Isn’t that what most of us are trying to do? Trying to find our self-worth? To stand up and decide that things are going to be different? Perhaps what I used to do or what I used to tolerate will be no more?
Self-worth is different from self-esteem. Self-esteem is the external validation from others that we receive when we do a good job and are told, “You did an amazing job on that.” However, it is dependent on others. In contrast, self-worth is an internal form of validation and is dependent on you.
Self-worth is knowing that “I am worthy” of loving myself. It is having compassion for myself – flaws and all and trusting myself to speak and behave towards myself in a way that I would be proud to tell others, especially when I’m struggling.
So how do you cultivate self-worth?
It takes practice, and like anything that requires practice, it also requires effort. First, it recognizes that you are worthwhile. Second, it is the belief that you are enough right now and exactly as you are – not when you lose 10 pounds or get that promotion – but right now, as you are, messy stuff is included. Finally, this comes from owning our stories and recognizing that we may not always have the answers, and sometimes we do not do things well, but I can still love myself anyway – struggles and all.
It’s normal to want and seek validation from others. Such as friends, parents, partners, even social media. However, relying on external validation can make us anxious and depressed when those we rely on to make us feel good cannot.
Disapproval and criticism can be especially painful when other people’s opinions dictate our self-worth. When this occurs, we can become very needy. Thinking and believing that we need others to make decisions for us to escape criticism. What ends up occurring is we become needy in ways that turn people off.
So, instead of relying solely on external validation, you can learn to validate yourself.
What self-validation looks like.
For some of us, we may be more comfortable validating others. Their experiences, thoughts, and feelings than we are validating our own. So, what does self-validation look like?
Accepting our own internal experiences to include our own thoughts and feelings.
- Encouraging ourselves (not berating)
- Recognizing our strengths and accomplishments (not where we think we could have done better)
- Noticing and accepting our feelings (but not over-identifying with them *Feelings are not facts)
- Prioritizing our needs and what we need for self-care or coping
- Speaking to ourselves with kindness as though we are a good friend.
- Accepting that we can and do make mistakes and that it’s okay.
It takes practice to learn how to validate yourself. Especially if you’re used to not validating yourself, seeking out validation from others, or suppressing your feelings. However, the more you can validate yourself, the easier it will become. Some folks find using a journal to be helpful. A journal can provide the space to reflect on the day, acknowledge struggles and accomplishments, and an opportunity to validate yourself.
2. Managing your internal dialogue for self-worth
Do you know your internal dialogue? Are you aware of what you are saying to yourself, especially when struggling or failing? Failures, mistakes, and criticism are all facts of life. They are normal experiences, and if you want to be able to move through and beyond the heartbreak, the disappointments, and hurt feelings, then having a tape that equates failures, mistakes and criticism as signs of defeat and should never be tried again makes this almost impossible.
However, a healthy internal dialogue encourages you to view failures, mistakes, and criticism as disappointing, hurtful even but does not define me or my self-worth. My value and internal worth are more than these things, and while heartbreak, disappointments, and hurt feelings are hard and sometimes painful, I will get through this because I know “I am worth it and I am enough.”
Changing your internal dialogue
It’s easy to fall into the trap of berating yourself or criticizing yourself for what you perceive are your failings or limitations.
To change your internal dialogue, you need to own your own voice. Meaning you need to own what you are thinking and feeling and choose to take control of it.
This also means that you need to get rid of the voices that are not yours. What I mean by this are all of the things that you may have heard or been told growing up and all the way until now. Of course, we get told things all the time. When we were growing up, it was “You need to be quiet,” “Be on your best behavior,” “Be good,” and the list can go on.
And as we get older, we get told things by co-workers, partners, bosses, friends, and you name it.
Suppose you have the voices of other people. Or if you find yourself berating or criticizing yourself for the same things that they berated or criticized you for. It might be time to get rid of those voices or thoughts. You can say to yourself, “that’s not my voice,” or “that’s not my thought,” and choose what the next thought in your internal dialogue is going to be.
Choose your own narrative and what you want your internal dialogue to look like.
3. Self-Acceptance and self-worth.
To speak to ourselves from a place of “enough” (see Awareness). You cannot use fear, shame, blame, and judgment in how you speak to yourself and hope to feel self-worth.
You can have self-worth when you speak to yourself from a place of worthiness, where you embrace your vulnerabilities and struggles and can feel a deep sense of love and compassion for yourself.
When people can accept themselves for who they are and have let go of who they think others think they should be. We get to live more authentically. Because we are no longer hustling for others for our self-worth.
Letting go of Perfectionism
Self-acceptance requires letting go of perfectionism. Perfectionism is the opposite of self-acceptance. If self-acceptance is to be “earned” by working hard on ourselves, it becomes conditional. And for the perfectionist, this becomes yet another opportunity for the bar to move to the next notch in their conditionally-based acceptance.
Only when we can give ourselves unconditional approval, forgive ourselves for our faults, and relinquish our need for other people’s approval can self-acceptance be found.
4. Self-Compassion and self-worth.
When we can be gentle with ourselves when we recognize that we are struggling, when we are gentle and caring with ourselves, we are more likely to recognize that we are worthy of connection with others and that it is okay to reach out to an empathetic listener because “I am worthy of this.” Instead of retreating into isolation.
How to practice self-compassion
- Self-Forgiveness – Stop punishing yourself for the mistakes that you have made. Become aware of when you are striving to perform perfectly and let yourself know that you do not need to be perfect to be worthy of love.
- Grab a Growth Mindset – embrace challenges rather than avoiding them. Be willing to make mistakes and find opportunities to grow from them. Thankfully, Edison did not stop trying to invent the light bulb after his first failure. If you find yourself comparing yourself to others, reframe it to what it is that you admire about them. Then, use what you admire to help you challenge yourself to continue to grow.
- Gratitude, not Scarcity – Take the time to focus on what you do have and what you are grateful for, rather than focusing on what you don’t have. Scarcity mindsets tend to put us in a bad place where we feel that it just isn’t enough no matter what we have. So instead, focus on what you do have and what you are grateful for and keep moving forward.
- Be Generous – And it doesn’t have to be money. It can be a warm smile or a kind word or gesture. Take a moment and see the difference you make and how it feels for you when you can be generous.
- Be Mindful – Be in the moment and be aware of what you are thinking, feeling, and saying to yourself. Most of our thoughts run below the surface of our consciousness. Mindfulness helps us tap into those thoughts and see what is happening right now and do it without judgment or labeling. With mindful curiosity, you can begin to discover the parts of yourself that you may be struggling to accept and feel compassion towards. With mindfulness, you can learn of these parts and choose to change them, not out of reaction but out of compassion and understanding of yourself.
5. Advocating for me.
The realization and conscious decision that I am my biggest advocate, and no one will fight for me as I can even if I have to fight for myself with myself is worth fighting for. Is what I am saying to myself healthy or harmful? If it is harmful, you need to advocate for yourself, even with yourself. If it is with other people, realize that it is a waste of time to measure your self-worth through other people’s reactions. Who knows what their tape is saying to them?
How to advocate for yourself and your self-worth.
Understanding the value of and how to self-advocate allows you to create better outcomes for yourself and more easily overcome challenges, even if that challenge is with yourself.
- Believe in yourself – You’re a unique and valuable person who is hardwired and worthy of love, belonging, and connection.
- Decide what you want – Clarify with yourself and others exactly what you need from yourself and them.
- Plan ahead – Each day, plan out what you will do differently, one thing that you will think to yourself differently, say to yourself differently. Get intentional – intentionality gives us the greatest odds of success.
- Focus on one thing – It can be hard when we’re trying to change to focus on everything that we feel we need to change at once. So, focus on one thing, whether it’s speaking to yourself with kindness or reframing thoughts to something more helpful. But spend an entire day or week focusing on one thing if you need to.
- Express or assert yourself clearly – This is where mindfulness can come in. Don’t diminish or over-identify with what you are thinking and feeling. Instead, recognize what you are thinking and feeling and, with curiosity and compassion, decide if there are things there that need to be addressed.
- Be consistent – If you have been struggling with self-worth or any of these things for a long time. It’s going to take more than a few tries to see some changes. So stay consistent.
I had debated on adding this one, and I decided to add it because I feel it’s necessary.
Change is never easy and rarely is it ever comfortable.
It takes courage to practice these steps day in and day out because you have decided that things will be different.
It takes courage to continue to practice these steps day in and day out when others challenge you because you are changing, and that takes courage.