What are you good at?
I believe I’m good at writing.
When I construct sentences, I feel like a kid with Legos: a whole world emerges out of thin air.
I love sharing my work on stage. My English professors even advised me to publish my poetry.
So, naturally, I identified with being a writer. I felt worthy—I finally had a purpose on Earth!
But then, life got in the way: health problems devoured my time and energy. Writer’s block plagued me.
Suddenly, I felt ashamed. What writer doesn’t write? I’m a good-for-nothing loafer.
Have you ever felt that way?
Our self-worth—the sense of our own value as a person—has everything to do with our joy.
If you believe you have infinite value, you’d probably live happily ever after.
However, most of us compare ourselves to others and battle with an inner critic. Which leaves us feeling anxious and depressed and ruins relationships.
So, what exactly is self-worth? And how can we boost our self-worth and joy?
Self-worth is NOT about your actions
If you base your sense of worth on your achievements, performance or appearance, like perfectionists tend to do, you set yourself up for grief.
You might feel worthy, loved and respected only if you:
- are a good parent
- lose 20 pounds
- please your loved ones
- finish your to-do list
- work at a prestigious job
- are smart, pretty, rich, etc. enough
But what happens when you lose your job, disappoint your kids, gain weight or make mistakes?
Does that mean you’re less worthy? No… Of course, I’m still worthy!
News flash: if you feel ashamed because of your failures, you’re letting them define you.
Actually, if you tie your worth to anything, you’re doing yourself no favors.
The yin yang symbol teaches us that life constantly changes, so it’s futile to grasp anything, including your happiness.
It’s wonderful we want to be our best. But accepting that uncertainty is scary yet inevitable can free you.
Your joy no longer depends on ephemeral things like your achievements or looks. No more endless emotional rollers, anxiety and tension.
You’ll still feel the ups and downs, but they won’t destabilize you as much. Free, free… free at last!
So, how can I build my self-worth?
If everything in life changes, to what can we tie our worth?
In a perfect world, you feel worthy—for no reason at all.
But as kids, we learned that we’re worthy of love only under certain criteria. Believing this, though, denies our human nature—as imperfect as we are—and blocks us from love.
We all have the seeds of good/bad, selfless/selfish and joy/misery. The more we accept this, the more we feel peaceful. And forgive ourselves, when necessary.
Here are 3 tips to boost your self-worth:
1) Witness your inner critic
Many people identify with their inner critic, the judgmental voice in their head. Your inner critic worries if you did a good enough job, look impeccable and have enough money.
My inner critic mocked me for being a phony writer. Surprisingly, it thinks that will motivate me.
Though it tries to be helpful, your inner critic tends to blame, compare and shame. Everything becomes a problem.
Instead, center yourself with grounding exercises.
Observe your thoughts and emotions.
You are more than your mind.
* Learn how to accept and be kind to yourself in my 4-week coaching package, The Self-Compassion Program.
2) Let go of requirements
Evaluate which requirements you need to fulfill to feel worthy. They can come from your upbringing, society and media.
For example, I must:
- do everything perfectly
- avoid asking for help or looking weak
- have a perfect partner, house or outfit
- work hard and forgo rest
- write everyday to be a writer
Remember, there’s nothing wrong with striving for excellence. Just don’t let it define who you are.
Now, simply become aware that these rules have dictated your joy.
Take a deep breath.
You’re worthy just because you exist—regardless of your thoughts or behavior.
Imagine yourself as a small child.
Give her the love and affection she needs.
Bonus points: Send love to the small child within the person who annoys you the most!
3) Cultivate self-compassion
I love taking my daily walk by the Loire River.
Among the tall reeds, mallard ducks polish their feathers. Frogs warble their bold songs. Orange poppies spurt out of the ground.
Not one living thing is wondering, Am I worthy? I have so many flaws. I’m horrible!
Each lizard, butterfly and heron does what they’re supposed to do, in unison with nature.
Us humans tend to complicate things.
I wonder… What if we went with the flow more often?
To see your inherent worth and feel more peaceful, Dr. Kristen Neff suggests practicing these 3 steps:
- Stop to recognize: I’m struggling in this moment and that’s OK.
- Acknowledge that suffering is part of the human condition: I’m not alone.
- Offer yourself soothing gestures and words of acceptance and love. For example, put your hand on your heart and say, May I be kind to myself in this moment.
When you treat yourself kindly, you accept every part of yourself, including your flaws, fears and past actions.
You don’t have to bathe in self-love.
Just meet yourself where you are.
There’s always room to grow.
“Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.” ― Oscar Wilde
You are worthy. Period.
Remember, your self-worth has nothing to do with your thoughts, emotions or behaviors.
We’ve learned that love and respect come at a price. Unfortunately, many people uphold this belief.
Friend, we are worthy—just because we exist.
Let’s create a world where we accept each other.
Start with yourself:
Now that you know you’re worthy…
What will you do next?
About the author
Annie Moussu is a mindfulness-based life coach who helps women let go of perfectionism, self-doubt and people-pleasing. Sign up for her newsletter to get blog articles twice a month.