How you feel about yourself, your self-worth, and your confidence have a massive impact on your positive or negative experience of life. Why is that? Because it’s one of the primary lenses through which you interact with your world and the people in it.
How we feel about ourselves has a massive impact on our happiness levels and the levels of fulfillment we feel, which are major indicators of whether we’re entangled with negative patterns, or we’re free of them.
The way you feel about yourself impacts almost every decision you make.
Self-worth is not black and white or all or nothing; it’s not that we have it or we don’t. Self-worth resides on a continuum, and it can rise and fall throughout life. The great news is that our feelings of self-worth are completely within our control. No matter how you were raised, no matter where you live, whether you’re swimming in pools of Scrooge McDuck money or you’re barely squeaking by, whether you’re a supermodel or you’re unattractive, external factors are independent of self-worth.
And we know this to be true. How many supermodels abuse their bodies with eating disorders? How many rich people wind up in rehab? The answer is plenty. Great looks don’t make you feel great about yourself, and money doesn’t buy you self-worth. Conversely, we all know people with below average looks, intelligence, or income who carry themselves with dignity and respect.
Low Self Worth and Being Alone
When we have low self-worth, we also don’t necessarily enjoy our own company within the circumstance of stillness. Enjoying your own company doesn’t mean eating, watching TV, or anything else we might do while we’re alone to fill the silence. Even over-thinking and over-analyzing is a way to keep our wheels spinning and to evade stillness.
Often people with low self-worth feel anxious because they give to others constantly or because they set up their lives based on the opinions of our parents or society. But being alone with ourselves to figure out what we want also might cause us anxiety if we haven’t learned to enjoy our own company. Stillness? Silence? That freaks people out. Again, enter negative patterns – whether that’s with people, or other bad habits so that we never have to be alone with ourselves.
Enjoying your own company means you can sit in quiet and stillness alone with yourself and you allow yourself to listen to what you have to say. You listen to what your heart is trying to tell you. You believe that your deepest desires for your life matter, and you’re willing to be with yourself in stillness so that you can feel that and hear it, so that you can write down the messages that your soul is trying to send you.
I can recall in my childhood the continuous excitement of long days in which nothing happened; and an indescribable sense of fullness in large and empty rooms. And with whatever I retain of childishness…I still feel a very strong and positive pleasure in being stranded in queer quiet places, in neglected corners where nothing happens and anything may happen; in unfashionable hotels, in empty waiting-rooms, or in watering-places out of the season. It seems as if we needed such places, and sufficient solitude in them, to let certain nameless suggestions soak into us and make a richer soil of the unconscious.
–G. K. Chesterton, “On the Thrills of Boredom”
I’m focusing on self-worth because it’s the work we must do before our lives can work. We might want to hurry up and get to the “meat” – to get a grip and end toxic patterns, to stop our bad habits, start an amazing career, lose weight, or feel more in control – but before we can do any of that, we need to recognize and fully accept our own magnificence on a deep level.
It’s not as simple as saying, “Okay, okay, I’m magnificent. Got it.” We all have negative thoughts and beliefs about ourselves that are deep-rooted, many of which we’re not even aware. Our task is to recognize these destructive thoughts and feelings about ourselves, and to clear out the underlying beliefs that are hindering us and making us feel “less than” or uncomfortable in our own skin.
You are lovable. Can you show me any baby in any nursery who isn’t priceless? No. There’s no such thing as a worthless newborn. And the essential value that was born into brand-new-baby you can never be extinguished. This means that even if you think you’re being absolutely honest, believing yourself to be anything other than astonishing, incomparable, and infinitely precious makes you a habitual liar.
– Martha Beck
People With High Self-Worth Practice Risking Rejection
If you fear expressing your wants, needs or thoughts, you’re going to benefit from learning this juicy little secret: those happy and successful people who seem like they’re bulletproof – they also worry about the opinions of others, but they act in the face of fear anyway.
I always thought that best-selling author Tim Ferriss seemed like he had mountains of confidence and that he was so fearless to put himself out there and accomplish so much. I thought his parents must have treated him a certain way, or that he was just somehow luckier than I am to be able to express himself freely without fear of rejection. However, after following his career for a while and paying attention to his interviews, I’ve learned that he suffers bouts of insecurity just like everyone else.
In one interview, he revealed that his personality seems to be very polarizing – people either love him or hate him (and indeed, I’ve seen some bitterness and contempt hurled at Tim online). The most remarkable thing about this though, is that when discussing this, Tim seemed genuinely impacted and bothered that some people really don’t like him. It made a big impression on me because it means this: even though it bothers Tim that some people hate him, he keeps publishing books. He keeps blogging. He keeps meeting new people and gathering amazing new experiences. He keeps taking risks. He knows that his self-worth doesn’t lie in the opinions of others.
Millionaire businesswoman and philanthropist Marie Forleo put it very succinctly when she said, “There are people who don’t like me. I don’t care because they’re not my people.” There is no such thing as fearlessness. The question is whether you’re going to act in the face of fear or let fear stop you.
When you put yourself out there and you express your wants, needs or thoughts regardless of what others might think, you give those who might love the real you the chance to find you. And via your success and your failures — which are really just learning opportunities when handled the right way — you gain courage and self-respect for doing hard things. Self worth rarely blooms and grows fully in a self-protective bubble. Eventually you have to take yourself for a spin around the block, out there in the world where you risk falling down or having rotten tomatoes thrown at you. It’s not the rotten tomatoes (or lack thereof) that determine your self worth. You are inherently worthy.
The practice of developing high self-worth, especially at the beginning, before you’re ready to get out there and get yourself dirty, involves being alone with yourself and listening to what you have to say. I highly recommend the practice being with yourself via meditation and journaling, two practices I recommend you adopt for life.
If you’re wondering how to get started, here are some journaling prompts you might find helpful.
Where in life have you been overly concerned about keeping up appearances, and how does it manifest itself? In buying (or wanting) particular material goods? In the fulfillment or pursuit of a particular career?
Where in your life do you allow other peoples’ opinions of you to negatively constrain your choices? It could be something small like your choice of clothing or something big like your career or lifestyle.
Do you have any examples of what low self-worth looks like in your life? Do you endure a certain level of treatment from other people that you don’t like or that makes you feel bad? Are there scenarios in which you’re currently afraid that expressing your wants, needs, or thoughts will garner a negative reaction?
Having a fear of rejection is normal. The real question is: how can you acknowledge the fear, and express yourself anyway?
There is so much more I could say about self worth and how to raise it. Ultimately it’s a mindfulness practice and a process, the unfoldment of which can sometimes take years. But I wanted you to start thinking about it today, so you can start enjoying your life more. The sooner, the better.