Self-worth is the core belief that there is a place for me in the world and in the hearts of others.
I’ve decided the only person I’m going to aspire to be more like in my 40s is me, at 11 years old.
I can see her so clearly. She just cut bangs and got a guitar for her birthday that she’ll never learn to play. No need, she already rocks it, and the bangs, in her mind.
She hasn’t figured out yet that there is a body type that is relentlessly celebrated in the media and it isn’t hers.
No one has told her yet that there are dreams she shouldn’t pursue because they don’t lead to a lucrative career. And, it hasn’t even crossed her mind to compare herself to other girls.
She experiences spontaneous, unbridled JOY several times a day!
She’s bold. She raises her hand when she knows the answer. She does this because there is trust, in herself, and in her world. There is…self-worth.
Through the lens of her self-worth, she begins to glimpse her purpose. It is where her dreams are created, and later in the excavation of it, where they are manifested.
But, for many of us, as we move into adolescence, heartbreaking, breathtaking, embarrassing, transforming adolescence, something happens to our self-worth. That innate, sparkly gem sinks into the subconscious like a diamond in quicksand.
It becomes buried so deep, we’re unable to access it. Not lost, but definitely forgotten.
We start absorbing messages from outside ourselves, in a way we’ve never done before. Messages about our behavior, appearance, choices and dreams are hurled at us from all angles and from multiple sources: parents, media, community and culture. Some positive and uplifting, others not so much. They come in the form of “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts”, societal norms, labels, criticism and expectations.
And, because of the vulnerability of adolescence, and the developmental need to create identity and belonging, we accept these messages as truths. We take them in deeply and repeat them so often in our minds, they become beliefs. Beliefs about ourselves. Everything from “I’m not good at math” to “I’m lazy”, or “I’m just, too much”.
“I am… fill in the blank.” These negative and limiting beliefs become the quicksand that conceals our sense of self-worth.
And if that weren’t enough, (and I promise there’s good news coming), beliefs are also created from experiences. And, the negative ones imprint in our memory in vivid color, and make the heaviest impact on self-worth. Experiences ranging from a cruel comment, to a life-altering, traumatic event, create inner dialogue that eventually become personalized beliefs. “I deserved that because I am…”, “If I wasn’t so…, that never would have happened.”
Beliefs like this give birth to the weightiest of emotional burdens: shame. And, nothing sinks the diamond that is your self-worth like shame.
Enter early adulthood, a.k.a. your 20s and early 30s. Hazy, crazy, exhilarating, exhausting early adulthood. We’re thrust into college, the workplace, parties, bars, and relationships armed only with the unreliable arsenal that is our adolescent sense of self. The mission of building an independent life is upon us but the golden compass of our self-worth is inaccessible. We find ourselves making grown-up choices based on teen beliefs that were never really ours to begin with.
Valuable emotional energy and time is spent searching and auditioning, trying to sell ourselves in the form of job interviews, applications, and dating. All the while praying someone will choose us despite how we feel about ourselves.
Where is our self-worth when we need it? That beautiful, sparkly gem that slipped out of reach. We need it now more than ever, standing at the foot of the expectation that is: building a life.
So, we lean on others, using their energy to create our own, borrowing their identify, trying to remember what it feels like to know ourselves.
Then, low and behold, we make it to adulthood. Intact, but tired. In some form or another we start questioning what else is out there. We wonder if this is all there is. We know it’s not. We begin to dream again. Something buried is calling to us. We know what it is.
Get a shovel and start digging. You’re worth it.
Before diving into the Return of the Jedi that is your self-worth, I’ve got a monkey wrench to throw. It’s either going to make you mad or bring you peace, so hold on tight.
Maybe it was all supposed to happen.
Not the bad experiences or the critical messages, but the burial of your self-worth. If it never gets buried, then you don’t get to uncover it. And, perhaps it’s in the uncovering, that you evolve into who you were meant to be. You grow wings. In the act of uncovering your self-worth as a fully formed adult, you both create and discover your authentic self and eventually your authentic purpose. It’s all part of the journey.
So, how exactly do you unearth the gem?
Let’s begin. Work through the following 5 tasks and witness your self-worth rise like a phoenix from the ashes of your younger days.
- Create new messages
Remember those messages you received from outside yourself telling you who to be? Some of them fit, some didn’t. Create new ones. This time around, they’re going to come from you. And, don’t just create them, set them on repeat in your mind so they take root and become beliefs.
2. Seek out new experiences
Bad things happen. Bad things will continue to happen. But, you can also create experiences for yourself. Since you are an adult now, you can freely and independently seek out experiences that reinforce positive, self-created beliefs about yourself. Explore nature, take a class, do the thing you want to do but don’t because you fear being judged. That’s your soul beckoning, stop denying her. And, connect with people who accept you, connect, connect, connect. These experiences create new memories, new inner dialogue and lay roots.
3. Stop comparing yourself to others
Comparing is an act of adolescence. It’s behind you and beneath you. Your path is never going to look like someone else’s because it’s not supposed to. Your unique strengths and limitations define your path but only if you are moving forward. Focus your attention inward and onward, not to the sides. Shift from looking and longing, to being and doing. All the required tools for this task exist inside you, including your rising, self-worth.
4. Release shame and guilt through self-forgiveness
Shame and guilt cannot be taken away from you. You have to put them down yourself. That is self-forgiveness. Doing this requires your conscious acceptance of 3 critical points:
- You cannot hold the weight of shame and fly at the same time.
- You are only capable of behaving according to your level of awareness at the time, and as we grow, we gain awareness. Forgive yourself for missteps you might have made while in survival mode.
- You are out of alignment with yourself when you take blame that doesn’t belong to you. Sometimes the brain defaults to taking blame so it can feel some sense of control over an uncontrollable situation. The pain inflicted upon you by the hands of others is not your fault. It never was.
5. Turn up the volume of your inner authentic voice
You have an inner authentic voice that’s been whispering to you your whole life. It’s the part of you that believes in you, no matter what. You also have an invisible panel of judges in your mind (born from the messages you received outside yourself) that often speaks to you at a much higher volume. One voice pushes self-worth down, the other brings it forth. Become a ninja at knowing the difference between the two. Then, turn up the volume of that inner voice and follow it straight to your purpose.
You were never supposed to stay a caterpillar, curious and safe. You were born to spread your wings. Fly free, Jedi-butterfly.
Interested in uncovering your self-worth? Download Guide to Uncovering Self-Worth: 5 Steps to Uncovering Self-worth at www.annecfraziercounseling.com/self-worth