“The ignorant are cock sure and the intelligent are full of doubt.”George Bernard Shaw
When struggling with uncertainty around how we see ourselves changes and we frequently question ourselves whether we are doing good enough for all the uncertainties that might come up. We constantly doubt about decisions and choices we made or resort to feeling that may be we are just not good enough. When self-doubt takes us over, we don’t have a stable sense of what we are worth and become less confident in ourselves. This kind of self-doubt leads to moments of negative self-worth. And such moments of negative self-worth are more experienced by highly intelligent and people with most knowledge, because they constantly fail to meet their own idealised standards. It is important to understand that no matter how intelligent or talented we may be- to the degree we doubt our worthiness, we tend to sabotage our efforts and undermine our efficiency in achieving our goals or getting things done.
When we don’t have a solid grasp on our innate worth, others’ opinions tend to have more influence on us no matter how inaccurate they may be. This leads to lower self-confidence and a need for seeking praise or make choices based on what everyone else does rather than what you want or believe in. This in turn leads to stressing over every single decision we make and how things might go wrong. This could be about a decision we make, a problem we solve or things we want to accomplish.
It is essential to understand How you value yourself? This evaluation has a greater impact on the choices you make in moments of self-doubt and uncertainty. Because most of the choices we make are based on our level of worthiness, when you lack proper sense of self, you don’t pursue meaningful goals or live to your true potential and also there is less drive to prioritise yourself and nurture self-care. You feel like a tree without roots, insecure, unstable, and demoralised instead of being confident. With low self-worth, you cannot take a stand to get your needs fulfilled and continue to strive to meet your goals personally as well as professionally.
So, what exactly is Self-worth?
Our sense of self is our overall sense of value, worth and deservedness. Only to the degree that you appreciate your worthiness that will you be ever open up to opportunities and possibilities. Although your self-esteem is influenced by your self-worth, they are not same. Self-worth is the belief that you are inherently worthy as deserving, where as self-esteem is often associated with self-confidence and built upon the sources that you don’t have control on like for instance, It is derived from what you think others think of you based on your results and actions or feeling good about yourself, your appearance, or your intention abilities. In a way, your self-esteem is subjective to your appearance, abilities and situation that can shift with changing opinions and circumstances. Whereas your sense of self-worth is recognising that you are greater than all of those things and a deep knowing that you are of value, that you are loveable and of incomprehensible worth. It is unchanging because it’s a direct measure of how you value and regard yourself and is not dependent on external factors or circumstances.
Self-worth & Productivity
“Until you value yourself, you won’t value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it. ”– M. Scott Peck
Those of us with positive sense of self-worth are less likely to get caught up in unhelpful and self-destructive habits. This is because your sense of deservedness shapes your life by creating tendencies that impact your life choices. Whether you want to choose self-growth or want to remain in your comfort zone/ take risks or to struggle and cave into difficulties/rise above them all depends on your perceived worth of yourself, either positive or negative. Because we choose or attract into our life those things, people and experiences we believe we deserve, when you experience moments of negative self-worth or feel unworthy and undeserving, you tend to make limiting, unhelpful or sometimes self-destructive choices and hold yourself back from seizing opportunities.
When we are experiencing moments of negative self-worth, our feelings, weaknesses and fears further manifest into anxiety or depression or we express them in unhealthy way through anger, aggression or dysfunction. We forget how to trust ourselves and rely on our own beliefs and judgments. Instead we look to others and struggle to become someone else who meets their approval.
Some even get stuck in unhealthy personal or professional relationships and are afraid to be themselves and stand up for what they believe because of their long-term perceived negative self-worth. When you can’t acknowledge your own worth, you are always seeking someone who will acknowledge it. This leads to a constant need to be perfect, performing better and ultimately results in stress and burnout. When you are stressed, you tend to forget that you have better choices and fall into the loop of unproductive choices or unhelpful patterns of behaviour or habits.
What determines your self-worth?and What lowers your sense of worth?
Your innate worth can never be lowered or improved or compromised by external factors like other people or circumstances. The problem is not your actual worth, but your perceived worth. In other words, your degree of self-worth is not determined by whether you are being liked, your appearance, being perfect or by other external factors, but rather is determined by your own estimate of your intrinsic value and your faith in your abilities in making positive choices and depends mostly on how much you feel deserving of happiness and health irrespective of the difficulties you face. Also it is determined by how much you can accept yourself of your flaws, weaknesses and limitations.
Negative self-worth is your inner feeling of how you perceive your value as a person. It often comes from the past and the experiences that you have had in your growing years, in work or in relationships. Here are some reasons why we experience negative self-worth.
•Upbringing: Many times, particularly when we are young, our feelings about ourselves are heavily influenced by how others feel about and treat us. If you are raised by overly critical parents who constantly told you that you are not good enough or natured by schools that judge students heavily on their grades or the way you are treated by peers, you might have already internalized the habit of questioning your worth since you were a child. Not being respected or valued for your thoughts and feelings can lead to wrong perception of your worth.
•External validation: This constant need to seek for approval from others becomes a habit that can easily carry on into adulthood interfering with your ability to be confident in getting things done on your own. Basing your worth on external validation and achievements leads to a cycle of devaluing yourself and you feel poorly and judge yourself to be inferior to others. Because when you stop seeking it, you will end up feeling worthless , unneeded or unloved.
•Comparisons: In this overwhelming world of competition and social connectivity, it is very easy to compare yourself with others and resort to thinking that you are not doing just as great as they are. A little bit of comparison is a good practice when it comes to improving yourself, but too much of it when it comes to what they have and you lack, will result in feelings of low self-worth.
• Perfectionism: Wanting to perfect things in order to feel worthy. In moments of self-doubt, you become cynical about the value of what you do in order to constantly having to perfect things. Most of us think we need to be perfect and successful in order to have value and so we base our worth on what others say or outside circumstances.
•Negative self-talk: When we want to protect ourselves from what we have conditioned to fear like fear of rejection or failure and abandonment from others, we tend to become overly self-critical, fixating on our flaws and failures that results in developing a harsh inner-critic.
•People-pleasing : Habit of prioritising others’ opinions above your own or constantly trying to please and appease others to protect yourself from being vulnerable also leads to lack of assertiveness, self-care and self-compassion and compromise on your values and needs.
•Lack of personal boundaries: This leads to overwound or busyness. Saying ‘yes’ to the things that don’t help you, resorting to overworking or work excess in order to feel valued or to receive praise or rewards. You tend to keep yourself busy in a way to feel important and needed when you are cynical about the value of what you do.
So what can you do to overcome moments of negative self-worth and build more stable sense of self?
Coming to appreciate your sense of self can improve your circumstances by changing the choices you make and the actions you take. Even if you are working in a highly competitive and unsupportive environment, you can shift your self-perception and priorities to survive and thrive. Discovering your self worth and living from the place of stronger self allows you to make more constructive choices. Since you can find your self-worth with-in and not with-out, become aware of it through self-reflection or reflecting on your level of worthiness and on the moments you feel negative about your self-worth. Here is how to build a stronger sense of self.
“Never measure your self-worth by what other people think you should have become.” -Anonymous
You can overcome moments of negative self-worth from a place of awareness. Develop awareness of your strengths, passions and weaknesses. Know what determines your self-worth by asking yourself; What you have that of real value? Don’t measure your value based on external circumstances. Where do I need to improve? Where do I struggle ? What fears hold me back often? What mistakes do I intend to make? Where do I tend to depend on external validation? What abilities do I have? What are my strengths? By having a true measure of your true passions, meaningful relationships and creative endeavours, you can live with more authenticity and take risks to overcome negative self-worth.
Quit being a people-pleaser
When you live as though other people’s opinion matter more than your own, you will never be enough. Trying to please others is running and running where you get no where. It’s only exhausting and stresses you out. Realise that you can’t please everyone and you can’t even please one person all the time. Your opinion should matter to you more than anyone else’s and don’t let others determine your worth. Take personal responsibility to reclaim your worth and choose to respond to events and circumstances of your life based on your internal resources and your resourcefulness.
Saying ‘yes’ to too many things to please others is neglecting your priorities and sometimes this can be quite overwhelming and counterproductive. Set strong personal boundaries by saying ‘no’ to the people, activities and engagements that you do not like to be a part of. When you start taking personal responsibility, you will no longer seek external validation or rely on others to make decisions for you.
Identify triggers of negative self-worth
Clear your mind and think of any area of your life where you are denying your worth. In what situations or around which people or in what circumstances? What is one way you can improve your sense of self? Tune into your true emotions to recognise how you truly feel about a given situation by being mindful of it.
Consider reflecting on the following questions. Do you feel a sense of anxiety and stress around others? Do you always prioritise others’ needs above your own? Do you struggle to set strong personal boundaries? Do you feel pressured to be a certain way to meet others expectations? Do you express yourself freely or you hide what you think because you are afraid of the reaction of others? Does the situation you are in make you feel negative inside? What flawed beliefs you carry about yourself? Do you repress your emotions as a way of keeping yourself likeable in the eyes of others? Knowing what triggers your negative perception of your self-worth, you can choose to respond positively to such situations in face of challenges or self-doubt.
Turn to positive self-talk
What we tell ourselves affects our self-worth. Your inner critic is the voice that fears the disapproval of others and grows from early experiences in life. The critic is fed by negative messages society sends you about who you need to be in order to be worthy. The critic can be especially loud when experiencing moments of negative self-worth. Replace the things your negative self-critic says to more helpful things that can help you to achieve more of what you want. The issue is believing what your inner-critic says to you and acting on its advice. If you are constantly looking for information that confirms you are not good enough- you will find it.
Instead Focus your attention on things you are doing well or on your achievements. Your worth is not dependent upon being perfect. Acknowledge that imperfection is a part of the human in training. We all make mistakes as part of our growth and learning. So be willing to forgive yourself and stop judging your mistakes so harshly to stop yourself from believing or engaging with your inner critic.
“Self-compassion is simply giving the same kindness to ourselves that we would give to others.” -Christopher Germer
Self-care is an essential part of our self-worth. Self-compassion is the kindness towards self, which entails being tolerant, supportive and understanding. Talk to yourself in a positive way rather than harshly judging for your shortcomings. Looking after your inherent needs, taking out time for your passions or creative expressions helps in building a stronger sense of self-worth. Some people are stuck in toxic relationships be it personal or professional as they do not respect themselves enough to realise they deserve better. Too many become complacent in their aspects and stop striving for greater things. To overcome this, practice unconditional acceptance of self and prioritise yourself to make better choices or choose the ones that make you happy and motivate you to grow. When we are self-compassionate, we are less likely to depend on others to validate ourselves and also experience less anxiety and fear of failure.
What does self-worth mean to you? And what determines your level of worthiness or deservedness?
Do you have times when you feel you are just worthless?
Are you a person of authenticity or are you striving to be a kind of person others expect you to be?
Do you let external things define your self-worth?
What are you self-critical about?
Are you fearful of others reactions?
What unhealthy patterns of behaviour you keep repeating?
Are you caring and loving yourself as you would a loved one?
Do you live in a way consistent with what matters to you?
We all get confident in right situations, but struggle with self-doubt in uncertain or difficult situations. The moments of uncertainty and self-doubt is something we all face in our journey towards pursuing our goals. That is where your self-worth becomes more important to rely upon.
Build a stronger sense of self by reflecting on the above strategies and take the necessary steps to increase trust in yourself. Be patient in your efforts to overcome moments of self-doubt and not to allow external circumstances to alter your self-worth. Practice accepting yourself unconditionally without judgment or excuses so not to allow outside forces to define your worth. Reclaim your worth to empower your daily decisions and actions in a way that will help you achieve your desired outcomes.