First off, let’s differentiate between self-esteem and self-worth. The two are related, but they are not one in the same.
Self-esteem is a term that encompasses how we value, think and feel about ourselves. Sometimes this can alter depending on our mood, circumstances, and the approval of others around us. Often times, our self-esteem depends on external factors that we compare, judge, and evaluate ourselves on.
Self-worth on the other hand is our internal sense of whether we are good enough or worthy enough of love and belonging from others and from ourselves, regardless of what’s going on in our lives. Our self-worth is heavily connected to the core beliefs we’ve developed about ourselves over time.
Here are a few signs that you may be struggling with low self-worth:
- You don’t (or don’t always) feel deserving of love and respect from others
- You have trouble accepting or loving yourself if you make a mistake, don’t achieve something you really wanted, or disappoint yourself in some way
- Instead of treating yourself with self-compassion, kindness, and respect, you are harsh, negative or frustrated with yourself
- You often don’t believe in your potential to grow or improve
- You brush off compliments and instead focus on what you perceive as flaws
Here are some additional warning signs that indicate therapy may be helpful:
- You’re having a difficult time focusing or concentrating
- Increased anxiety, stress, irritability and sadness
- Neglecting tasks that may be beneficial to your growth
- A strong inner-critic
- Self-doubt and indecisiveness
- Difficulty setting boundaries
To get you thinking about your own self-worth, ask yourself these questions:
- What words would you use to describe yourself as a person?
- Were these descriptive words positive, neutral or negative?
- What are some of your values?
- Who has given you messages about your self-worth throughout your life (i.e. parents, peers at school, extracurricular coaches, family, etc.)
- If you make a mistake or don’t achieve something you want, do you speak to yourself differently than you would to someone else?
With intentional effort and therapy, it is possible to develop a stronger sense of self-worth. This can allow you to feel secure, to develop self-acceptance and love, minimize your tendency to compare yourself to others, cultivate resiliency and bounce back from hardships in a way that makes you feel good, and so on. This can be difficult, but therapy can help!