Self Worth, as I like to define it, is the sense of value we have for our own self. Self Worth is really about how much we like ourselves, and comes from feeling good about ourselves in a way which is fairly independent of what we do and how successful we are in the eyes of the world. It is can give us a sense of well being independent of how well we “perform” at our chosen tasks or goals.
When we lack Self Worth we tend to feel unworthy of the good things in life such as love, friendship, success and so on. Lack of Self Worth can drive a person to being an over-achiever (whether that is over achieving in business or in saving the planet). Yet the feeling of unworthiness will stop the person from allowing themselves to enjoy any successes they have. No success is good enough for them, because (they feel) that they are just not good enough. A feeling of something, or themselves, being ‘good enough’ has as yet no space to grow inside them.
When we have high Self Worth we like ourselves and tend to instinctively like other people. In turn, this means that other people tend to like us. In other words, someone with a high level of Self Worth will be a ‘people person’, will be well liked, and find it easy to connect with others. How we feel about ourselves is usually closely mirrored by how we feel about other people. If we do not like ourselves it will be hard for us to like others. We would then be suspicious of anyone who likes us (we would tend to assume that they are crazy, stupid, or up to something).
It helps to understand Self Worth if we first understand that humility is not the same thing as feeling unworthy. Feeling unworthy can be a form of self-loathing disguised as humility. Many of us were taught that we are “miserable sinners” during our formative years and this form of wide-spread abuse can take a while to acknowledge and then to throw off. It is not really up to any human being, including us, to decide on a definitive value of our worth. The perspective of a single human life is too narrow for that.
True humility includes feeling good about ourselves (feeling unworthy obviously does not). Both humility and feeling unworthy can cause us to not push ourselves forward, but for very different reasons and with a very different quality. Feeling unworthy stops us pushing ourselves forward as we don’t feel good enough (good enough to achieve our goals, to speak our truth, etc). When humility stops us pushing ourselves forward it is because we feel we have so much already that we can easily hold back or step aside and let others have a chance.
Like anything which gets out of balance, it is possible to have too much Self Worth. In order to achieve things in life we need to take risks and break out of our comfort zone. Self Worth brings a very nice comfort zone which can be a challenge to break out of. A person of high Self Worth, but who lacks a sense of purpose (Self Respect), or has little belief in their ability to make their way in the world (Self Confidence), may be tempted to hide away. They may hide in a community, in a relationship, or in any situation which confirms how lovable they are but does not challenge them. Such a person needs to stop looking at themselves in the mirror (ie the eyes of other people) and get on with something more productive. Otherwise they may feel a confusing sense of frustration building up as they have high ideals, and good ideas, but be sadly unable to do anything about them till they release their self obsession.
Most of us could probably do with more Self Worth. That comes from being willing to acknowledge, encourage and enjoy the growth of the goodness we find in ourselves and in others. Self Worth comes from establishing a feeling of basic goodness in ourselves. Letting go of cynical and defensive attitudes may need to be a part of this. Also forgiving and letting go of past disappointments, times when people let us down, experiences of unrequited love and so on all play their part in creating healthy Self Worth.