Where does self-worth come from?


The dictionary defines self-worth as the sense of one’s own value or worth as a person, but it doesn’t state how to determine self-worth, where to find self-worth, or what a good measure of self-worth might be. Coming to a clear understanding of one’s self-worth is actually an inner process of self-realization that starts with acknowledging that you have a role to play in the big scheme of the universe’s unfolding and expansion. Without you, without your unique contribution, message and divine majesty things just might not function the same. This is not an egotistical perspective but comes from a relational, pantheistic belief based on expanded notions of the interconnectedness of intelligence.

A human being is a part of the whole, called by us “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. The striving to free oneself from this delusion is the one issue of true religion. Not to nourish it but to try to overcome it is the way to reach the attainable measure of peace of mind.” Albert Einstein, 1950

We exist in a holistic web of interconnectedness. Each person’s sense of their own worth and how it expresses through emotions, creativity, and life events is integral to the unfolding, ever-expanding life-force fields in which we interact, including human relationships and the natural world. This is important to understand because lack of self-worth leads to disconnected, isolationist tendencies which can express as fear and depression. Without considering oneself first, in any view of reality, circumstance, or pursuit of desire we neglect ourselves, suppress our needs and cut ourselves off from benefits of knowing and living who we are, resulting in an imbalance.


Basing your self-worth on inauthentic values


A sense of self-worth can come from loved ones, teachers, preachers or employers. However, if you wish to move forward authentically in life self-worth must come from a relationship with and knowing of who you are in essence, within you. Think before you choose to put someone above yourself. Early on we are programmed to look outside of ourselves for valuation and validation. We interpret what others think and say about us as important to our welfare so we buy into their beliefs about what might be best for us, or how we should behave. When we engage in comparing ourselves to others and then act out of a desire to be like them, better than them or even to be liked by them, we are doing ourselves a disservice and squelching our self-worth. Comparing ourselves to others and thinking or believing based on the opinions of others leads to self-criticism, negative self-judgement and degrading our existence.

Several years ago, I applied for a job I thought I really wanted. It was prestigious in my field and the perfect next step for someone climbing the success ladder of non-profit administrators. When I went for the job interview I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that this was not the job for me. I quickly blocked the feeling out and proceeded to plough ahead through the recruitment process. If I had been honest with myself, and valued my worth I would have declined any further offers for subsequent interviews. When it came down to another finalist and me I should have been relieved to not be chosen, but I felt dejected, hurt and humiliated instead. Why? Because my sense of self-worth was based on what others thought of me and I doubted that I was good enough. I hit a wall, a deep depression that lasted a few months.

Out of the ashes of that experience came a new desire to respect and be proud of who I am. I reached a tipping point of willingness to surrender negative thoughts, the perception of others I saw myself with, and the over-critical, analytical mind that puts me down. I now think with a positive mind about myself and I feel a whole lot better about life in general.


Harness the power of self-worth


If you reflect on your own life for a moment, have feelings of disappointment, anxiety and not being good-enough stemmed from seeking approval, love or acknowledgment from others? Do you think that if your partner, parent(s), boss, friend or colleague was nicer to you, loved you more, or understood you better, then, you would be happy? Most worries, insecurities and self-criticisms come from the fear of not being understood or loved by others. This the sense of disconnectedness or separateness referred to earlier. Well, the only way to know the love and acceptance you may be seeking is by acknowledging your connection with your own divine intelligence, appreciating your inner power and wisdom and allowing it to flow into your awareness and shape your view of the world. While that may be easier said than done when you have spent a long time in a state of low self-esteem, or are facing a crisis situation of emotional turmoil, it is the first step to true inner freedom and to achieving the outer manifestations you desire. Essentially you are transforming yourself in a process of total emotional self-acceptance. The process of improving self-worth involves shifting your beliefs, feelings and attitudes about yourself to value yourself as a worthwhile human being, and expressing unconditional love for yourself (not dependent on comparisons or standards) so you can become all that you are capable of being. High self-worth is characterized by congruence between inner emotional states and outer states of behavior and the quality of relationships.

It is important to remember that we are ever-changing, evolving beings and we never come to the point where everything is done. We have the power to rebuild, start-over, recreate and begin anew every day. If you have low self-worth, you have the power to nurture yourself and continue to grow. Everything you have experienced in your life to this point has brought you to the you who you are now. You have done the best you can under the unique conditions that have shaped your life thus far. Appreciate yourself for all you are and you will begin to experience more joy, abundance and satisfaction in life.


How to Nurture High Self-Worth


  • When making a decision check in with yourself to get “okayness” from within, not from others. While you may get input from others, your inner gauge is the definitive source of what is right for you.
  • Practice self-care and take care of your emotional, physical, mental and spiritual needs.
  • Balance relaxing with doing; especially if you know you tend to do more for others, or if you are responsible for the care of others.
  • Offer love to others without expectation of something in return. This demonstrates unconditional appreciation for your inner desire to be of service.
  • Listen to your intuition. Practice a moment of “pause” and ask yourself what your gut feeling is about choices or opportunities.
  • Take a few minutes to identify your strengths and ways to express them in your day. Connect with the good feeling of experiencing your strengths whether it’s cooking a great meal or playing an instrument.
  • When you feel out of balance, take time to correct it. Ask yourself what you need. Trust the guidance and follow through.
  • Demonstrate self-respect. Be present in the moment and listening openly and honestly to others. If you don’t feel in sync with what they are doing or saying, give yourself permission to honor your feelings and bow out of the conversation at a convenient time.
  • Affirm appreciation for yourself.
  • Be responsible for your life, beliefs, actions, mistakes and successes. Don’t project blame or responsibility for how you feel onto others.
  • Have self-confidence. This is the you, you were meant to be!
Marilyn Decalo Logo, Phoenix

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