The most important ‘self’ concept: Self-Worth
Chances are, you’ve heard of the many, many “self” words. There’s self-worth, self-esteem, self-compassion, self-acceptance, self-respect, self-confidence, self-love, self-care, and so on.
There are so many words to describe how we feel about ourselves, how we think about ourselves, and how we act toward ourselves. It’s understandable if they all start to blend together for you; however, they are indeed different concepts with unique meanings, findings, and purposes.
Read on to learn more about what may be the most vital “self-” concept of them all: self-worth.
Self-worth is defined as:
“a feeling that you are a good person who deserves to be treated with respect”.
How we often measure our self-worth
Self-worth is at the core of our very selves—our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are intimately tied into how we view our worthiness and value as human beings.
Self-worth is determined mostly by our self-evaluated abilities and our performance in one or more activities that we deem valuable. However, people commonly use other yardsticks to measure their self-worth. Here are five of the top factors that people use to measure and compare their own self-worth to the worth of others:
- Appearance—whether measured by the number on the scale, the size of clothing worn, or the kind of attention received by others;
- Net worth—this can mean income, material possessions, financial assets, or all of the above;
- Who you know/your social circle—some people judge their own value and the value of others by their status and what important and influential people they know;
- What you do/your career—we often judge others by what they do in work;
- What you achieve—we frequently use achievements to determine someone’s worth (whether it’s our own worth or someone else’s), such as success in business, scores on exams, or placement in a marathon or other athletic challenge.
Here’s what we SHOULD NOT be measuring
It’s important to correct misunderstandings and misperceptions about self-worth. Instead of listing all the factors that go into self-worth, we outline what does not determine your self-worth (or, what should not determine your self-worth):
- Your to-do list: Achieving goals is great and it feels wonderful to cross off things on your to-do list, but it doesn’t have a direct relationship with your worth as a human;
- Your job: It doesn’t matter what you do. What matters is that you do it well and that it fulfills you;
- Your social media following: It also doesn’t matter how many people think you are worthy of a follow or a retweet. It can be enlightening and healthy to consider the perspectives of others, but their opinions have no impact on our innate value;
- Your age: You aren’t too young or too old for anything. Your age is simply a number and does not factor into your value as a human being;
- Other people: As noted above, it doesn’t matter what other people think or what other people have done or accomplished. Your personal satisfaction and fulfillment are much more important than what others are thinking, saying, or doing;
- How far you can run: Your mile run time is one of the least important factors for your self-worth (or for anything else, for that matter). If you enjoy running and feel fulfilled by improving your time, good for you! If not, good for you! Your ability to run does not determine your self-worth;
- Your grades: We all have different strengths and weaknesses, and some of us are simply not cut out for class. This has no bearing on our value as people, and a straight-A student is just as valuable and worthy as a straight-F student or a dropout;
- The number of friends you have: Your value as a human has absolutely nothing to do with how many friends or connections you have. The quality of your relationships is what’s really important;
- Your relationship status: Whether flying solo, casually dating, or in a committed relationship, your value is exactly the same—your relationship status doesn’t alter your worth;
- The money (or lack thereof) in the bank: If you have enough money to physically survive (which can, in fact, be $0), then you have already achieved the maximal amount of “worth” you can get from money (hint: it’s 0!);
- Your likes: It doesn’t matter if you have “good taste” or not, if your friends and acquaintances think you’re sophisticated, or if you have an eye for the finer things. Your worth is the same either way.
- Anything or anyone but yourself: Here we get to the heart of the matter—you are the only one who determines your self-worth. If you believe you are worthy and valuable, you are worthy and valuable. Even if you don’t believe you are worthy and valuable, guess what—you still are worthy and valuable!
Give your self-worth a boost
This exercise outlines a simple way to build self-worth. It only requires a pen or pencil and a few minutes to complete.
Write down your answers to the following:
- I was really happy when . . .
- Something that my friends / family / colleagues like about me is . . .
- I’m proud of . . .
- I made/make people happy when I . . .
- At home / work / I’m good at . . .
- Something that makes me unique is . . .
By completing these six prompts, you’ll take some time to think about who you really are, what you’re good at, and what makes you feel happy.