I am not always proud, happy, or in love with myself. Sometimes I even resent myself (which is me being too hard on myself). I struggled (and still struggle) with my self-worth. However, over the years (in course of my personal development) it has become increasingly overt to me that that way of thinking is not only unhealthy but ridiculous.
That is why in this article I would be exploring what Self-worth truly is and what you can do to safely bootstrap yourself out of low self-worth.
What Is Self Worth
Self-worth can be defined in a myriad of ways, but the idea is simple: Self-worth is what you think you are worth – what you think your value is as a human, citizen, friend, partner, colleague, professional, etc. It refers to what you think of yourself despite what others say, or what the circumstances suggest.
That said, Self-worth is entirely subjective: You could be a king and still think yourself to be worth less than a dog. Whilst in the same vein, you could be homeless and still think yourself a god.
Self-worth is hardly tethered to reality (to one extreme are self-absorbed individuals, whilst at the other end are insecure people). Just as it is tricky for us to determine exactly what makes us happy, or how long that happiness would last, we are also terrible at pinpointing our exact worth and even worse-off at building it.
Why Do I Struggle With Self-worth?
I won’t lie, (as of the time of this writing) I still feel a bit intimidated when I see people from developed countries simply walking about in clean and ultramodern cities. There is no comparing the quality of life they enjoy with mine – especially when you are currently located in a small village with hardly any store, not to mention a supermarket. When you live in a place where power supply is an anomaly and you’re not sure you would even find water to wash your body, it is not hard to see why one might think those who enjoy those things are “higher” than they are.
But that is all B.S. (and I don’t mean Bachelor of Science.). The more you consider it, the more you see the ridiculousness in it:
First off, comparing the advancement of a nation with yourself is a silly thing to do. Yes, one country may be more advanced than the other, and quite frankly, be more organized, and prosperous than the other, but it has nothing to do with the worth of the individuals within those countries. In fact, the success or failure of a country has little to do with most of the people within the country – leadership is often times the culprit when limited resources or natural disasters are not. The life of a Nigerian is not worthless compared to the life of an American. So, there is no sense in thinking anyone is better than you. No one is lesser either.
This was made crystal clear to me when I stepped into the world of Freelancing: where I quickly discovered that working from an undeveloped country – where it is hard to find jobs or even get paid enough to feed – didn’t matter. It didn’t matter if I slept on a mat, or was drinking garri, or was naked in my room. All that mattered was that I was a human who could do a job.
And, whilst my “perceived value” in my (developing) country’s Market place couldn’t properly feed me, my perceived value in the developed country’s Market place could give me a good life. Freelancing revealed to me that I was worth much more than I thought.
This is the same realization most people experience when they end a toxic relationship and find a partner who really loves them. They quickly realize that the texts, calls, compliments, washing, kisses, sex, and all the other things they did for their ex (who didn’t appreciate any, of course) are so, very much, valuable things.
In fact, the more you move from place to place, the more you notice the drastic change in perceived value (sometimes going up, and other times plummeting). You may not think you are worth much until you realize that your ability to read this article, speak English, carry out some rudimentary maths, or some other activity which you consider “trivial” is something someone somewhere is willing to pay handsomely for. Do you know how many people want to learn how to read, write, and speak English? TIP: you can become their language tutor.
Your self-worth is subjective. And the only reason you struggle with it is that you have been looking at the wrong metrics. You struggle with your self worth because
- – You unfairly compare yourself with others (who are equally valuable in a unique way)
- – Speaking of uniqueness, you haven’t identified (or ignored) what makes you unique
- – You have a lot of negative subconscious beliefs about yourself. This used to be a huge struggle for me, but right now it’s something I quickly wrestle to the ground as soon as it arises.
- – You are hanging out with the wrong crowd, or in the wrong place (you’re listening to, and dealing with people who cannot see your value, and who treat you less than you deserve)
But the question may still linger; “What is my worth?”, “what do I really worth?”, or “am I really worth that much”…I know, these thoughts are hard to shake; but don’t fret, there is a way out.
How Do I Know My Worth?
“Whatever you think you’re worth, you’re worth more”– Dick David
I have explained in detail before how chassing success sucks and what to do about it, but here is a new way to consider it – chasing success for the sake of it shows you do not know your self-worth.
Yes, being successful is great – we all want to be successful in our careers – but there is a catch. Success must never be sort in and of itself. What/how we consider success is more important than the success itself. What happens in most cases is that people get into professions, relationships, and circumstances (in general) that are detrimental to them, and then seek success in those fields. What that tells me (or anyone sensible enough) is that they do not value themselves enough to let go of that “success“.
For example, someone seeking to have a big happy family may endure years of unhappy marriage just to put up the facade that the family is happy, together, functioning, existing… People work at jobs that cords their mental health to the point where they get sickly, miserable, frustrated, lethargic, apathetic, depressed, and even suicidal.
Do you think if they knew their worth they would seek success in toxic relationships or work environments? The answer is NO. People who know that they are worth more than the crap they are putting up with in a relationship or workplace quickly end things and move on with their lives. They know that better people and opportunities are lurking… and they do find them; eventually. Why? because there are always better opportunities.
I know some readers are beginning to raise their hands, trying to point out reasons why someone should remain in a relationship or job that is making them miserable. Well, I have one reply. Having challenges in a relationship or work environment is not the same as not being valued in a relationship or work environment. When you know this difference, you would know what true success is. Besides, do you think a new partner would come in when you are still cuddling the toxic partner? I think not.
And yes, because you as a human has intrinsic worth, does not mean you do not have to put in any work to be perceived as valuable in the workplace or a relationship. I like to make the analogy that all humans are like ores – all unique, and special – but until we can pass through the fire, we would be most undesirable.
In order words, there is a need to work on yourself.
interestingly, working on yourself helps build your worth – it helps you see and convince yourself that you are more valuable than you thought.
With that said, let’s discuss how to build your self-worth.
How To Build Your self-worth
Because self-worth is all about changing the subjective view you have of yourself, many people instinctively try to prove to themselves that they are worth more by
- – Exercising More:
- – Creating More:
- – Earning More:
- – Knowing More:
- – Doing More:
- – Achieve More
And it does work to a reasonable extent. When people have lived up to their expectations (which is most times influenced by the expectations of others), they sort of path themselves on the back and accept that they are valuable (to the extent they’ve worked).
This isn’t, particularly something bad. It is great for society – people who have an insatiable desire to out-perform others to maintain their position in the dominance hierarchy would do more good for society than those who just stand in front of a mirror admiring themselves. In short, workaholics are better off for society than lazy and entitled narcissists.
But because there is no end to “More”, seeking “More” may become a problem of its own (especially on an individual level).
When an individual in the course of trying to prove his/her worth to others goes days without proper food and sleep, tries to ask out and sleep with any living person that breaths, or ignores their relationships, things get really bad, quickly. It becomes a symptom of a lack of self-worth.
it is one of those paradoxes of life where too little is not good, and too much is no good either. One must strike balance: The desire to build self-worth should be done with an eye on self-worth. Your self-worth should not be forgotten or trampled under in course of trying to build it.
That said, building self-worth must be approached with more self-care and wisdom.
Considering that it is all subjective (i.e. you are already valuable as a human) doesn’t it make sense that you push yourself strickly in the areas you find most rewarding and helpful? isn’t it better to Ikigai?
What I’m trying to say is,
This Is How To Approach Boosting Your Self-worth
- – Let It Be On Your Terms: Don’t compare yourself with others, or listen to their opinions. I once wrote about discovering your Ikigai and then sticking to it. People who have found a purpose for their lives, usually feel happy working on it. That way, you can both enjoy that endless inflow of reassurance from your efforts, without burning out or hating your life. The more effort you put into activities that align with your Ikigai, the happier you become and the more you value yourself. In order words, don’t let what others think to determine what you are to do, else you might end up worse off. If you’re basing your self-worth on a career, then consider that after a certain point – that is, if you can earn enough to shelter, clothe, and feed yourself – most of your work in life would be your life. For most people, from age 25-65 would be spent on work (which is more than 40% of an average human’s life. When you factor in childhood and old age, most of the enjoyable life is just work). Do you want to spend it all doing what you detest? This is the same trap people fall into when they try to improve their self-worth by altering their bodies or getting into something because of what others say. Let it be on your terms.
- Practice Selfcare: Apart from trying to prove something to yourself (or worse, others), you must prove to yourself that you love yourself by actually loving and taking care of yourself. Get sufficient sleep (at least 7 hours), eat a balanced diet, drink enough water, exercise, practice positive affirmation, meditate, consume less bad news, cute off toxic friends, limit contact with toxic family members (if you cant cut them off), go for walks, go for a swim, gift yourself, seek professional help immediately you get sick (physically, emotionally, or otherwise). Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for caring for. Practice self-care.
- Double Down On Gratitude: Why not seek less whilst appreciating more? There are a lot of things to be grateful for – your eyes to see, legs to walk, plants, trees, and other animals. You can be grateful for the rich cultural heritage you have, and a myriad of things – both great and small. And, of course, you should also appreciate your efforts and wins – both small and big.
- Know When To Stop: At a point, when you are no longer struggling with low self-worth, it is important to realize that you can stop trying to do more. This doesn’t mean you should quit your job, or relapse (i.e. go back to a bad habit, or become lazy), but that you should be happy with the life you’ve built. Rather than seeking another course, routine, or mentor, why not savor the good life all the courses, routines, and mentors have brought you. And, strangely, the best work is done by those who have settled down into their optimum state. Maybe you don’t need to get the phone number of another lady, learn a new skill, build another house, visit another island, etc…Maybe you just need to be happy with how far you’ve come. Maybe you just need to stop.
At every point in time, keep reminding yourself that you are worthy, just as all other persons are. Treat others with love, and don’t forget to extend that love to yourself. Besides, we are all connected and one.