones creeping up during the day, jot them down. By putting them in writing, you take away some of their power.
It helps to see these written down because they cannot hide in the fog of our mind. On paper, it is clear to see just how hurtful and ridiculous the beliefs are. Once your negative beliefs are written, you will be in a great position for step two.
#2: Change Your Narrative
So now that you have your negative beliefs identified, it should be easy for you to see the current narrative you operate by.
We all have a narrative that runs our life, whether it is one that is helping or hurting us. If you suffer from low self-worth then it is guaranteed you are operating from a negative narrative.
It is filled with the poor beliefs you hold about yourself, which manifest in the form of negative self-talk. Every day you are running off thoughts and feelings that are telling you you’re not good enough.
The best way to change your narrative is through the utilization of affirmations and visualization. With affirmations, you want to target them towards the strongest negative beliefs you have.
For example, if you feel that you are stupid, repeat an affirmation which states, “I am intelligent and always learning.”
Another example would be if you have body image issues. You likely do not love what you see when you step in front of a mirror, so the best way to fight this would be an affirmation which states, “I love the way I look. I am proud of my body.”
Visualization is used in order for you to see yourself in a more favorable way.
Use some deep breathing to get into a relaxed state, close your eyes, and picture who and how you wish to be.
The image seen will be different for everyone but should be targeted towards your strongest negative beliefs, same as with affirmations.
Going off the examples above, you could visualize yourself giving a lecture or having people tell you how smart you are if you believe you are unintelligent.
For the individual with a poor body image, it would be beneficial for them to visualize themselves looking the way they would like.
Visualization is not easy to do because your mind will try and sneak in, telling you how stupid and ridiculous it is. However, both of these are amazing tools if you want to change your narrative and be one step closer to developing high self-worth.
"We all have a narrative that runs our life, whether it is one that is helping or hurting us. If you suffer from low self-worth then it is guaranteed you are operating from a negative narrative."
#3: Identify Your Strengths
Sometimes when we feel as if we have no value, it’s because we are looking in the wrong places.
If you were to judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, that fish would appear to have no worth. In turn, it would begin to feel terrible about itself, since it cannot climb, and so it believes it is unworthy.
Likewise, if you are constantly judging yourself on skills and traits that are not your strong points, then finding reasons to think poorly about who you are will be plentiful.
Instead, try identifying your strengths. It seems like a no brainer that we would focus on the things that come naturally to us. However, this is not the case.
Most of the time we try and force ourselves to be something we are not. What this does is result in constant judgment and critique, leading to an unfavorable view about ourselves and the ability we have to perform well.
Running your whole life off weaknesses is like trying to swim upstream in a heavy flowing river. There is little chance of success, and if it comes at all you will be left completely exhausted to appreciate any accomplishment.
Make a List
To build stronger self-worth, you want to identify the areas of life which are your strong suits.
Make a list of strong qualities you possess. Once this is comprised, try to focus your life the best you can around these areas, at least the majority.
By doing so, a lot of friction will be removed from your days, and you will no longer be judging yourself so much on your shortcomings.
I’m not saying completely forget about improving your weak areas, there is always room for growth. Rather, spend more time on your strengths, especially as you work on growing your sense of self-worth.
#4: Take on Small Challenges
A fantastic way to build self-worth is by seeing ourselves succeed. The beautiful part is the successes do not need to be large. Each one compounds on the other, and over time your sense of pride and belief in yourself will blossom.
That is where taking on small challenges comes into play. It’s easy to read the word “challenges” and get scared. You may think it sounds daunting, but I want you to realize that challenges do not have to be a huge feat.
Making a goal for yourself to say “Hello” to one stranger tomorrow is sufficient. The only rule for using small challenges to build your self-worth is that they must be targeted towards your weak areas and negative beliefs.
If you are someone who thinks poorly about your appearance, then going and signing up for a gym membership can be a good challenge to start with. Then, as that one is accomplished, set another goal for yourself to look in the mirror for a few minutes each day, complimenting the way you look.
If you believe you are unworthy to speak to people or share your opinions, then a great small challenge, to begin with, is making videos. The act of videoing yourself speaking and then watching it back is a wonderful way to boost your confidence and the way you feel about yourself.
This is one I have been using recently and it has worked wonders. I now feel more comfortable speaking about the topics I am passionate about and believe that my voice has value.
Start out with one challenge a day, and while this may seem a little difficult, I promise it will become habitual. Once you feel your self-worth begin to grow, you’ll want to push yourself even more.
All it takes is a few initial successes to make you hungry for more. What I like to do is set the goal or goals for myself each night before going to bed.
I write them down in my planner since the act of writing them down helps me remain accountable. Give it a try and see just how incredible small successes can be in improving your self-worth.
"A fantastic way to build self-worth is by seeing ourselves succeed. The beautiful part is the successes do not need to be large. Each one compounds on the other, and over time your sense of pride and belief in yourself will blossom."
A high level of self-worth results in many positive effects on our lives. However, not all of us are lucky enough to already have such a belief in ourselves. In that case, it is necessary to begin working towards improving this skill.
If you incorporate the four steps I have outlined here into your daily routine, I truly believe you will be on your way to building a strong sense of self-worth.
This is not an overnight fix, but rather a process that will produce lasting results.
Do you struggle with self-worth? What has your experience been with it? I would love to hear your stories, so please leave a comment below.
I hope this article was helpful and there were some techniques introduced that you can begin to incorporate into your life.
If you have any questions about self-worth or any other performance psychology topic, please feel free to reach out to me.
Thank you for reading, and I wish you the best of success in all you do.
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Eli is a sport psychology consultant and mental game coach who works 1-1 with athletes to help them improve their mental skills and overcome any mental barriers keeping them from performing their best. He has an M.S. in psychology and his mission is to help athletes and performers reach their goals through the use of sport psychology & mental training.eli's story
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