When it comes to the essential building blocks that shape our personality, self-worth is very much at the top.
How worthy we feel will affect almost every life choice we’ll ever make. It dictates which partner we choose, the type of job we get, the role we play in our friendships, how competitive we are and generally how we view ourselves compared with other people. In other words, a lack of self-worth matters.
What you tell yourself matters
Curiously, low self-worth does not discriminate and is dished out quite democratically, affecting the rich as well as the poor, the shiny and the ordinary. In my job, as a clinical hypnotherapist, I am lucky enough to meet many clients who are wonderful, articulate, emotionally intelligent, empathetic and successful humans, yet this does not seem to make a blind bit of difference to their mental well-being. What does become apparent is that their inner dialogue, that internal radio station that is broadcasting at all times, tends to be hostile at best and brutal and cruel at worst. We certainly would not speak to anyone else that way so why do we accept internal verbal abuse from ourselves?
The insidiousness of deficient self-worth can make us feel invisible and have us play small. We might hide in the wings while letting others shine, this behaviour comes so naturally that we may not question it. After all, what we really want is to belong, to feel accepted and validated – not to take centre stage. Presented with an opportunity to shine we may choose to retreat as we fear the limelight; the level of focused attention that is coming our way is simply too much. Despite what it may look like, saying no to being visible is not an act of humility, it is a deep-seated fear of not being good enough to warrant attention in the first place.
Taking up space
How much space we take up in the world and how authentically we speak our truth are directly linked to our level of self-worth. We all know people who naturally walk into a room and assume everyone will like them. They don’t overthink what they are going to say and they don’t post-analyse their performance nor worry about making mistakes. It is like water off a duck’s back. Envious we wonder what makes them so easygoing and confident when we struggle to hold our own.
What differentiates those with a healthy dose of self-worth from those without? The answer is an acceptance that the self is good enough. So how do we get there?
Try this Exercise…
Sit comfortably and take a few deep breaths. It might be a good idea to have a journal nearby in case you want to make some notes. You may also want to close your eyes as shutting down outside stimuli is very helpful when you are trying to relax.
- Think back and see if you can tune in to get a sense of who you were as a child growing up. Try and visualise this clearly.
- What words would you use to describe yourself back then? Did others tell you what you were like or did you have a strong idea of who you were back then (shy, brave, popular, dumb, etc)?
- How did you handle disappointments or setbacks? Is that different from today?
- What did you enjoy? What were you naturally good at? What gave you positive attention?
- Was there something you avoided doing? Did you believe you were rubbish at something in particular? Do you still dislike this today?
- Imagine that you could rewrite the chapters you did not like and that kept you feeling small or unpopular. What would you change? Knowing the importance of your inner dialogue, what would you have told yourself instead? Could you start telling yourself that now? Take some time to journal about what comes up.
You are the author of your life’s work
No matter how you started out and what you were told growing up – you can change. This is good news. The past is firmly in the past, there is little you can do about that yet what thoughts you fill your mind with today will become your future. When people become aware that they are the only person they’re able to control and influence, things can begin to change.
Letting go of outdated beliefs can feel liberating and freeing. Knowing that we are in charge of what we choose to think can upshift and change our perspective away from the limited early programming and transform it into a story that fits in with who we want to be NOW. This newfound freedom can give us permission to think and behave in a brand new way and what’s not to love about that?