What is self-worth and why you need it
The terms self-worth and self-esteem are often used interchangeably. While the two are very similar and one needs the other, there are slight differences in the definitions.
Self-worth is the sense of feeling good enough. The sense of feeling worthy of love and belonging.
Self-esteem is having confidence in your own self-worth and abilities. Self-esteem is liking yourself regardless of your situation or how things turn out.
Without a strong sense of self-worth and a healthy self-esteem, your self-image will inevitably be warped. A warped self-image can lead to all kinds of mental health problems: depression, anxiety, you name it.
Without having a sense of self-worth and self-esteem, you are far more likely to live in constant self-doubt. This is dangerous because it means you will be less likely to achieve your goals or to live a life you truly love.
It also means ending up in toxic relationships and remaining in them. It means being afraid to speak up for what you believe in and being afraid to set and enforce healthy boundaries.
Struggling with self-worth and self-esteem
There are many reasons someone might struggle with their self-worth and self-esteem. High self-doubt. Past trauma. Toxic relationships. Childhood abuse. Bullying. You name it. Whatever the reason, the result is the same: constant questioning of yourself and whether you are worth it. Disliking yourself. Giving up on your dreams. Not working hard enough on your goals.
Don’t think for a second that having low self-worth and self-esteem is inherently a rich vs poor problem. Women from all walks of life struggle with having low self-worth. It manifests itself into drug addiction, being abusive to their partners, staying in abusive relationships, and the list goes on.
I used to struggle with having a low sense of self-worth and self-esteem. In fact, there was a time in my life when I literally felt worthless.
Beginning in my teen years and continuing into my mid-twenties, I had an abusive relationship with my mom and when she was enraged or dissatisfied with me for whatever reason, I would be reminded that I am worthless.
Now while my relationship with my mom has gotten significantly better thanks to me practicing forgiveness (which I recently learned I’m not very good at…haha! There’s still room for improvement) and setting and enforcing certain boundaries, the scars from those experiences lingered.
It took a while for me to really see myself and be able to think I am worthy. Worthy of love. Worthy of success. Worthy of respect and – as superficial as it may sound – worthy of having nice things.
If you are reading this article, I assume you might be struggling with the same and you want to know how you can work on your self-worth and self-esteem. I’ll share a few things that I did that I hope you’ll find helpful.
10. Change your negative self-talk. How you talk to yourself matters.
This is something that still leaks into my world from time to time, even to this day.
Have you ever had those moments where you do something silly or say something silly and you go “Gah! I’m so stupid!” or “I’m such an idiot!”?
Have you ever had moments where you did something bad or something you feel bad about or maybe you just didn’t do as great on something as you wanted and you go “I suck!”?
Here’s another one: have you ever seen someone you admire do some really amazing things and think to yourself “yeah I can’t do that”?
I suck. I’m so stupid. I can’t do that. I’m such an idiot. I’m so clumsy. I’m not pretty enough. I’m too lazy. I’m too fat. My ass is not big enough. My boobs aren’t big enough. My hair isn’t long enough. The list goes on and it’s a very long list.
These kinds of sentences matter. They begin to leak into your mind and your brain begins to accept that they are true.
There is an old adage “as a man thinketh so is he” and while it may be cliche, it is still true even today. Whatever you think of yourself becomes your reality.
There’s a verse in the Bible that says “there’s life and death in the power of the tongue”. This is also true because how you speak to yourself becomes how you see yourself and how you see yourself becomes your reality.
How to change your negative self-talk
What I did was to change the way I spoke to and about myself. It’s not something that came naturally at first, so every time I said something negative about myself, I would immediately overwrite it with something positive or corrective.
For example, if I didn’t do as well on something as I wanted, and the negative self-talk kicked in: “oh I suck so bad”. I would immediately correct that with “No Lis. You don’t suck. You are learning and you will get better if you keep at it”.
Over time, it became more natural and instead of the negative self-talk, I now say “damn! Next time!” This makes me want to try again because I believe in myself. I believe I can get it right next time.
9. Speak positively about yourself.
I can’t tell you to change your negative self-talk without telling you to speak positively about yourself. We are our worst critics because we hold no punches when we’re criticizing ourselves. But if you can become your biggest cheerleader, there is nothing that can permanently break you down. You will always bounce back.
What we believe about ourselves becomes our truths. Our truth becomes our realities and we exist in our own realities. That’s why someone can look at you and believe you’re absolutely gorgeous and yet, you believe you’re not all that. Without a positive self-image, someone can give you a compliment and you will react negatively to it.
This is something I struggled with for a really long time. I even stopped dating a guy once because he complimented me too much. I’ve stopped dating guys because they were “too nice”.
What does that even mean, anyway? It means I didn’t feel worthy of how nicely they treated me. I didn’t feel as beautiful as they saw me. So I removed the external factors I thought were the problem. Truth is, I needed to look inside to find the real problem: my low self-esteem and lack of self-worth.
How I started
Once I started speaking positively about myself, I started seeing myself in a whole new light. I started with my Naked Mirror Challenge where I would quite literally stand butt-ass naked and stare at myself in the mirror and look – really look – for something to like. Something I could complement.
I started small – my teeth, my smile – then eventually found more and more things to complement. Before long, I fell in love with the woman in the mirror.
Naturally, I moved on to finding positive things to say about myself as a person. The things I liked about myself. Things I felt like I was good at. Before long, the list grew and just kept growing.
When it comes to building up your self-worth and self-esteem, you have to start speaking positively about yourself. From your physical appearance to how you are as a person.
8. Set high expectations for yourself
Another powerful way to build up your self-worth and self-esteem is to set high expectations for yourself. Hold yourself to a high standard. Expect great things from yourself.
Naturally, I expect you to be realistic about the standards and expectations you have of yourself but don’t use “realistic” as an excuse to set mediocre ones.
Expect yourself to be driven. Expect yourself to be committed. Expect yourself to be disciplined. Expect yourself to win. Expect yourself to boss up. Expect yourself to grow. Expect yourself to achieve financial success. Expect yourself to build meaningful relationships. Expect yourself to be a leader in your own right. Expect yourself to realize your dreams by achieving your goals. Expect great things from yourself.
When I was growing up I used to hear the saying “don’t hang your hat where you can’t reach it”. Well, I cry total bullsh*t! Do you know when my life began changing for the better? When I started throwing my goddamn hat further than I could reach it.
Because that meant I had to build myself up to reach it. Every time I reached it, I would look back at how far I had come and feel a sense of accomplishment. Then I would throw it higher than I could reach it again. The growth process would continue until I reached my proverbial hat once more.
One reason you have a low sense of self-worth and self-esteem is because you are not self-actualizing. You have to prove to yourself that you are worth it.
I could stay here and write all kinds of affirmations and tell you how much you are worth it – and you are by the way – but that doesn’t mean a damn thing if you don’t believe that about yourself.
You have to prove it to yourself every single damn day. Set goals – meaningful goals – and work towards hitting all of those targets. I guarantee you will feel your sense of self-worth and self-esteem building up with each one.
7. Take chances. Take calculated risks.
Self-worth and self-esteem can also come from direction and purpose. If you don’t know what yours is yet, that’s fine. It takes a while for most people to find theirs.
But it does mean that you are doing enough things yet. You haven’t been trying enough things. You haven’t been taking enough risks. Calculated risks of course, but risks nonetheless.
They say if your dreams don’t scare you it means you’re not dreaming big enough and I believe that. When I was younger and my sense of self-worth and self-esteem was just basically trash.
I used to dream of being able to just get by. Then I had my son and realized that wasn’t gonna be enough. It wasn’t gonna be enough to just get by.
A change was needed
I started dreaming of living in an affluent community. Becoming wealthy and financially confident so my son would be guaranteed a better life than the one I had growing up. So my son would never have to know poverty as I did. So my son would grow up in a better environment surrounded by forward-thinking people instead of people who chose to complain about life while doing nothing about it.
That’s when my dreams started scaring me. But that’s also when I started taking chances. I would force myself to step outside of my comfort zone. I would force myself to talk to people and seek out opportunities. The biggest risk I took at the time was going to college because that meant I had to leave my baby at home with my mom.
My mom and I weren’t exactly the best of friends at that time and she was abusive to me growing up. She wasn’t pleased about me having a kid at 19, so I feared she would be abusive to him too.
It also meant I had to miss out on a lot of his baby firsts. But if it all worked out, it would be great. I would be able to get a job that paid a decent salary. I’d be able to move out on my own and take my baby with me.
Things didn’t exactly go smoothly but by God, I was right for taking that risk. Because that’s where I started working on myself and my mindset. That’s where I began to change my life. And I did in fact achieve that goal of moving out and taking my kid with me.
Now that’s just one example and it might not seem like much but I want you to pay attention to the principles. Those are the principles I wish for you to apply to your growth journey. Take a chance. If you want a promotion, become more valuable to the company and ask for the promotion. If you don’t ask the answer is always no.
6. Practice self care.
This includes exercise and eating healthy. Yes. You’ve been lied to by self-care gurus. It’s not only about soaking in a bathtub and burning sage in your home. Self-care is exactly what it sounds like: taking care of yourself.
Self-care means eating healthily. It means exercising regularly. It means practicing proper grooming. It means satisfying your needs.
It also means protecting your mental energy. It means saying no to things that are contradictory to your core values. It means walking away from toxicity. It means checking yourself to see if you are toxic and fixing that.
Self-care means you avoid negativity where possible and feed your mind with positivity. While you can’t really completely avoid life’s negatives, you can certainly ensure you are not purposefully seeking out or allowing drama in your life.
Self-care also means letting go of the dead weight. That could be your own toxic behaviors or maybe even people in your life – friends or family – where necessary.
Self-care means developing positive, meaningful habits. Habits like reading more and watching less tv. Habits like going to bed and waking up at a set time every day: or at least most days. Habits like using social media less. Habits like sharing positive news on social platforms instead of just forwarding the negativity.
Self-care is about the total self. Mind, body, and spirit. If you are neglecting either one of those areas, you are not doing it right. Some days might require you to focus on one area more than the others but you have to maintain an overall balance and take care of your total self.
5. Learn how to say no.
This is especially hard for more agreeable people. You don’t wanna offend anyone. You don’t wanna hurt anyone’s feelings. But please sis, please practice saying no.
Don’t do things only because you want to please someone. I’m not gonna say if it makes you feel uncomfortable don’t do it because I do believe there are a lot of things that are good for you that are uncomfortable at first. Growth is uncomfortable sometimes. But if it compromises your values, if it compromises who you are or who you are working to become, don’t do it.
How many times have you agreed to go someplace you despised because you didn’t want to be the only friend that’s “not fun”? How many times have you done things that you felt bad about but just went along with it because you didn’t want the other person to feel bad?
How many times have you gone to an event where you knew the toxicity levels would be high but you didn’t wanna offend anyone? How many times have you said yes to things that made you feel really bad about yourself as a person? Or made you feel really small? Or made you feel worthless?
Every time you say yes to those things, you are reducing your sense of self-worth and self-esteem. Your brain is going “clearly I’m crap because I keep doing crap things” or “clearly I’m a coward because I can’t just speak up for myself”.
You have to prove to yourself that this is not true by speaking up for yourself and saying no sometimes.
Listen, I’m not talking about this fake unbotheredness that I see a lot of people promoting these days. I’m not talking about being blatantly being an awful person and not caring about whether or not you offend or hurt someone’s feelings.
Of course, you should care. You’re not a horrible person and that’s not your intention. But you have to say no to things that destroy you inside. Respectfully and unapologetically.
4. Define your values
Who are you at the core? What do you believe in? What do you stand for? How can you have a strong sense of self-worth without knowing the answers to these questions? The answers to these questions define who you are. They define “self”.
Remember that self-worth is that feeling of being worthy. It’s that feeling of being worth the time, being worth the effort. It’s that feeling of deservingness.
The answers to the above questions are the foundation to self-love which ultimately leads to a heightened sense of self-worth and self-esteem. Without self-worth, you’ll find you allow things to happen in your life or you settle for things that you know are not what you deserve.
Because you didn’t take the time to define yourself, define your values, define what you are worth, you just accept whatever is given instead of going after what you deserve. This could be financial status, relationship, career, public image. It could be anything. Your self-worth and self-esteem affect every area of your life.
If you don’t know who you are, what you believe in, and what you stand for, you will just go where the wind carries you. You will not live intentionally. You will become a passenger in your life instead of the driver. You’ll become the canvas that life is painted on instead of the painter who paints the picture she wants.
When you are able to define your values, that’s how you’ll be able to identify the relationships that actually tear you down. That’s how you’ll begin to identify the habits that keep you down. That’s how you’ll meet the You that you need to love.
How to define your values
In order to define your values, you need to self-reflect and be truly honest with yourself. Think about the things you are involved in right now; the things you used to be involved in and the things you want to be involved in.
What do you find fun? What makes you happy? What makes you sad? What gives your pleasure? What makes you light up? What makes you sad?
This activity will take a while if you are being truly honest with yourself. It may take you a few days or weeks but that’s fine.
If you are serious though, I suggest writing down the answers to these questions and really think about them. Then think about what your ideal self looks like.
Does she line up with your current reality? Is she worthy? Does she have a high sense of self-worth? Then you need to begin crafting her.
3. Set healty boundaries.
I’ve already mentioned how setting boundaries helped to improve my relationship with my mom. It won’t always be the case with everyone in your life. Sometimes, setting and enforcing boundaries actually removes people from your life and that’s fine.
If someone cannot respect your boundaries, they should not be in your life. Just remember to do unto others what you will have them do unto you.
I don’t believe in this notion that if someone doesn’t serve you in any way they should not be in your life because that’s narcissistic in my opinion. If you are not willing to clean someone’s shoes, you shouldn’t expect them to clean yours. If you are not willing to unclog your own toilet, you shouldn’t expect someone else to.
I actually believe that sometimes people come into our lives because we need to serve them. We are to make their journey a little brighter, a little easier. Some people are meant to serve us for a while on our journey, I believe that, but some people are there for us to serve them.
You just have to remember to set healthy boundaries with the people who come into your life. Boundaries help to protect your sense of self. Boundaries help to protect your self-worth and self-esteem.
Boundaries help to protect your core character so you don’t end up selling your soul to please people or to get what you want in life. Boundaries protect your dignity and integrity. Most importantly, boundaries protect your mental health and your energy.
2. Give yourself permission to have nice things.
We often make ourselves small by denying ourselves the things we want. I remember when my fiance proposed to me and I felt so uncomfortable wearing the ring because I thought it was too nice. It was the very first time I’d seen a real diamond in my life so I felt like it was too much.
But it’s not. There were plenty of other rings in that same jewelry store that were way more expensive. But even though I knew that I would turn the diamond in towards my palm when wearing it so it wouldn’t seem like “all that” because I still felt it was too much.
Have you ever felt like that? There’ve been times when I’d wanna go somewhere, eat at a certain restaurant, buy certain clothes, etc, but I wouldn’t let myself have it. Have you ever had similar experiences?
Let me tell you this Queen. It’s not too much to want nice things. It’s not too much to want expensive things. If you are willing to put in the work and go for it, you deserve it. I believe it’s only too much if you expect to just sit on your ass and someone else does all the work, you do nothing and expect it to fall into your lap. If you work hard, you deserve everything your little heart desires.
Let yourself have it. Let yourself have nice experiences. Let yourself be loved. Let yourself be appreciated. Let yourself have the things you want. Let yourself have the life you want. Celebrate your wins. Celebrate your accomplishments. Give yourself permission to.
1. Be the hero in your own story.
If you are struggling with low self-worth and self-esteem right now, chances are you haven’t proven yourself to yourself enough. You haven’t saved yourself enough.
You haven’t come through on your promises to yourself enough. You’ve gone back on your word too much so you don’t feel like you can depend on yourself enough. You haven’t stepped up and said no enough. You haven’t spoken up for yourself enough.
This is something I learned over the years that even if you are in an amazing relationship with someone who treats you like the center of his world. Even if you have the most amazing bond with your kids. Even if you have the most wonderful friends in the world and even if you have an amazing bond with your family. You still have to be your own hero.
Self-worth and self-esteem come from self-actualization. Be your own hero so you can learn to trust yourself.
When you set a goal and give up on it because it’s too hard, you are destroying your own ability to trust yourself. When you let someone walk over you or treat you like crap without speaking up and respectfully saying enough is enough, you are destroying your own self-worth and self-esteem. When you accept things that are against who you are as a person just for an easier life, you are giving away a piece of yourself.
Prove to yourself that you can do whatever it is that you want to do. Prove to yourself that you can accomplish whatever it is that you want to accomplish.
It’s okay to ask for and accept help. That’s also a part of the process because you are teaching yourself that you know when to ask for help. That you aren’t just intentionally making your life harder than it needs to be. You are proving that you aren’t allowing pride to get in the way of your own happiness.
Over time, you’ll learn to trust yourself even more because you’ll know that you are capable of protecting yourself and when you can’t you know when to ask for help. Be your own hero.
There was a point in my life when I had no sense of self-worth and self-esteem. When I felt I wasn’t worthy of anything good. That led to a lot of self-sabotage, self-loathing, and self-doubt.
When I started practicing the steps I mentioned above, I began realizing who I was. I began unfolding into the woman I want to be.
While I’m still learning and growing as I go along, I can be proud of myself to know that I have come this far and have learned to love myself. I still struggle with self-doubt from time to time but my sense of self-worth and self-esteem are intact and I protect that with all my might.
I hope these are steps that can work for you too. Save this post and share it on your socials if you think it will be helpful to other women struggling with self-worth and self-esteem issues and let me know what your thoughts are in the comments.