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What is low self-worth?

Thumbnail: Johnathan Kaufman

Do you feel worthy of living in your own skin? Do you know that you are valuable and lovable? Or do you spend your days wishing you were different, criticizing yourself for what you have or haven’t done, and trying to “fix” yourself?

You could probably benefit from an honest look at your own sense of self-worth.

So what IS self-worth? How do you know where you fall on the self-worth spectrum? 

The term is used interchangeably with self-esteem and self-confidence, but self-worth is my favorite, and I’ll tell you why soon. 

To me, self-worth is defined as your awareness of your intrinsic value. The truth is, all humans have infinite intrinsic value. We’re all 100% worthy. But we don’t all KNOW that yet. 

We can learn to know our worth, though. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve believed hurtful things about yourself. Your worthiness is still there, and it can never be erased– you just need a little help tuning into it!

On that note, I define low self-worth as your inability– to some degree– to see your inherent, intrinsic, unchangeable value. Again, your value never goes away. You simply hold onto limiting beliefs that mask its visibility. 

If you’re reading this, you may already know that you suffer from low self-worth. The simple fact that you’re aware of your self-worth struggles is already amazing. You’re already winning simply by being aware of it, so keep going! 

How do we know, though, if we struggle with low self-worth? I could write a book with all of the “symptoms” that my self-worth struggle has brought into my life, and I could write several more with the signs I have noticed in others. However, I’ll name several of the big ones. If you see yourself in any of these statements, you’re probably struggling with low self-worth. 

Before I list these “symptoms”, I want to make it very clear that there is NO SHAME on you if you relate to any of them. In fact, most people are not yet aware of their intrinsic value, and we all feel this way to some extent at some point in our lives. You’re certainly not alone, and with that being said…

Here are some signs that you may suffer from low self-worth:

  • Indecisiveness or having a lack of direction in life. I’ve suffered from this one big time in the past. 
  • Chasing after relationships and feeling like you can’t live without the object of your affection. This was 100% me from ages 18-21. It goes without saying that self-worth and relationships go hand in hand.
  • Being manipulative. 
  • Avoiding people or isolating yourself. I’m an introvert, which is amazing, but I have in the past (and sometimes still) avoided relationships or people for fear of embarrassment or not being good enough for them.
  • Feeling bored, lonely, numb, or empty most of the time.
  • Feeling trapped or powerless. 
  • Overextending yourself, overgiving, overworking, or constantly “helping” other people when you don’t want to or you’re completely exhausted.
  • Holding back or apologizing for your emotions, feeling bad or weak when you cry (even when you’re alone), etc.
  • Feeling like you’re being used or “walked on”. 
  • Near-constant or obsessive thinking about how other people may perceive you. 
  • A constant need to achieve the next big thing. Nothing wrong with achievement, of course, but ask yourself: do you feel like you won’t be able to live if you DON’T achieve that goal?
  • Feeling tired all of the time. 

Again, you are definitely not alone or broken if you identify with any (or all) of these signs. Like I said, I could write a book with the ways that low self-worth has shown up in my life. 

By now, you’re probably wondering what in the world you can do about it. I’m here to tell you that change is possible. 

If you’re just becoming aware of the toll that your dismal view of yourself has taken on your life, read on for 5 things that you can start doing right now to ease that pain and start feeling more love for yourself. 

5 ways that you can increase your sense of self worth right now:

  • Acknowledge your awareness. You’re reading this, like I said, so you already know that you want something to change. You’re already taking a major step that many people never take. Take a minute to congratulate yourself for that, because the truth is, you’re already moving in the right direction– awareness is a huge factor in building your self-worth, and you’ve just proven to me and to yourself that you already have everything you need. 
  • Offer compassion. Be gentle. I understand completely if your first reaction is to beat yourself up for “not being confident enough”. I’ve been there. In order to build a sense of worth, though, it’s necessary to take a compassionate approach. Acknowledge that you never chose to feel unworthy and unloved. Acknowledge that you are struggling, and that it’s okay. Take some deep breaths and know that there is nothing wrong with you, and you are not a bad person, simply for feeling bad about yourself.
  • Simply notice your inner critic. When is your inner critic triggered? As you go through your day, notice when that “warm wash of shame” (as Brene Brown says) floods your veins. If you’re with other people, notice exactly what conversations are taking place. If you’re on the internet, notice exactly what you saw or read when you started feeling bad about yourself. Again, slow down, take a deep breath, and offer compassion. Acknowledge that having these negative thoughts and feelings does not make you a bad person. 
  • Practice boundary setting with your own negative thoughts. Again, I like to take a gentle approach with this. Let’s say that your thoughts tell you how stupid you are for something you said yesterday. Let your thoughts know that you don’t want to be talked to that way. Seriously– treat your critical thoughts like they’re another person living inside your head. One thing you can say to a mean inner critic is something like, “Okay, brain, I hear you. But I won’t allow you to shame me. I’d love to hear what you think I could do better, but only if it’s constructive.” This will open up space for that inner critic to provide constructive feedback that doesn’t make you feel terrible. And that feedback will go much further than shame ever will.
  • Ask yourself this question.  Is the world a better place with you in it? If you don’t see your intrinsic value, you probably compare yourself to a lot of other people. You probably wonder why you can’t just be “good enough” like everyone else seems to be. But what if you simply asked yourself: Is the world a better place with you in it? It probably is. I’m willing to bet that there’s probably at least one person in the world whose life is a little bit brighter because you’re in it. Which means that YOU provide value to the world, and you will continue to provide value, simply by existing. Really take that in. Who cares if some people think that someone else is “better”? There are people in your life who wouldn’t trade your presence for anyone else’s. 

These are some simple yet powerful tips to get your mind headed in a direction of self-worth, and I suggest you practice these every day if you’re really struggling and feeling bad about yourself.

Did you try any of these practices? Let me know how they went! And here’s to you for wanting to feel great about yourself. Learning to love yourself really does make everything better.

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