My experience with low self-worth started early in life…
I grew up as an only child and was often lonely. My parents were introverted, and I was extroverted. So oftentimes when I wanted to play with my parents, they wanted their quiet time. No fun! I was also one of the only Black girls in a predominantly white school. I was one of the few students who wasn’t invited to parties and wasn’t crushed on by the cute boys. To make things worse, I also felt like I didn’t fit in at church, even though I had Black friends there. There were times when I hadn’t seen the newest, coolest movies or shows and I didn’t know the latest dance moves or songs.
All of these experiences caused me to feel left out, lonely, and that there was something wrong with me. It made me feel like I wasn’t worthy of attention, affection, or being included.
Around age 12, I decided to do something about it. I wanted to figure out how to feel loved, accepted, and included. I tried to be the perfect friend, always selfless, generous, and giving… which are all great characteristics, though I never asked for anything in return. See the problem here? I even tried my hardest academically, getting perfect grades and trying to get into all the great universities, to feel worthy in that respect. Still, nothing was changing.
That pattern continued into my adulthood. Though I succeeded in school, eventually getting my doctorate, it still didn’t take away my feelings of unworthiness. Realizing that didn’t work, I went on to try using relationships to feel worthy. After years of this, I finally realized NONE of it worked and that I needed a new plan.
I went to therapy in grad school because I was suffering from severe anxiety. I wonder why… The source of my anxiety and discontent was that I was trying to base my worth on external conditions, trying to find my sense of worthiness in academics, professional success, and relationships.
Can you relate to any of this? You’re not alone!
This is a common experience and something I’ve heard time and time again from my clients. The pain of not feeling worthy, the intense desire to figure it out and find something to make themselves feel worthy, then coming up short, criticizing and questioning themselves about what they did wrong. It’s a harmful cycle that I help people find the end to.
What’s the difference between self-esteem and self-worth?
Self-esteem is derived from our abilities, social position, accomplishments, and things we believe we can achieve. We can boost our self-esteem by learning new skills or improving our performance and it goes up and down based on how we’re doing in various aspects of our lives. This is why you feel great about yourself whenever you win a competition, get a promotion, or successfully do a headstand, yet if you make a mistake or fail, you feel pretty bad about yourself.
People may have high self-esteem, yet struggle with feelings of low self-worth that leave them feeling empty and discontent despite their achievements and accomplishments.
Have you ever had an experience where you reached that ultimate goal you’ve been striving for, but when the excitement wore off, you still felt empty? That’s where self-esteem can leave us high and dry.
Unconditional self-worth is distinct in that it’s not something we can have more or less of. It’s not about comparing ourselves to other people. Unconditional self-worth is the sense that you deserve to be alive, to be loved and cared for, and to take up space.
Why is unconditional self-worth important?
As a clinical psychologist, I believe pervasive low self-worth is a root cause of mental illness. People all over the world are struggling with mental illness more than ever before and I believe that our disconnection from our true source of self-worth is a major contributing factor to the anxiety and depression that people are experiencing.
When we don’t feel unconditionally worthy, we’re more likely to settle for unhealthy relationships where we don’t have our needs met, which can increase anxiety and depression. If you don’t feel worthy, you’re not going to negotiate for that salary or that raise that you deserve and you’re not going to take care of your body in the way your body deserves.
When we believe we are worthy of love and respect, we’re more likely to demand that in our relationships. When we believe we are worthy of success and sharing our gifts with the world, we’re more likely to show up and experience the success we most desire.
When we feel worthy unconditionally, we’re more likely to take good care of our mental and physical health and less likely to experience mental illness.
When I connected to the true source of my worth, knowing that my worthiness is comes from something within me, not something external to me, SO many things shifted in my life. I was free of the anxiety that inhabited my mind for years, I began to build healthy and loving friendships and relationships that are mutually beneficial, I was able to show up more authentically in my work and my personal life, and I was able to manifest more abundance, prosperity, joy, and peace in all areas of life.
Of course, I still experience challenges and frustrations in life… I’m still human, but connecting to the true source of my self-worth has been extremely liberating and has made life so much better than it was before! At its core, it’s about healing and transforming our relationship with our self, letting go of the belief that something is wrong with us, releasing self-criticism when we make mistakes, and connecting more deeply to compassion, grace, and encouragement.
Are you getting excited about starting your journey to self-worth and the unboxing of all the incredible opportunities life has for you?
Here’s a journaling practice that can help you reflect on this…
I encourage you to start reflecting on whether you believe you are unconditionally worthy now. Write about your answers to the following questions and see what comes up for you!
- Do you believe you are unconditionally worthy?
- Are there conditions you believe you need to meet in order to be worthy? What are they?
- What keeps you from feeling worthy?
- What would life be like for you if you believed you were worthy unconditionally?
Get my FREE eBook on 4 Practices to Overcome Low Self-Worth: https://view.flodesk.com/pages/5f0480e1ba80b7002606b16b
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