What is self-worth and how can we build on it?

I was doing some research this afternoon to look up some popular trends in blog topics that I could write about. I realized I have written a lot about self-care and the importance of caring for ourselves during challenging times – but I haven’t touched on the importance of self-worth.

This is something that I often struggle with and it’s partly what led me to therapy – to work on issues on self-esteem and self-confidence. Too often we give ourselves to others we love while neglecting the care we need for ourselves. These articles are gentle reminders not only to me, but to my readers as well that we all need to take time for our “self” health.

Today I want to explore the meaning of self-worth and how we can build up self-worth in our daily life.

What is self-worth?

Self-worth can have many different meanings for many different people. In general, self-worth refers to how we feel about ourselves overall and how we act or behave towards others.

Self-worth often blends in with other “self” terms like self-esteem, self-confidence, loving yourself and so on. I guess the question here becomes – how can we know is our self-worth is enough? What is enough self-worth? And how do you build on self-worth when you’re feeling low about life overall?

Self-worth Meaning

When you look up the definition of self-worth, Merriam Webster describes it as “a feeling that you are a good person, who deserves to be treated with respect.” Some would argue that self-worth is more about your behaviours than your emotions – how you act towards others is one way you can measure your self-worth.

Self-acceptance

Here’s another self word for you – self-acceptance. Self-acceptance is usually achieved through competing with others. For instance, when you think of movie stars who have received dozens of awards or athletes who have shelves full of trophies. These awards and accomplishments can be an ego booster and help to build up our image to others.

But we must be careful here. While self-acceptance can be a good way to boost our sometimes fragile egos, too much self-acceptance can lead to negative qualities such as arrogance, and even more dangerously – narcissism.

Measuring Self-worth

There are many factors that come into play when measuring our self-worth. Appearance, money, or class in society, social circles, (think elite status in Hollywood), your career and what you achieve.

For me – self-worth was apparent when I was involved in music competitions. I always wanted to win. But over the years, I only took home a couple of awards. While I knew I had done my very best in my performance, there was always someone who was that much better than me. And it drove me to be a better musician. Competition was the driving force behind my musical studies as a junior high and high school student.

Healthy Self-worth

For me, music competition was a healthy outlet and way to gain recognition among my peers in the music community. Every time I competed, I learned something new by watching others perform. Like I remember this one kid, who not only played a mean jig on the piano, but he also kept in time with a foot block. I had never seen that before in a live competition and even I had to admit – he deserved the win.

For non-music people, self-worth can be measured by how well you perform at your job no matter what your job is. Are you expecting a bonus at the end of the quarter? Or perhaps you finally got that promotion you’ve been working hard for?

Or maybe you’re a student striving for straight A’s. Or you’re a mom with two kids and a job and are looking to make some more time for yourself – even just fifteen minutes each day. These are all valid and healthy ways to measure your self-worth.

How to Build Up Self-Worth

A question I see often on Reddit boards is – how can I like myself better? How can I feel good about what I’ve done? Or how can I build up my confidence?

As a mid-forties female, the one thing I can tell you for sure is this is not an easy feat. All it takes is one bully or one person to nag at you or constantly poke fun at your failures or mistakes – and that one person can undo years of work you’ve put into yourself.

The one thing I have learned in this life of mine, is that what we put out into this world comes back to us. It may not come to us right away – but karma usually finds a way. So, I try and live by the motto that “do unto others as I wish they would to me” even if they are the meanest person on the planet.

Though sometimes this can be hard to do when we’re not feeling very giving or want to be selfish – just this once. And it’s okay to be selfish sometimes. At least it is in my eyes – because we all deserve a little selfishness. Especially when we give so much of ourselves to others.

Learned behaviours

What I’ve also learned in this life, is that our behaviours often come from learned behaviour – even early on in life. We learn certain things from our parents and our siblings – whether they are good or bad. Children often mimic their parents especially as toddlers when they get to that stage of copying everything you do.

The most important advice I can give here is to practice the art of unconditional love. Practice daily gratitude and show appreciation for the things and people you do have in life. Make small goals for yourself and reward yourself when you’ve met those goals. No matter what those goals are.

I was lucky enough to have a great set of parents. Both were hardworking and ethical who always tried to lend a helping hand to our community and those in need. My mother often sacrificed family time to go on the road and help volunteer at a national level. Because of her hard work on programs like the Block Parents, she was able to help thousands of families across the country. In my eyes, this my made my mum – invaluable.

That’s always been my goal in life. To become invaluable like my mother and father were in their own fields. My dad was a successful business owner and I learned business ethics from him. My parents always managed to put food on the table and clothes on our backs even during difficult times. And to me – that was an invaluable lesson to learn as a child. It helped shape who I am today.

I try to live by the example they lead. I try to live by their ethics and all the good things in life that they practiced as well.

I realize that not everyone grew up in a household like mine. Looking back now, we were one of the lucky families. We had our shares of troubles and loss – but my parents were always able to work through it all together.

Daily exercises for self-worth

Remember, I’m not a trained psychologist. I did work in the health field for six years and learned a lot during my time in the provincial health system. The information I pass on here in this blog comes from research and my own personal experiences. The advice I’m giving below is what has worked for me.

Practice daily gratitude

The art of daily gratitude is something I too struggle with. I complain way more than I should. I have a friend on Facebook who has been writing “daily gratitude” posts on her Facebook status. Surprisingly, she’s kept it up for over a year. They say that it takes two or three weeks to form a habit. If you start off by writing something you are thankful for every day, it can change the way you think about life in general.

Goal Planning

Set small but realistic goals for yourself. Whether it’s to get a promotion at your job, take a new course, get straight A’s in school or lose by five pound – write it down and come up with a realistic plan. People often fail at their goals because they’ve set the starting bar too high and give up early. By starting off small, you can work your way up. Start with short-term goals that you can achieve each month and work up to longer term goals.

Law of Attraction

I’m not all new agey and into the law of attraction, but there is merit to this way of thinking. What you put out into the world often comes back at you. People will remember you most for how you treated them. If you practice good work ethics, try also working on being kind to others – even to those who don’t seem to deserve the kindness. This can be a hard thing to do. I’m still working on it.

Some people believe that what you put out into this world, will come back to you. So, if you’re working more on positive instead of negative, and having an upbeat outlook on life – things may start to turn around for you.

I think that’s a good place to end the article. I just saw another baby mouse (same one from yesterday I think) and I need to go bleach my eyes and floor out. Hope you enjoyed this article on self-worth. If you’re interested in writing down your goals, I have some worksheets and digital journals you can purchase via Etsy.

What are you hoping to change this year in your life? Let me know in the comments!

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