Dictionary.com defines self worth as “the sense of one’s own value or worth as a person”. Self worth and self esteem are two different things even though they are typically seen as the same thing. Self worth is actually your value as a person, outside of how people see you and not comparing yourself to others.
According to this article on psychalive.org “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 (including academic performance, appearance and approval from others) reported more stress, anger, academic problems and relationship conflicts.”
In order to build self worth you need stop comparing yourself to other people and challenge your inner critic. It’s a process, one that I struggle with because I am very critical of myself, and have been since I was a child. Since my diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis, it has gotten worse. My inner voice tells me I should be a better wife, a better mother, a better keeper of the house. I should be thinner like all the images women are bombarded with on a daily basis on television, magazine, billboards and the internet. Most of the things I have issues with are actually self esteem but it also impacts what I believe to be my self worth.
Dr. Kristin Neff states “A true sense of self-worth can also be fostered by practicing self-compassion. Self-compassion is the practice of treating yourself with the same kindness and compassion as you would treat a friend”. Building self worth can involve taking part in activities that you feel are important, volunteering can help change the way you value yourself. Taking part in activities and interests that you enjoy and find meaningful can help think more positively about yourself.
Self esteem is influenced by self worth but is based purely on actions and in comparison to others. Self worth is internal that comes from self love and acceptance of yourself as a person and does not change with people’s opinions of you.
This blog states : “To have a high level of self-worth means having a favorable opinion or estimate of yourself. It means having unshakable faith in yourself and in your ability to follow through and get things done. Having a high degree of self-worth means feeling worthy of good things. It means feeling deserving of happiness, health, wealth, success, and love — irrespective of the difficulties you face, the disappointments you experience, or of people’s opinions. In a word, it’s unflinching.”
So how can we change how we perceive our self worth? Stop talking down about yourself, stop making light of your talents. Instead of belittling yourself you can be humble but perhaps instead of shrugging off compliments, accept them graciously. You don’t have to be arrogant to know your value as a person. Practice self love, not by constantly saying how great you are but seeing yourself as you would see a good friend. You would never tell a friend how terrible they are or criticize their every decision and action.
From positivepsychology.com, the article notes steps to increase your self worth, the first being “Remind yourself that your bank account, job title, attractiveness, and social media following have nothing to do with how valuable or worthy a person you are.” The second is “Whenever you notice your inner critic start to fire up with the criticisms, make her pause for a moment. Ask yourself whether she has any basis in fact, whether she’s being kind or not, and whether what she’s telling you is something you need to know.”
Once you value yourself as a person, it is much easier to build up your self esteem. The reason you cannot solely depend on self esteem according to Dr. Christina Hibbert is “When we focus on building self-esteem, we work on being better at this or that—at losing weight, becoming healthier, thinking more positively, developing healthy personality traits. And all of these things are good. But what happens when we place our entire value in them? What happens when those “good” things change or come crumbling down? Our value crumbles right along with it. ”
So as I read these articles, and read books by Brené Brown I know that I need to work on both my self worth and my self esteem, but self worth is the first step towards increasing my self esteem.
What do you do to value yourself?
What is Self-Worth and How Do We Increase it? (Incl. 4 Worksheets)