Self-worth is knowing that you are exactly right for this world, just as you are. There is no fixing because you are already whole. Difficulties are merely opportunities for growth and not evidence that you are flawed. And you feel secure and confident because no matter what happens you can trust yourself to learn and grow.
What would that be like for you?
It is possible. Here’s how.
Cultivating self-worth begins with recognizing when it is under siege. While there is nothing wrong with having some doubts in life, chronic self-doubt can lead to the belief that you are not worthy. You may have noticed that self-doubt is like a guerilla soldier: light-footed, swift and upon you before you realize it is there. If you want to see it clearly, you must look at your choices and how you respond to stressors.
- Working yourself into a frenzy trying harder and faster to get things right?
- Interpreting your child’s grades as a reflection of your parenting skills?
- Staying in relationships that are not good for you?
- Putting off vacations, denying yourself the pleasure of reading a book on the weekend—or doing what you have always wanted to do?
- In a battle with your weight? Feeling as if you are not thin enough—not fit enough—not enough?
Brené Brown refers to this pattern as the “hustle for worthiness”. She is referring to the habit of doing, fretting and perfectionistic thinking that leads us away from the love and acceptance we crave.
The good news is that whatever gets you into hustle mode is based on a false belief.
Can a Feeling of Low Self-worth Be a False Belief?
The truth is that you are not inferior. The harsh inner critic that accompanies self-doubt is not you. It is merely a habit of mind you learned as a child to cope with feelings of vulnerability. This voice may feel real and compelling, but its message is simply a belief—not evidence that you are flawed. Knowing this difference and taking full responsibility for the quality of your inner dialogue are the first steps in building your self-worth. These steps will lead to more ease, resilience and fulfillment.
So How Do You Change Your Belief?
Individually, each of the following 6 steps is powerful. Together, they are transformational. Apply them. It takes time, but the results will dramatically improve the quality of your life.
6 Steps to Cultivating Self-worth
1. Commit to Total Self-acceptance
Accept everything you are experiencing inside without judgment. Rather than waging a campaign against your stories and false beliefs, surrender to the fact that they are already here. Just notice them lovingly and objectively. You can say to them, “Oh, hello again.” This may seem counterintuitive, but pushing the negative inner messages away will only make them louder. When you open yourself to these stories, you will be denying them their emotional charge. They will eventually recede into the background, creating space for positivity, new experiences and different perspectives. You will feel more empowered too because you will no longer be a victim to your inner experience.
2. Cultivate Non-judgment and Inner Calm: Meditate
Meditation is the practice of training your mind to simply acknowledge your experience—in the moment—without passing judgment. It is scientifically proven to be effective for reducing emotional reactivity. And yet, many people never try it. Perhaps they see it only as a grand spiritual quest meant for Buddhist monks. While it is true that the best results come with consistent practice, the reality is that it can take as little as five minutes and can be done anywhere during the day.
As you practice, you will be better able to see that you are not your thoughts and that emotions are only energy in motion: nothing more. This will make it easier to let them pass through you.
4. Practice Self-compassion
Once you have practiced accepting yourself as you are and seeing your thoughts more objectively, you will notice that your inner stories are often accompanied by a second wave of thinking: “How could I have been so…?” or “Why does this always happen to me?” These keep you in a negative feedback loop.
Practicing self-compassion breaks this loop. As hard as it might be to do so, love this place that hurts. You are a child of the universe and just as deserving as anyone else. Like a parent to a small child who has just accidentally broken a favourite object, you can say, “Ah yes, it broke. I feel sad about this and I love you.”
Another practice is to imagine how you feel when you hold your beloved pet. Let it wash through you. Allow that connected feeling to seep through your pores. It may also help to breathe in loving compassion and breathe out resistance. A practice I have found highly effective is Tonglen, the Buddhist practice of sending and receiving. Breathe in suffering and breathe out love to yourself and the world. Your instinct may be to recoil at this, but it does create more space for compassion.
Whatever your practice, you can trust that love is valid, healing and meant for you too.
5. Practice Being Authentic
When you commit to being your authentic self, your actions will reinforce your worth. Here are some ways you can do that:
Look after your needs
You are worth looking after! Make requests, practice polite assertiveness, get back into your body as often as possible to balance overthinking.
Watch your language for misplaced apologizing
Over-apologizing minimizes your value.
Take responsibility for yourself and not for the behaviour of others
People-pleasers take on too much—of everything! You are only responsible for how you treat yourself and the actions you take.
Give yourself the gift of time
Resist immediately responding to text messages, phone calls or someone else’s urgency. Deciding—and taking action—to be in charge of your time is an act of self-care.
Be in creativity
Creativity requires flexibility, openness and connection to intuition—also ingredients in healthy self-worth. Whatever your way to be creative, do it, and do it often.
Accept compliments without belittling your contribution
Be gracious to yourself. Allow the gratitude to wash through you. Own your talents and accomplishments.
Slow down—there is no hurry
Work at your own pace. Think, “Is this feasible for me? In this in my best interests?” You are allowed to say no.
Focus on what you want rather than what someone else wants for you
Only you can know what is best for you. If you are not sure what you want, go for a walk to think. Give yourself permission to explore and want something.
Spend lots of time with people who value you
This reinforces your value because you see their love mirrored back to you and it strengthens your key relationships at the same time. It is a win-win!
Clean up all the places in your life where your actions are not in tune with your values
Pay attention to how you make choices about what you will do with your day.
6. Be Mindful of Who Is in Charge
Check in during the day and inquire, “Who is in charge today? My higher self? My small self?” Here are ways to identify each:
Your small self is in charge when:
- You decide to be silent in order to avoid conflict
- You compare yourself to others
- You give much more weight to your negative beliefs than to the facts in a situation
- You pay more attention to how you will be perceived by others than to what feels right for you
Your authentic self is in charge when you:
- Make decisions from a place of inner knowing rather than fear
- Feel in flow when all of you is immersed in what you are doing
- Are playful and joyous
- Are in your intuition
- Are confident
- Experience the energy and inspiration to do something meaningful or creative
- Are in a space where you love yourself and the world
What Are You Willing to Do for Yourself Today? Who Is Committed to You If Not You?