Getting to know my own self-worth has improved my personal and professional life in ways that I never imagined. But finding my self-worth was a winding road, and I wouldn’t have found it without the help of some incredible people in my life.
I have consulted my favorite women who work from home and freelance to find out how we each found our self-worth, how it’s changed our lives, and how you can find your self-worth, too.
What is self-worth?
Self-worth is another word for self-esteem. According to Positive Psychology, self-esteem can be defined as, “an individual’s subjective evaluation of their own worth. This encompasses beliefs about oneself as well as emotional states, such as triumph, despair, pride, and shame.”
Having a sense of self-worth means that you value yourself and understand that you are greater than your feelings and beliefs. It’s a deep understanding that you are of value, that you are lovable, and that your existence is necessary.
Why getting to know your self-worth matters
Every aspect of our lives are affected by our self-worth. Once you begin to get to know your own self-worth, you can see quite clearly how your life changes because of it. “Our self-worth limits us in seeing what is available,” Jenna Funicella, a high school math teacher, explained. “I noticed that the more my self-worth grew, so did my experiences.”
Whether you own your own business or you work for someone else, self-worth can affect your salary, job satisfaction, work ethic, and even your relationships with your clients or colleagues. Writer Heather Balogh Rochfort reflects on her personal experiences and advancements after recognizing her own self-worth. “Knowing my self-worth has been huge for me professionally. When you’re self employed, there are eleventy billion moments of self-doubt when you question everything you’re doing, every choice you’re making, and every aspect of the career path you’ve chosen. Having that confidence to persevere through the shaky moments has helped pursue a route that many would label unsustainable or unreliable,” Rochfort said.
Rochfort’s not alone in her pursuit of a career that was deemed “unstable” by external eyes. Jessica McKinley, business and life coach has pursued a very different life from those around her. She coaches women entrepreneurs and says, “When you know your worth, it shows up in your business, relationships, and yourself because you’re not trying to earn or prove that you deserve it. When you know that you deserve it, that belief comes first. And as I teach my clients, your beliefs create your thoughts, which drive your actions, which produce your results so the results kind of start to happen naturally.”
Marina Girgis, brand development coach, also guides entrepreneurs and notices that, “I feel like I can charge what I charge because I know that this is the equivalent to the value that I bring. We don’t all know our worth, so asking people to charge what you’re worth can be shaky advice. But I do think that knowing what you bring to the table and the value that you provide helps you charge your worth in the end.”
What determines our self-worth?
Self-worth theory suggests that an individual’s main priority in life is to find self-acceptance and that self-acceptance is often found through achievement. There are three main elements of the self-worth model: ability, effort, and performance. Self-worth is primarily determined by our self-evaluated abilities and performance in activities that we deem valuable.
But people often fall back on other factors that aren’t indicators of their ability, effort, or performance to evaluate their own self-worth. Most of the measures of self-worth that people commonly rely on aren’t actually healthy indicators and usually stem from some sort of cultural, familial, or social pressure.
Stephanie Jade Wong, a writer and editor interested in non-toxic beauty, fitness, and wellness suggests that we shouldn’t allocate our self-worth based on our physical appearance, financial status, career or achievements. Unfortunately, almost everyone I know regularly uses these inaccurate markers to define our own self-worth which perhaps illustrates why so many of us don’t feel worthy.
According to Wong, you shouldn’t use these 13 things as a measurement for your own self-worth:
- Your to-do list or your productivity level
- Your job
- Your social media stats
- Your age
- Other people
- Your physical fitness
- Your grades or test scores
- The number of friends you have and their social status
- Your relationship status
- The money you have or your income
- What you like or don’t like
- Anything or anyone but yourself
- Your appearance
You’re not alone if you’ve been using these 13 factors to evaluate your own self-worth.
I’ve relied on them before and so has Joanna Rutter, content marketer and writer. “While my productivity is not a constant I can depend on, my resilience has been tested and exercised this year. Reflecting on how I am responding to my failures, in real time, and getting stronger, gives me a sense of peace and quiet pride that has been more powerful than my false sense of self-worth ever was,” Rutter says.
Finding your self-worth
You can evaluate your current level of self-worth in a healthy way with the Contingencies of Self-Worth Scale. After responding to 35 statements using a scale of 1-7, and rating how you would feel if each situation occurred. You’ll get a score for each of the seven domains that the scale is broken down into. These seven domains include:
- Approval from others
- Physical appearance
- Outdoing others in competition
- Academic competence
- Familial love and support
- Being a virtuous or moral person
Read through your results and reflect on what you can do now to improve not only your responses, but build up your self-worth.
Improving your self-worth
The best way to start is by getting to know yourself. Take the time to understand how you can make the best decisions for yourself and reprioritize your values. “There is strength in knowing your worth because it allows you to continue to make the best choices for yourself,” says Rochfort.
I’ve rounded up some advice from these confident women I know to give you a few, simple ways to start the process.
- Identify, challenge, and externalize your inner critic.
Talk to your inner critic like they’re another person. You can even give it a name if you’d like! When you’re having trouble stopping your inner critic from beating you up, sometimes speaking to it out loud is the fastest way to stop those thoughts. It’s weird at first but speaking out loud helps ground you.
- Refer back to the list of what should not determine your self-worth.
Remind yourself of the fact that these things don’t determine your self-worth when you’re struggling.
- Compile a list of achievements.
This list can be things that you’re proud of; praise from clients, bosses, family, or friends; and awards or accomplishments. Look back at this list and remind yourself with concrete evidence that you are amazing!
Girgis notes that finding, “proof in client testimonials, places I’ve been featured, and things people have said about me makes me feel like I can charge what I charge because I know that this is the equivalent to the value that I bring.”
- Find your passions and the things you’re good at. Then, practice, practice, practice!
Funicella shares why doing the things that make you feel good, no matter your experience or talent level, can bolster your self-worth: “Once I started dabbling with creativity, I could feel my self-worth evolve and grow. Being creative can be applied to so many things! For me, this was learning improv, experimenting with the tarot, practicing art and music, and moving my body. I began to impress myself, inflating the poor self image I drafted for myself into the worthy being that I am.”
- Give yourself grace.
Work on forgiving yourself for anything that you believe isn’t great about being you. This was the hardest, and possibly most important, part of coming into my self-worth.
Work slowly on accepting, forgiving, and changing those things without judgment or excuses. Know that even if you stop working on these things for a few weeks, months, or even years, it is never too late to pick the work back up and continue.
This can eventually move toward treating yourself with kindness, tolerance, generosity, and compassion. You’ll begin to love yourself this way. A great way to start giving yourself grace is by noticing when you’re beating yourself up and ask, “Would I say this to my very best friend?” The answer will almost always be, “No.”
- Take risks.
Taking risks gives you the opportunity to prove to yourself that you are competent and capable. These risks can be extreme like extended travel, hiking a long trail for six months, going freelance or starting your own business. I personally began to value myself much more during and after my hike of the Appalachian Trail when possessions, appearance, and WiFi were stripped away.
But even small risks can make a bigger impact than you might expect. Things like purging your material possessions, reducing time spent with people who don’t make you feel good, or asking for a raise at work can change your life immensely. Every one of these examples might seem scary, but it’s usually confronting those fears that helps us trust ourselves.
Girgis says, “Traveling was huge for me. Having some independence where you’re away from your family, your friends, your materialistic things, helped me find self-worth simply in having joy. I didn’t have money or a car or whatever I was told would make me worthy. Explore outside of the norm! Don’t associate your worth with the job, the car, your looks. Look internally.”
- Keep an eye on your tendency to compare yourself to other people and their levels.
Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, including you, and those factors don’t make you any less worthy!
- Lastly, remember that no matter what, you are worthy and lovable.
McKinley put it perfectly, “Our worth, our lovability – it doesn’t matter what we do, we could sit on the couch all day and do nothing – we are 100% worthy of all of the things that we desire.” No matter what you do, you’re worthy and when you believe that, McKinley points out, you’ll see your life change.
Girgis explains that, “Knowing my self-worth has helped me have healthier relationships with better stronger boundaries. I can speak up about things that don’t align with my values.” I agree with her. Learning how to say no to things that aren’t right for me, and recognizing that they aren’t right in the first place, has been one of my biggest struggles in coming to know my self-worth.
So, if you’re wondering when to start recognizing your self-worth, the answer is now. Don’t wait until the new year to acknowledge your full potential. Reflect, and come up with tangible goals that fit you, your aspirations, and lifestyle.