Do You Know The Value Of Your Self Worth?

Do You Know The Value Of Your Self Worth?

Self-esteem is a wonderful thing.  We grow this by being successful in the “outer” world, whatever we deem that success to be, whether making the Dean’s List, getting that new job, fitting back into those size-6 jeans.  Or any host of other measuring sticks.

Sport and life achievements and success concept.. Sporty girl raising arms towards beautiful glowing sunshine.

But have you ever noticed that any time we measure worth by something external, that external thing can go away?  Next semester you may miss that Dean’s List.  You may lose your job.  Gain back that weight.

And self-esteem can tank.

But self-worth is quite a different beast.  It’s based on how you see yourself from within, and remains as a sturdy ship no matter how roiling the seas.

While mastering outer issues can surely be confidence building, relying on those outer things can ultimately do a number on your actual self-worth. You feel like you’re banging your head against a wall.

And, in actuality, you are.

People who base their own self-worth on what others think and not on their value as human beings might pay a mental and physical price, according to research by Jennifer Crocker, PhD, a psychologist at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research.

Crocker has worked on a series of self-esteem studies, and found in her latest research that college students who based their self-worth on external sources—including appearance, approval from others and even their academic performance—reported more stress, anger, academic problems, relationship conflicts, and had higher levels of drug and alcohol use and symptoms of eating disorders.

Eeek!

But we’ve all been there, no?

In today’s world of celebrity worship, of all sorts, and Promote! Promote! Promote!, it can seem as if the only thing that matters is grasping that brass ring.  Everyone else is a loser.

Wow.  How did we get to here?  But that’s another topic.

The point of course being, if you don’t find it within, you don’t find it anywhere.  And being constantly barraged by all the “successful” people on the planet makes it sometimes more difficult to find that constant center within.

And this comes down to who you are, rather than what you are.

Weren’t most of us raised (dinosaurs that we are!) to believe in solid moral concepts?  Oh, not the “my god is better than your god” kind, but rather, to foster those character traits that make us decent human beings.  You know them:

To be honest. To treat people as you want to be treated. In fact, to see the good in others and celebrate that.  To do what you say you’re going to do.  To find beauty and meaning in the most awful of places.  To leave the world a better place.  To always do your best.

To be able to look in the mirror and say, “Good job.”

And yes, it can be pretty tough to hold that center, the insular Tahiti of which Herman Melville spoke.  As your little boat gets battered about on the 40 foot seas of this life, and you’re hanging on for dear life while trying to row, yep, it’s easy to ask what the heck you did wrong to get here.

But those seas of life will always ebb and flow. And while yes, sometimes you made a pretty wrong turn back there to get you into this fine mess, you’ve doubtlessly made at least that many correct turns.  So once you get out of the crashing ocean, you can figure out the next move again.

Let’s face it, we all have those feelings now and then.  The ones that cause you to doubt into your very soul the path you took.

Authors know this oh-so well.  It’s a tough world out there, made oh-so-much tougher by the 15 million e-books expected to be released this year.  And then a publisher does find you, does publish you, and, well, nobody’s reviews are all stellar 🙂   I have about a 15-1 ratio of good reviews to bad about  I Just Came Here to Dance.  And you guessed it—the negative ones stopped me flat.

The ill winds of defeat will always whisper through the gang planks.

The stronger your center though, the deeper that insular Tahiti, the more that defeat can stay in your head (where you can slay it), and out of your heart (where you live).

Because with me, I’m pretty danged certain of my purpose.  Which is an incredibly fabulous thing.  It sustains me through all those soaring peaks and watery valleys.  It drives me from my core.  It warms that solitary, well-lighted place where I sit for endless hours and days, weeks and months, writing a story that otherwise existed in my psyche alone.

The doing of the thing sustains me in the end.

Are the good reviews just manna from the gods?  Of course.  Of course.

But I don’t live from them.  Nor suffer too many slings and arrows from the bad ones.

You have this too, no?  Your own internal idea of success, no matter what the outer world might say.

Grasp it.  Hold onto those ropes when the high seas roil.  They will sustain you.

And now go out and do the thing you were put here to do.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson said about success:

“To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”

This Post Has 57 Comments

  1. I found myself exclaiming “yes!” at so many of your points, Susan! Over the past year, I’ve worked diligently at changing my mindset to not only understand but also believe that who I am and who I want to be are dependent upon MY own thoughts/beliefs/feelings about myself. I spent years allowing other people to define me and my worth–not constantly but too often. Not even a week ago I left my corporate job after nearly 11 years due to a layoff. While it was a welcome and expected change for me, I am aware of how horrible my other co-workers who were laid off are now feeling. Those who are strong are dinged but not broken while others have let the change seep into their core and determine their worth (or lack thereof). Your words are truly appreciated and heartfelt. Thank you for inspiring me today!

    1. I think we’ve all (especially women!) felt that sting of the “other-directed” life. Especially when it comes to believing in ourselves and what we do!
      And what a fabulous opportunity for you! Sending you joy and soaring for your new life!

  2. Great article here! I would agree on most areas. As for me, as long as you always do good to yourself and others then everything will fall into place 🙂

  3. This is a very insightful article. I agree that we can’t truly define our self worth until we look within! It is a difficult process but a very important one!

    1. Quite important, Jenn! And yep, it can be a difficult process 🙂

  4. The writing life definitely gives us lots of opportunities to work on self-worth! The world of public opinion requires us to be able to withstand the ups and downs and what you talk about developing internally is the only way to do that successfully. Thanks for the reminder! We are not our achievements.

    1. Doesn’t it though, Colleen! Lord knows we get lots of ups and downs in the writing life 🙂 And congrats on your new book!

  5. As you know I was a career counselor for 30 years, 15 with welfare recipients & 15 with Unemployed Professionals- big swing. What they all had in common was low self-esteem & that played out in job search. In the last 5 years before I retired, I was commanded to create a workshop on self-esteem. Boy did I learn a lot on the topic. I travelled all over NY State delivering this workshop so my agency would feel better believing they were helping. It was one of the high peaks in my career & yet led me to retire.
    You nailed it when you distinguished self-esteem & self-worth. But I should stop here. Oh- 1 more thing. The blogs where you take 2 words that we think we know & shine a light on them, are my favs.

    1. I can’t even begin to imagine how challenging that life was, Roz! And you ought to offer that workshop online!
      Thank you about the two-words blogs. I’ll remember that!

  6. You know, I’ve never actually thought about this, this way. I struggle with myself because I’m constantly trying to keep everyone else happy and trying to take care of everything. It didn’t always go 100% then I feel bad.

    1. SO many women can relate, Leslie. We seem to be trying to please the world at times, no? But ah, when we begin pleasing ourselves first, life sure turns in a different direction 🙂

  7. Self-esteem and Self-love/Self-worth. This message has been showing up a lot for me in many different ways in the last month or so. I’ve often wondered if I arrived here this time around, with very high expectations for myself. The idea of self-perfectionism comes up a lot. Wanting to please myself, far less than the world out there. The life process gives us many opportunities to explore who we are and what we are here for. Some days I am sure and other days, I am still exploring.

    Yes, self-esteem comes from external experiences, and yet like you said Susan, they do feel fabulous in that moment. As the world continues to shift and change, we all are being asked to look at who we are. Who we REALLY are and to share that. One of the things I have learned in my travels and through my biography training is that as we age, our focus and often our purpose shifts. We are ultimately all here to be of service and the joy in the journey is discovering that and then being and doing it.

    1. Oh, Beverley, I so love that! Yes, we are all here to be of service. And doesn’t it just bring joy! Isn’t it interesting how that does change as we grow and transition through the different stages of life. And I understand about some days being sure, and on others . . . Isn’t the exploration just a kick 🙂

  8. It took me a very long time to realize my self worth. I’m almost 34 and I’m finally fully understanding it. This was a post that spoke to me.

    1. It does take a while, doesn’t it, Trish? But so glad you are realizing your self worth!

  9. This is a great post. I think building self worth is so valuable. If only I learned that when I was a kid. I have to tell myself often that everyone has an opinion and not all of them will be uplifting and positive. If I feel proud of a piece I write, it is easier for me to take the negative comments. Thank you for sharing.

    1. We learn it when we learn it, no? But I love “If I feel proud of a piece I write, it is easier for me to take the negative comments.” Yes, Sabrina! It’s funny–I know I’m not everybody’s cup of tea as an author. My books take a somewhat unique reader. But I know what’s there. When a reader “gets it,” I’m so gratified. But more and more I laugh at the slashing reviews. I can remember a time when one of those would depress me for a month.

  10. This is a very nice article on understanding the differences and helping us to see and embody our self worth. At times, self esteem, self worth, self confidence,etc -tend to run on a similar thread and are often cousins of each other. This topic resonates with me from a woman’s success coach perspective. I know it is something that is lacking in many, unfortunately. Thank you for shedding light and inspiration.

    1. They are cousins, Teresa. And it’s often difficult to piece out one from another. But I bet you teach this well!

  11. The distinction you made between self-esteem and self-worth is so important. Self-worth needs no outside validation and gives you the strength not to get stuck in the sadness and fear of a low self-esteem.To be able to look in the mirror and say ‘good job’ because you know you are a decent person who has made positive contributions gives you a strong centre.

    1. It really does, doesn’t it, Tamuria. And I know I’ve been guilty a good bit of my life for NOT telling myself good job! Now I make a point of it 🙂

  12. Yea… like most people… I am my own worst enemy and while I don’t place too much value on what others say.. I am the freaken one that causes the most grief… ya know. I am getting better… gotta love me, right? Thanks for the ever so.. in your face.. reminders. I need it.

    1. Do I ever know that drill, Kristen! Who needs outer critics when the internal ones are so loud? But getting better is the entire ball game, so, goof for you!

  13. Hi Susan,

    I love that Emerson quote.

    Our self-worth = your net-worth. I know from experience that most of us have numerous issues with our own feelings of worth and it can easily translate into how we value ourselves monetarily.

    Escape was my of dealing with things as I watched both my personal and business finances begin to spiral downward. I was tired all the time and just wanted to run away.

    Things changed when I started feeling self-love, understanding, clarity. I had a sense of awakening and excitement for the future.

    1. And as you know so well, Rachel, that self-love, understanding, and clarity makes all the difference! You just come off as effervescent 🙂

  14. This is such a relevant article in two venues that I’m involved in right now. The first is a college class that I teach. I see the clear difference between those few in class who are focused on something solid within themselves vs the rest who are extremely sensitive to what others are doing in class. And then the online business training course I’m taking where the director of the course and all the staff members have made it very clear that there is no falling behind in the course, because all of the students are lifetime students — it’s a self-guided course. But every single day on the forum someone is beating themselves up for being behind on the modules. Fascinating behavior.

    1. Isn’t it just fascinating to watch human behavior at work! So interesting about the course and the forum. Even when the rules specifically state the converse, folks can still beat themselves up. What a great example of it not being about the outer world, but the inner one.

  15. It is amazing how hard it is to think good of ourselves, compliment ourselves, etc. We would all be so much happier if we weren’t so hard on ourselves.

  16. My self-esteem comes from knowing who I am: a child of a loving Father. My God and my relationship with Him is my inner guide and compass. It is not external. I do believe we need to learn to love ourselves for who we are, beautiful human beings, flaws and all (because flaws are not really a negative thing, it is what makes us unique.)

  17. Great post! totally true, we always put others first and forget that it has to start with our own self.

    1. And isn’t that just a recipe for disaster, Agnes. But we always have the key to turn it around!

  18. As I get older, I actually find it easier to understand the truth of your words: “If you don’t find it within, you don’t find it anywhere.” Wouldn’t it be wonderful to better at sharing and teaching this to the young.

    1. It would, Jane! Although the trick is how to do it 🙂 When young, I thought most advice was silly. I’ve just had to learn it for myself. Isn’t that just the way?

  19. Hi Susan,

    Loved this post! I 100% agree that all self-worth, self-confidence starts from the INSIDE 🙂 Society wants us to think that if we looked like her or did what they do, that it will help our own image, but in reality that is NOT true. Our own self image starts with looking in the mirror, and loving and accepting who is looking back at us. I know for me it has taken me a while to finally accept who I am and to be really happy with that person I see staring back at me 🙂 I guess at 53, it’s about time,eh? lol

    Thanks for sharing 🙂 Great post!

    1. Good for you, Joan! It just takes some of us that long 🙂 I understand entirely. For so long I thought “someone” else had it right and I needed to follow what he or she did. Took me a while to realize that it all really did start inside of me!

  20. As I as looking through the follow-up questionnaires from a class I had taught last weekend, all the positive reviews made me feel good. Then came that one. The one that makes you suck in all the air around you. I rationalized that the person didn’t know what they were talking about; they were wrong. But finally, it didn’t matter that they felt justified in saying what they did. I simply realized that I was doing what I was supposed to be doing and not everyone is going to be attracted to that. The rightness of who I am is based on what God says I am. And with that, I’m happy.

    1. I do know that feeling, Carol! It really helped me when I realized exactly what you said: “I was doing what I was supposed to be doing and not everyone is going to be attracted to that.” Not everyone will resonate with what we say, teach, write. But, those who do, ah, that’s enough, no?

  21. Thanks so much for clearly stating the wisdom and benefit of self worth. For myself, when I work alone and have certain goals that don’t get attained, I start beating myself up. But in the past couple of years, I stop myself and look at what I have accomplished. And I admire my own tenacity… if not success, and remind myself of who I am and where I am. I am an example of being someone who has learned to rebuild that self worth, over and over. So even old dogs can earn new tricks. Thanks for the post

    1. That’s beautiful, Audrey! Isn’t it amazing when we think of taking inventory, it’s of where we stumbled, rather than all the places we raced! And continued on, despite the odds. When we do take the time to remember our accomplishments, it’s amazing.

  22. I went to a yoga training and was surprised by he number of people that had issues with their self worth. We compare our back story to everyone else’s front story (what they share -usually nicely edited- on social media) and we compete and compare. I agree that happiness can only come from within. Comparison is the thief of joy.

    1. I absolutely love that, Christy: “Comparison is the thief of joy.” So very true!

  23. This is a great article. I am constantly working on myself worth. I find that I have to or else I will not be who I need to be. Thanks for writing this.

    1. Good for you, Katherine! That’s the whole ball of wax 🙂

  24. I noticed from my years of experience in the corporate world that what only mattered was how you stacked up to those around you. While it was a fast-paced life and exciting, it was physically and mentally draining. It was always highs and lows, trying to make sure you were achieving your best. I had no reference to my actual self-worth, only what I thought others thought of me. One day, I walked away and never looked back. Only then could I begin to understand the value of my self-worth. Thank you for bringing this awareness to everyone’s attention, Susan.

    1. Oh, do I ever know that, Joyce. I worked in corporate America as well, and isn’t it all just about competition! I did the same thing you did–walked away and never looked back, creating my own life from there. Heaven, no?

  25. The self-esteem question is always an ongoing question. Of course, when you are younger it is easy to get caught up in outer more superficial things about how you should look rather than be. With age and experience that should change, but often don’t…really I do not have much patience with people being more obsessed about how you should look rather than thinking about how to be…

    1. Isn’t it amazing how our perceptions change as we go, Katarina. There really is something to that wisdom-of-age thing 🙂

  26. Hi Susan,

    Celebrities are being praised for their looks and habits but never for their personalities. Have you noticed how a celebrity is being bashed and when they pass away, then they get recognition about their awesome personality? Our world is really controversial and it is up to us to understand where we stand. Our worth is not our image and only but us as a whole person. Self worth comes from the acceptance of ourselves, all our positive attributes and flaws. I love your post, thank you!

    Zaria

    1. So true, Zaria! Everyone becomes a saint upon death 🙂
      I just love this: “Self worth comes from the acceptance of ourselves, all our positive attributes and flaws.” Absolutely!

  27. Susan – great post. I think so much of our sense of self-worth comes from our parents, and not just because we were or were not treated as worthy beings. It’s how our parents treated other people. If we saw them treat wait-staff respectfully, elderly with dignity, etc … well, you get the picture. I was SO not allowed to act disrespectful or disdainfully to ANYONE – and I was treated with a great deal of respect/worth, as well. I realize I was extremely fortunate in this regard.

    1. You were so fortunate, Joan! What great role models your parents were. Kids are just sponges, and pick up on what parents DO, not what they say. Thanks for pointing that out!

  28. Self-Worth: “How you see yourself from within,” regardless of external trappings of success, or negative social labels.

    What a timely and sobering message, Susan! What a service to humanity, given the global and rapidly spreading epidemic of depression: Of so many of us who do not know who we are and why we are here; Of ever more people today who “have the means to live but not the meaning to live for”; Of others who have everything their hearts could desire, but find that it is still not enough; Of hundreds of young people who have so much to live for, but decide to take their own lives every year; Of the rich and famous who should be deliriously happy and telling one another of their bliss, instead of “trading tranquilizer prescriptions”; Of “most us who go to our graves with our music still inside” – unplayed, unheard.

    Beyond its (not surprisingly) exquisite writing, this blog makes a “sacred” personal mantra – one that needs to be engraved in every human heart. My hope is that, somehow, its message gets to reach more people in our increasingly alienating world.

    Thank you, Susan!!!

    1. Thank you, Efiong! And so true how so many are living the unrealized life. You certainly do so much to bring the bliss of creativity into everyone’s world! Thank you for all that you do.

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