Self-worth is a feeling that you are a good person who deserves to be treated with respect. Below are five exercises for developing and maintaining self-worth.
1. Increase your self-understanding
An important activity on the road to self-worth is to build self-understanding. You need to learn who you are and what you want before you can decide you are a worthy human being. Try this simple thought experiment to work on increasing your understanding of yourself:
- Imagine that everything you have is suddenly taken away from you (i.e., possessions, relationships, friendships, status, job/career, accomplishments and achievements, etc.);
- Ask yourself the following questions:
a. What if everything I have was suddenly taken away from me?
b. What if all I had left was just myself?
c. How would that make me feel?
d. What would I actually have that would be of value?
- Think about your answers to these questions and see if you can come to this conclusion: “No matter what happens externally and no matter what’s taken away from me, I’m not affected internally”;
- Next, get to know yourself on a deeper level with these questions:
a. Who I am? I am . . . I am not . . .
b. How am I?
c. How am I in the world?
d. How do others see me?
e. How do others speak about me?
f. What key life moments define who I am today?
g. What brings me the most passion, fulfillment, and joy?
- Once you have a good understanding of who you are and what fulfills and satisfies you, it’s time to look at what isn’t so great or easy about being you. Ask yourself these questions:
a. Where do I struggle most?
b. Where do I need to improve?
c. What fears often hold me back?
d. What habitual emotions hurt me?
e. What mistakes do I tend to make?
f. Where do I tend to consistently let myself down?
- Finally, take a moment to look at the flipside; ask yourself:
a. What abilities do I have?
b. What am I really good at?
Spend some time on each step, but especially on the steps that remind you of your worth and your value as a person (e.g., the strengths step).
2. Boost your self-acceptance
Once you have a better idea of who you are, the next step is to enhance your acceptance of yourself. Start by forgiving yourself for anything you noted in item 5 above. Think of any struggles, needs for improvement, mistakes, and bad habits you have, and commit to forgiving yourself and accepting yourself without judgment or excuses. Think about everything you learned about yourself in the first exercise and repeat these statements:
- I accept the good, the bad and the ugly;
- I fully accept every part of myself including my flaws, fears, behaviours, and qualities I might not be too proud of;
- This is how I am, and I am at peace with that
3. Enhance your self-love
Now that you have worked on accepting yourself for who you are, you can begin to build love and care for yourself. Make it a goal to extend yourself kindness, tolerance, generosity, and compassion. To boost self-love, start paying attention to the tone you use with yourself. Commit to being more positive and uplifting when talking to yourself. If you’re not sure how to get started, think (or say aloud) these simple statements:
- I feel valued and special
- I love myself whole heartedly
- I am a worthy and capable person
4. Recognize your self-worth
Once you understand, accept, and love yourself, you will reach a point where you no longer depend on people, accomplishments, or other external factors for your self-worth. At this point, the best thing you can do is recognize your worth and appreciate yourself for the work you’ve done to get here, as well as continuing to maintain your self-understanding, self-acceptance, self-love, and self-worth. To recognize your self-worth, remind yourself that:
- You no longer need to please other people;
- No matter what people do or say, and regardless of what happens outside of you, you alone control how you feel about yourself;
- You have the power to respond to events and circumstances based on your internal sources, resources and resourcefulness, which are the reflection of your true value;
- Your value comes from inside, from an internal measure that you’ve set for yourself.
5. Take responsibility for yourself
In this stage, you will practice being responsible for yourself, your circumstances, and your problems. Follow these guidelines to ensure you are working on this exercise in a healthy way:
- Take full responsibility for everything that happens to you without giving your personal power and your agency away;
- Acknowledge that you have the personal power to change and influence the events and circumstances of your life.
Remind yourself of what you have learned through all of these exercises and know that you hold the power in your own life. Revel in your well-earned sense of self-worth and make sure to maintain it.