3 Ways to Foster Self-Worth

Fair Warning: This is an actionable post.  This article is for anyone struggling with their sense of self-worth who wants to be happier.  There are 3 downloadable worksheets that will help you identify problems with your sense of self-worth, increase positive thinking, and reset your perspective. 

Day, Loving ourselves works miracles

Symptoms of Poor Self-Worth

You may have poor self-worth if:

  • You’ve been described as “your own worst enemy”
  • When given a compliment you immediately think something negative about yourself
  • People, even friends, frequently take advantage of you
  • You move from one bad relationship to another

As I’ve repeated to my children over and over again, poor self-worth can lead to a myriad of problems.

  • Relationship problems: individuals who don’t have a solid foundation of positive self-worth open themselves up to everything from being taken advantage of by “friends”, to all types of abuse. Gaslighting becomes a particular problem because insidious little “suggestions” that we’re to blame for everything aren’t violently rebuffed by a rock-hard positive self-image.
  • Work problems: like with relationship problems, employees with poor self-worth open themselves up to being taken advantage of by their employers.  This includes being overworked, underpaid, unrecognized, and passed over for promotions.  But, in addition to that, individuals with poor self-worth are generally under-employed!  They don’t go after better jobs because they lack the belief that they’re worthy of them.
  • Health problems:  Our physical, mental, and emotional health are all inextricably linked. Negative self-talk, depression, and surrounding ourselves with toxic relationships all effect our physical health.  (see #3 of “3 Hurdles to Happiness”)

Pre-test: The Self-Worth Scale

Psychologist William James claimed that each individual has different beliefs about what they must do or be in order to have self-worth.  Acting on that idea, a team of researchers: J. Crocker, R.K. Luhtanen, M.L. Cooper, and A. Bouvrette created “The Contingencies of Self-Worth Scale”.

The “Self-Worth Scale” identifies 7 different metrics that we measure our self-worth by:

  1. Family Support: knowing that my family members love me makes me feel good about myself.
  2. Competition: I feel worthwhile when I perform better than others on a task or skill.
  3. Appearance: My sense of self-worth suffers whenever I think I don’t look good.
  4. God’s Love: My self-esteem goes up when I feel that God loves me.
  5. Academic Competence: My opinion about myself isn’t tied to how well I do in school.
  6. Virtue: Doing something I know is wrong makes me lose my self-respect.
  7. Approval from Others: I don’t care if others have a negative opinion about me.

If you’re curious to see how you measure your self-worth, you can download the assessment here.

What I Learned from the Scale

It was interesting to me, (though not really surprising) that when I gave this assessment to 3 boys and 4 girls in my family, I noticed a few differences between the sexes.  Namely, that the “Appearance” attribute was ranked slightly higher on average for the girls than boys. 

Also, for every person in my family, “Approval from Others” came in dead-last.  So, one thing is for sure: when it comes to self-worth, we really don’t care what anyone thinks about us!

“Why should we worry about what others think of us, do we have more confidence in their opinions than we do our own?”

Brigham Young

Now that we understand what metrics we attach our self-worth to, let’s dive in to how to foster and improve our Self-Worth.

Task #1: Recognize Strengths & Qualities

Whenever I have to go interview for a new job, I rehearse again and again what I would say if asked, “What are your strengths”, “What is something you did really well at your previous job”, or anything else along those lines.

Talking about myself doesn’t come naturally to me.  I don’t like it.  I have to practice it so that it sounds natural. 

Have you ever experienced something like that? 

Perry, depreciate our tremendous worth

Does it make you nervous or uncomfortable to talk about yourself, particularly your strengths and positive qualities?  It shouldn’t!  You shouldn’t hide positive character traits you’ve spent years developing—sometimes through arduous, trying circumstances.

After all, it’s these characteristics that unite us to one another through empathy. We should rely on them to help us solidify relationships with others, strengthen others’ weaknesses, and support through understanding and shared experiences. 

Worksheet 1

“Your problem is you’re afraid to acknowledge your own beauty.  You’re too busy holding onto your unworthiness.”

Ram Daas

The first worksheet helps you recognize what your strengths and positive qualities are.  It asks 8 questions, including:

self-worth questions

These questions will help draw out those strengths and qualities that you should be proud of: qualities that will help bolster your sense of self-worth.

(To get all 3 Worksheets, plus a beautiful graphic print sent to your email now, complete the form!)

Task #2: Do you have a Fixed or Growth Mindset?

A Fixed Mindset can be very debilitating to our self-worth, particularly when combined with perfectionism.  A Fixed Mindset sees everything in terms of success and failure.  Even though we might rationally understand that we can never succeed in everything, the emotional weight we attach to our failures can destroy our self-worth.

A Growth Mindset, on the other hand, allows for mistakes.  It recognizes that our best learning comes from improving upon failures.  A Growth Mindset erases the perniciousness of perfection and celebrates progress. (Read more at https://determined2behappy.com/learning-growth/)

Do you allow yourself the freedom to make mistakes; encourage yourself to reflect on those mistakes, and make necessary adjustments and grow stronger and more resilient from them?

Worksheet 2

Similar to Worksheet 1, The Fixed/Growth Mindset worksheet asks you to rate yourself from “Strongly disagree” to “Strongly agree” on 10 questions such as:

This worksheet will give you a scale score reflecting where you lie between a “Strong Fixed Mindset” – “Balanced Mindset” – “Strong Growth Mindset” and will help identify where you can make improvements.

Making adjustments to our levels of perfectionism, and how we perceive our failures can significantly boost our self-worth. 

 Task #3: Create a Positive Affirmation

Everything we do is controlled by our subconscious. We repeat negative or positive thoughts until they are programmed to stay in our subconscious mind. The subconscious mind doesn’t “think for itself”. It can only operate based on what information we put into it.  The scary part is, our subconscious then dictates our actions and emotions, and our core beliefs about ourselves.

If we have programmed our subconscious with negative thoughts, they manifest themselves in social anxiety, poor work/academic performance, failed relationships, depression, poor physical health, etc.

Imagine your subconscious is like the autocorrect on your phone.  You can’t program a shortcut into your phone to always change “ILY” to “I love you” and expect it to do anything else. 

You can’t argue with your phone that this one time you meant for it to say “ILY”; nor can you rationally reason with that when you’re texting your teenage daughter it should send “ILY”, but when texting your mom, it should elaborate into “I love you”.  The autocorrect can only function with what we have programmed it to do. 

This is how our subconscious acts.  We cannot “feed” our mind with self-doubt, negative thoughts about our appearance and our abilities, constantly repeat our fears and anxieties and then expect to rise out of bed every morning full of confidence and energy, happy and determined to be successful. 

You cannot get an apple from an orange tree. You cannot argue with yourself to think one thing and perform another.

So How do I Reprogram my Thoughts?

We have to rewrite our subconscious programming by using a positive affirmation.

Since affirmations are for you and you alone, there is no sense in lying to yourself.  Affirmations only work if you believe in them.  They’re private, they’re tailored to fit your needs from a place that only you fully understand. 

If created correctly and practiced regularly, you are going to rewrite the program of your subconscious mind, supporting it with truth and emotion, until the body can’t help but produce what the mind has been programmed to think. 

Worksheet 3

This is a 3-step worksheet that will guide you through creating an affirmation you can use every day to reprogram your subconscious from a place of poor self-worth to one of confident, positive self-worth. 

This worksheet was inspired by Bob Proctor, who’s work and research on positive affirmations was featured in the book/movie “The Secret”.  Learn more about Bob Proctor’s affirmations here:  www.proctorgallagherinstitute.com

Anyone can improve their self-worth and be happier

As stated at the beginning, creating positive self-worth is an action.  It requires you to:

  • Be honest with yourself
  • Give up holding onto negativity
  • Consciously replace negative thoughts with positive affirmations
Buddha, you deserve your love and affection

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