Chances are, you’ve heard of the many, many “self-” words. There’s self-esteem, self-respect, self-confidence, self-love, self-care, and so on.
If you are like many, you have experienced thoughts and/or feelings of unworthiness at times which can have negative impacts on mental health. Low self-worth is shown to be correlated with anxiety and depression along with habits such as increased substance use.
At this point, it’s helpful to distinguish between self-worth and self-esteem. Our self-esteem is derived from our abilities, accomplishments, social positions and things we believe we can achieve. We can bolster our self-esteem by improving our skills or performance, and our self-esteem goes up and down depending on how we’re doing in various aspects of our lives.
In contrast, unconditional self-worth is distinct from our abilities and accomplishments. It’s not about comparing ourselves to others; it’s not something that we can have more or less of. Unconditional self-worth is the sense that you deserve to be alive, to be loved, cared for, and respected.
This can be challenging. Much of our self-worth seems to be tied to our accomplishments, degrees, awards, bonuses, etc. We are often bombarded by others’ accomplishments that only exacerbate the situation.
Cultivating unconditional self-worth is an ongoing practice. Here are four ways you can begin to feel more worthy starting right here, right now:
1. Connect to supportive people
Low self-worth can leave us feeling isolated and alone. When we think there’s something wrong with us, we tend to pull away from our relationships, and this isolation only exacerbates our feelings of unworthiness. Knowing that we are not alone in our struggles and pain reminds us that challenges don’t make us unworthy. Connecting to people who are supportive helps us to get in touch with our humanity and our sense of worth.
2. Forgive yourself
Many of us struggle to feel worthy, because we are angry with ourselves about past mistakes. Forgiveness involves acknowledging and accepting what has happened. Acceptance releases us from blaming ourselves and others and allows us to move forward.
To forgive yourself, reflect on the circumstances that led to past mistakes, acknowledge the pain you experienced and identify what you learned from the situation. Then say to yourself “I forgive you” — in an honest and kind way. This might sound a bit cheesy, but it works 🤓
3. Practice self-compassion
See if you can let go of the thoughts you have about how the way you think, feel or look should be different. Instead, focus on the things you like about yourself. Nobody is perfect. Over time, begin to embrace your quirks — your awkward jokes at soccer practice, your process of leading meetings, or your unusual way of thinking about things. Through this acceptance, you’re acknowledging that you are worthy just the way you are.
4. Be there for yourself
When life gets rough, many of us abandon ourselves during times of challenge. We engage in harsh self-criticism — which only leaves us feeling worse. What we need most when we are going through a difficult time is for someone to say “I see you. I see how badly you’re hurting. I’m here.”
We can do this for ourselves.
The next time you experience emotional pain, acknowledge how you were feeling and offer yourself some comfort. Place your hand on your chest, give yourself a hug or say something kind and soothing to yourself.