Many people would be forgiven for thinking self-worth is the same as self-belief and they’d have a point. These two are like sisters that do great things for each other if they get on! The trouble starts if you have one concept that is out of balance with the other.
I have written about this self-concept before and you may like to re-visit that earlier blog (http://firthconsulting.net/building-self-worth-why-its-worth-it/), but this one has been triggered by an observation I’ve made both about myself, and about other people who have visited the practice just recently. Self-worth is an attitude towards yourself; a belief that you place a value on what you do, and who you are. It matters because without it, or if it’s low in our estimation, we tend to undervalue ourselves. In business we can underprice our offering because we don’t think it’s worth more, or feel uncomfortable asking for a raise, or to speak up if we disagree with something. Not feeling worthy or worth enough, also explains why people stay in relationships they know are wrong for them. We can find it difficult to leave but equally difficult to deal with the issues, because we have a mixed up, or broken, sense of how much value we have.
As always in life, these kinds of problems develop when we experience negative events that reduce or damage our sense of self-worth. This can happen at any time. In relationships our partner can be critical. The first time this happens we can feel hurt, but if we don’t say anything or make a stand, further criticism becomes expected and over time the recipient feels battered and diminished and the aggressor able to get away with it. It’s possible to look at this situation and ask, ‘why do they stay?’ but if you’ve taken enough knocks in life, you can begin to believe them.
Therefore, self-worth is strongly connected to self-belief, but they also need to be in alignment or steadily going up! If they are, we can push for better things in life, trust ourselves to deliver, or pick ourselves up when rebuffed or rejected. In this sense, both concepts are also strongly aligned with resilience (http://firthconsulting.net/building-resilience-for-adults/).
So, what goes wrong?
When we have more belief in ourselves but lack a sense of worth, then we can have a strong drive or determination, but we might not think people will truly pay for the service or goods we offer. Therefore, we can try very hard for success, but it may take longer. That’s because we don’t price what we offer well, possibly don’t hold our nerve when asked for our prices, or we start to discount our offering/ value before we really need to for fear we’ve got it wrong.
On the other hand, if self-worth is higher than self-belief, we can value what we have to offer but not talk about it enough, fail to market it or not use PR well to promote ourselves. We simply might not believe people want what we have to offer and fail to search for other markets or perhaps partner with a company to enlarge our offering. Natural shyness is ok if we’re an individual, but when we operate within a business it’s important to speak up, or about ourselves, otherwise organic growth is more likely to happen as we rely on word-of-mouth, referrals, or testimonials. In that way we let other people do our talking for us. Hiding our light under a bushel like this serves no one! We don’t have to be arrogant about it but confident, determined, focused, and positive helps a lot.
How do we build self-worth?
- The first recommendation is the same for building self-belief: try not to compare yourself to others. Many of us have an in-built form of benchmarking, a checking mechanism which helps us work out how we’re doing in life. We can each have a strong desire to succeed but often the way we ‘know; whether we have done, is by comparing ourselves with the fortunes of others.
The trouble is, this inevitably leaves us feeling inadequate. Were unlikely to look for someone we’re doing better than, or look outside our work/ home arena, therefore we come up against a myriad of people from all sorts of starting points in life and work. We don’t see their beginnings, what advantages they might have had, only their result. If our own struggles are marked, this can result in a shortfall in our belief that we have the right skill, confidence, or ability to achieve the same. We may be further back, but we’ll get there……….and where is ‘there’ anyway?
- Try therefore to define your ‘own’ success not of others. What do you want? Choose some far-reaching goals – bigger than normal, either in terms of the length of time it takes to achieve them, or their size. Equally, choose some smaller goals and as you achieve these, celebrate.
- This brings me to reward. Keep a list of what you ‘have done’ in life not just what you still need to do. Even our ‘to do’ lists have an in-built mechanism for making us feel inadequate as we alternately manage to have good days and bad days where a lot, or not much, gets achieved. We are so ‘wired’ for the negatives at times that any ‘feel-good’ emotion is quickly lost when we think too much. So, aim to celebrate EVERY ‘win’ no matter how small and slowly build a better sense of what you can do
- As you build your list of successes or achievements, focus on what that means to you – your life and feeling good. Reinforce this emotion and widen the ‘significance’ of it. What I mean is are you building internal character, confidence, expertise and experience? These are hugely significant. Life is NOT just about ‘external’ bench-marks and what we are doing in relation to others, but also about our internal criteria for what matters. Being a good person is important to us
- The simplest way to build self-worth is often to do an altruistic favour for someone else as this tends to build good will and help us feel good about ourselves, and about what we do. Start paying people simple compliments wherever you can. Other people will appreciate it but equally if you are paid a compliment try not to dismiss it.
In a nutshell, self-worth isn’t an elusive quality, it’s part of how you feel about yourself. We can influence it no matter what has damaged it or how old we are. It’s worth the effort!