What is Self-Esteem?
Any discussion about how to build our self-worth must start with a definition of self-esteem. The two are, of course, related. Your self-esteem is undoubtedly influenced by your self-worth. However, they are not the same.
Self-esteem is primarily built upon sources outside of yourself that you don’t actually control.
Self-esteem encapsulates the thoughts and feelings you experience at each moment. These thoughts and feelings have a direct impact on your results, behavior, and performance.
Self-esteem is primarily built upon the value derived from doing the things that get you your desired outcomes. But it’s more than just about “doing” something.
Self-esteem is instead a direct outcropping of how you feel about yourself at any given moment. This is based purely on your actions.
How you feel about yourself is heavily influenced by how you think you’re fairing compared to others. In other words, your self-esteem is derived from what you think others “think” of you based on your results and actions.
Given all this, it’s quite clear that self-esteem is not something that comes from within ourselves, but rather something that comes from outside of ourselves and subsequently influences how we feel at any given moment.
Now, of course, how we feel at any given time has nothing to do with reality, but instead, it’s purely based on our perspective and interpretation of that reality. Given all this, it’s quite clear to see that self-esteem is very fickle and can shift with changing opinions and circumstances. However, this isn’t true for people who have a high level of self-worth.
A high degree of self-worth naturally enhances our self-esteem, thereby providing us with the self-confidence needed to follow through with our chosen decisions and actions.
What is Self-Worth?
Self-worth is an internal state of being that comes from self-understanding, self-love, and self-acceptance.
It’s a state that is somewhat timeless and unchanging because it’s a direct measure of how you value and regard yourself in spite of what others may say or do. It’s, therefore, something that doesn’t quickly or easily change when external factors or circumstances change.
Self-worth is steady and unflinching, and therefore, holds power to radically transform your life for the better.
This is, of course, all well and good, but what does it actually mean to have a high level of self-worth?
To have a high level of self-worth means having a favorable opinion or estimate of yourself. It means having unshakable faith in yourself and in your ability to follow through and get things done.
Having a high degree of self-worth means feeling worthy of good things. It means feeling deserving of happiness, health, wealth, success, and love — irrespective of the difficulties you face, the disappointments you experience, or of people’s opinions. In a word, it’s unflinching.
To have a high level of self-worth means accepting yourself wholeheartedly at all times despite your flaws, weaknesses, and limitations. It’s about recognizing the real value of who you are — right here, right now, at this present moment.
To have a high level of self-worth means never allowing yourself to be defined by outside forces, including people’s opinions. It means never allowing outcomes to shake your confidence, faith or resolve.
All this essentially means that no matter what happens you are steadfast. Nothing outside of your “being” influences how you feel about yourself. Your influence alone is the only thing that matters.
You alone are the most significant factor in how you feel about yourself, about your life, and about your circumstances. And that is essentially where your personal power comes from.
How to Build Your Self-Worth
So, all this is wonderful, right? Having a high level of self-worth is no doubt of tremendous value. But the question still remains, how do we go about building our self-worth? How do we create enough self-worth to empower our daily decisions and actions in a way that will help us achieve our desired outcomes?
What I would like to share with you is a five-step process for doing exactly that — for building your self-worth, step-by-step.
This, of course, isn’t something that you can do just once and then forget about. It’s rather something that you must consistently work on. That’s the only way you will build anything of real value.
Placing one single stone down on the ground doesn’t build a fortress. However, over time, as you lay down more stones a fortress begins to take shape. But, this takes time. And building a high level of self-worth will also take time. You must, therefore, see this as a long-term process that you need to work on consistently over time.
Lay down a new stone each day. Eventually, the fortress will grow more prominent and more substantial until it becomes almost unbreakable.
A strong wind might blow, hail and rain might bucket down, and thunder might shake the ground. And yet, despite all this, your fortress will remain intact.
It stands its ground because you put in place a solid foundation that you consistently built over time. And that’s where the strength of the fortress comes from. And that’s precisely where the power of your self-worth comes from as well.
With that in mind, let’s now jump into the five-step process to help you build your self-worth.
Step 1: The Self-Understanding Stage
Your first step involves getting to know yourself at a deeper and more profound level.
Imagine for a moment that everything you had was suddenly taken away. I mean literally everything including your possessions, career, money, relationships, friendships, accomplishments, and anything else that is physical and tangible. Ask yourself:
What if everything I have was suddenly taken away from me?
What if all I had left was just myself?
How would that make me feel?
What would I actually have that would be of value?
This is an interesting scenario. It’s a scenario that many people probably never really take the time to imagine. It’s interesting because how you feel about yourself after everything has been taken away is essentially the measure of your self-worth.
If you have a high level of self-worth, then having everything taken away from you won’t change who you are as a person. Furthermore, it won’t shake your self-confidence because you just don’t measure your value upon external circumstances. Instead, your value comes from within.
This is why it’s absolutely critical to actually take the time to think long and hard about that last question and answer it with genuine honesty:
What would I actually have left that would be of value?
The deeper you dig into this question, the more you will unearth within yourself that you do actually value.
You must, however, seriously take the time to ponder this question. The more you ponder, the more you will find, and that’s essentially where real self-worth is derived from. It comes from understanding that…
No matter what happens externally and no matter what’s taken away from me, I’m not affected internally.
And that’s essentially what matters most when it comes to building your self-worth.
So let’s now dig even deeper into your true value by posing another set of questions that will help unlock how you see yourself with no masks or inhibitions. Ask yourself:
Who am I? I am… I am not…
How am I?
How am I in the world?
How do others see me?
How do others speak about me?
What key life moments define who I am today?
What brings me the most passion, fulfillment, and joy?
Who you are and how you see yourself are keys to understanding your true value. How others see you and how they speak about you, is also, of course, important. But this isn’t so much about them but rather about how you feel about yourself as a result of how others see or speak about you. That is, of course, another measure of your self-worth.
Then there are those key life moments that bring you the most joy, passion, and fulfillment. These are the things that help you unlock the value you bring to the world.
However, this isn’t about pretty little rose petals and rainbows. This process involves being genuinely real with yourself.
Given this, let’s be real for a moment and take a look at your weaknesses and struggles. Ask yourself:
Where do I struggle most?
Where do I need to improve?
What fears often hold me back?
What habitual emotions hurt me?
What mistakes do I tend to make?
Where do I tend to consistently let myself down?
Let’s get real and accept the fact that we’re only human. And as a human being, we all have our weaknesses and face our own personal struggles. As such, we must be real and honest with our assessment of ourselves.
Only in this way will you be able to build a high degree of self-worth over time. And only in this way will you get the depth of understanding you need about yourself to move forward through this process.
And since we’re being honest, let’s take a look at your strengths. Ask yourself:
What abilities do I have?
What am I really good at?
Your strengths are the things that help build your self-confidence. They are the things that allow you to move forward with greater self-assurance. However, true strengths are only strengths by your own measure.
If you’re relying on other people to tell you whether or not you’re good at something, then that’s not a true strength that comes from a sense of personal power.
In the future, these people could very well change their minds. Then abruptly your strength turns into an afterthought. However, this doesn’t need to be the case if you truly believe in your own personal value. That’s what counts, and that’s essentially what truly matters when it comes to building your self-worth.
Step 2: The Self-Acceptance Stage
By now, you probably have a pretty clear picture of your current level of self-worth. You presumably also understand how you see yourself within the world around you.
There will, of course, be good things, neutral things, and things that you might not be too proud to admit. However, to build genuine self-worth, we must be real and authentic with ourselves at all times. This requires wholeheartedly acknowledging your true nature including the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Forgive yourself for everything you’ve done in the past and accept yourself unconditionally without judgment or excuses.
This is you. This is who you are. Accept that by acknowledging that…
I accept the good, the bad and the ugly.
I fully accept every part of myself including my flaws, fears, behaviors, and qualities I might not be too proud of.
This is how I am, and I am at peace with that.
Fully accepting yourself in spite of all your flaws, weaknesses, and limitations is absolutely critical for developing a high level of self-worth.
This is you. You are being vulnerable, authentic, and real. Embrace who you are fully and wholeheartedly. Embrace the fact that you will no longer allow outside forces to define you. Only in this way will you finally let go of everything that’s been holding you back all these years.
Step 3: The Self-Love Stage
Having fully accepted yourself, it’s now time to acknowledge your true value. To do this, it’s important to begin practicing a little self-love. Which basically means treating yourself with kindness, tolerance, generosity, and compassion.
Yes, you have flaws. Yes, you have so many limitations and weaknesses, but we all do. That’s part of being human. It’s time to let all that go and instead practice being compassionate with yourself.
Compassion, of course, comes through self-love, which comes from self-acceptance, which stems from self-understanding. Ironically these are the steps we went through as we moved through this process.
One simple method to begin practicing self-love is to get into the habit of speaking to yourself in a positive and supportive way:
I feel valued and special…
I love myself wholeheartedly…
I am a worthy and capable person…
Talking to yourself in this way brings your focus and attention to the beauty hidden within you.
You’re no longer looking at outside circumstances or people for approval or acknowledgment. You’re instead searching for that approval within yourself. And that’s one of the biggest steps you can take toward building your self-worth.
Step 4: The Recognition Stage
When you have self-understanding. When you have fully accepted yourself. And when you reach a stage where you practice self-love and self-compassion, that’s when people, events, and circumstances no longer define you. You instead begin to define yourself.
Given this, it’s helpful to openly acknowledge and recognize that you no longer need to please other people.
Other people have their own opinions, and they have their own life. You also have your own life and your own opinions. And no matter what people do or say and irrespective of what happens outside of you, you alone control your own perspective and attitude.
You, therefore, hold the power to respond to events and circumstances of your life based on your internal sources, resources, and on your resourcefulness, which are all a reflection of your true value.
It’s, therefore, important to recognize your true value regardless of your earnings, career, possessions, social rank, relationship status, etc.
Your true value is no longer measured by these things. It rather comes from an internal measure that you’ve set for yourself. And that’s where true personal power comes from.
Step 5: The Responsibility Stage
Now, of course, it’s worth mentioning that I’m not saying that you should be a martyr. What I’m saying is to take full responsibility for everything that happens to you without giving away your personal power.
To take responsibility means to acknowledge that you have the personal power to change and influence the events and circumstances of your life.
When you have a high level of self-worth, you’re no longer relying on other people to make decisions for you. You alone hold yourself accountable, and you alone hold the power to make positive changes in your life.
There is no more complaining, blaming, judgment, or excuses. You now hold the power. You hold this power because you fully trust yourself and trust your ability to make decisions that put you in the driver’s seat of your life.
No longer are you swayed by the changing winds. You’re rather steady and self-assured. You understand who you are, you accept yourself fully, love yourself unconditionally, and recognize that you’re the captain of your ship. And no matter what storms are brewing outside and in spite of the rumors of mutiny, you’re focused and able to stay the course. You make adjustments on the fly, and you take charge of your ship.
You’re not rattled or phased by external circumstances. Yes, the outside world is a crazy mess. However, your inner world is as steady as can be. And that’s what makes all the difference. It’s what eventually brings your ship back to the safety of the harbor. And it’s all because you took the time to build your self-worth.