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How to Improve Your Sense of Self-Worth

Spoiler alert: It's got nothing to do with what others think of you.

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Most of us have stories about the rotten things people have told us about ourselves. Or rather, what they believe to be the truth about us. 

It’s especially hurtful and damaging when such unkind comments come from our parents when we’re just little kids (and beyond). We’re hard-wired to trust our parents; it’s an instinct, a necessary survival mechanism built in to protect us. So we believe every word that comes out of their mouths, or the mouths of other respected family members. Their opinions shape the way we view ourselves and we’re only too ready to accept these negative words as the truth, without question, because that’s what children do.

We’re also hard-wired to live in hunter-gatherer societies, relying on one another for our survival. Therefore, it is human nature to seek approval. Our instincts make us want to fit in and be part of the group so we take on board the judgements and opinions of those with whom we interact throughout our lives. We’re happy to soak up the positive comments, basking in the deliciousness of approval and praise, should anyone be so kind as to offer them. 

Equally, we will also soak up the harsh criticisms and put-downs, taking them to heart.

Once we take a few steps down that road, we begin to doubt or reject the positive comments and it becomes increasingly easy to digest the nasty ones. Childhood seeds, long since planted and well rooted, allow us to believe those people who say we aren’t good enough. Even if it isn’t on a conscious level, even if we tell ourselves that it’s not the truth, somewhere deep inside ourselves we believe those words.

We’re talking about your self-worth, which should be written as “yourSelf-worth” because your sense of worth should come from yourSelf. What you do, the choices you make, what you believe about yourSelf and your place in the world, how you treat others, how you treat yourSelf – everything about yourSelf-worth comes from your Self. You get to decide what kind of person you are.  You get to decide whether or not you have worth and value. And if you are going to decide you don’t, I can assure you that the basis for that decision did not come from your Self. It came from others who planted toxic seeds, which, over the years, you have allowed to be fertilised and fed so they’ve taken root and twisted their way through your soul.

You did not come out of the chute believing your Self to be rubbish. You entered this world, a blank canvas, a smiling, giggling little baby filled with wonder and ready to be moulded and shaped by the events and environments you would experience. You entered the world thinking it revolved around you, another survival instinct to ensure that you got your needs met.

Other people’s opinions are just words. When they get into your head, they’re still just words. And usually, the hurtful words of others come from their own feelings of inadequacy and insecurity. There is nothing saying you have to believe the harsh comments that are crammed down your throat by anyone else, no matter who it is, no matter how important that person is to you.

You didn’t have much choice when you were young because you didn’t know better. But now you do. Now you know you will always have the ability to choose your thoughts, and you can choose to accept or disregard the opinions of other people. Yours is the only opinion that matters when it comes to evaluating your Self and your worth.

If you want to improve your sense of Self-worth, the great news is that you are the only one who can make it happen.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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