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Self-Worth. Self-Value, Self-Esteem: Do you know the difference?

In the area of personal development, self esteem is a subject that draws a lot of attention. It is divided into sectors and you can find it in countless seminars, workshops, speeches and articles. Self-value comes right after. It’s less popular but with great momentum as it gets more and more attention. As for self-worth… Well this for many is an almost unknown word, often confused with the previous two, despite speaking for itself. And it is strange a. because these 3 ‘powers’ have an order of priority opposite to their popularity and b. because the last one should be the first we learn. As children. It should be our base. And probably there are  serious reasons why this isn’t our reality, but before my mind goes completely off topic let's dive into each one and see what they are all about. 

The Foundations of the Self: Self Worth

Self-worth is closely related to self-value but adds a layer of confidence and belief in yourself and is in my opinion, the foundation for the next 2. It's about recognizing your own unique abilities and feeling worthy of love, respect and happiness. It is this inner strength that enables you to make choices that honor your true self, even if they deviate from the crowd or social norms. It also includes how you perceive your worth in relation to others and the world around you. For instance, let's say you're in a relationship where your partner constantly criticizes you. Your self-worth is the part within you that empowers you to recognize that you deserve to be treated with kindness and respect, prompting you to set boundaries or seek support to uphold your worth. And I assume you can imagine what happens if that part of you is weak or not even activated.

Recognizing your value: Self-value

Self-value is the inherent respect and importance that you attribute to yourself as a human being, regardless of external factors such as achievements, appearance, or status. It's about recognizing and appreciating your intrinsic value simply by virtue of being alive. For example, imagine you're faced with a challenging situation at work. Your didn't meet your goals, your business may have failed or you may have been fired. Despite the setback, your self-value allows you to acknowledge that your worth as a person remains unchanged, separate from your performance, or whatever happens in life. And treat yourself with the same courtesy and respect.

Building confidence: Self esteem

Self-esteem reflects a sense of confidence you may have in some ability, skill or in various areas of life, and does not necessarily extend to your overall view of yourself. You may have high self-esteem in some areas, such as sports, academic achievements, or your math skills, while feeling less confident in others, such as social situations or public speaking. For example, if you're great at playing the guitar, you might feel really good about yourself when you perform on stage. But that doesn't mean you'll automatically feel confident  if you're on stage giving a speech instead of playing or in any other aspect of your life for that reason. Self-esteem or self confidence is more specific to particular skills or attributes and most of the time (healthy self-confidence, not the delulu one) is inextricably linked to practice and repeated good results.

Key indicators of low self-worth and self-value

For low self-esteem, the cues are rather obvious and the ways to deal with it are relatively practical. It is also - in my opinion - the tip of the iceberg, at least compared to the other two. Maybe that's why its lack is the most obvious. But the other two powers go deeper and it's no wonder that in the busyness of everyday life, it's easy to overlook the subtle signs that reveal their lack. It’s easy not to acknowledge what you really believe about yourself and your deeply engraved, and often hidden from the conscious mind, beliefs. Nevertheless, there are some clues that offer a very clear picture of your inner world. So if you "see" yourself in the following, this is your sign to look within.

Negative self-talk and harsh self-criticism

While constructive self-criticism can enhance your growth and improvement in all areas, negative self-criticism can lead to feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt. It is the process where you critique your actions not to understand and learn, but to judge every flaw, mistake or omission. You are mentally beating yourself up. You also find it difficult to accept compliments or positive comments and discard their value.

You are searching for external validation

Relying on others' approval or validation to feel worthy or valuable, and feeling a constant need to please others.

Fear of rejection

Avoiding situations or opportunities for fear of being judged or rejected, and feeling unworthy of love or acceptance.

Difficulty setting boundaries

Struggling to assert one's needs or say no in relationships, and feeling guilty or selfish when prioritizing yourself

Imposter syndrome

Feeling like we're just faking it and waiting to be exposed as a fraud, doubting your abilities and worth despite evidence of success.

Cultivating self-worth & self-value

Improving the above starts with building a strong foundation of self-worth and self-value. There are many reasons why these innate forces may not have been cultivated enough or at all within you, and most of the time it is due to shortcomings or past trauma. You don't however need to ‘heal’ it alone. In fact, it's better not to. Even just the positive feedback that a mental health professional will offer you will be a gift for your overall empowerment. If you however want to start from somewhere, here are some ways to do it:

  • Practice self-compassion: Talk to yourself with kindness and understanding, especially when faced with challenges or setbacks. Treat yourself with the same love and compassion you would offer a friend
  • Challenge negative thoughts: When those negative thoughts start creeping in, try to challenge them and replace them with more positive and realistic affirmations.
  • Set realistic goals: Break big goals into smaller, achievable steps. Take time to recognize your successes, no matter how small, and celebrate the progress you've made along the way.
  • Set healthy boundaries: Learn to assert your needs and priorities in your relationships and don't be afraid to say no when something doesn't feel right or doesn’t align with them.
  • Get support: Surround yourself with supportive friends, family and mentors who lift you up and encourage you, and don't hesitate to seek help from a mental health professional. Get as much support as you need.

Books & Videos that can help

Cultivating Unconditional Self-Worth | Adia Gooden | TEDx DePaulUniversity 

In this TEDx Talk,  Licensed psychologist Adia Gooden PhD shares her own journey. Gooden says, “I’ve finally begun to cultivate an unconditional self-worth and shed the belief that “I’m not good enough”. I’m embracing myself — quirks and all — and this new path is liberating, enlivening and life-giving.”

How to talk to the worst parts of yourself | Karen Faith | TEDxKC 

In this TEDx talk, people researcher and empathy trainer Karen Faith discusses how to talk to the worst parts of yourself in a way that is both honest and rational. She notes that therapy or other forms of self-care can be helpful in managing hard thoughts and feelings. Ultimately, she advocates for an open mind and gratitude for all aspects of the self.

The art of being yourself | Caroline McHugh | TEDxMilton

“The Art of Being Yourself” is a captivating Ted Talk that explores the concept of self-awareness and authenticity. Throughout the Ted Talk, a leadership and company culture coach, Caroline McHugh, provides expert tips on embracing and celebrating your unique qualities and being true to yourself.

I’ll leave you with a thought. In a world that often tries to define you and dictate who you should be, investing in the relationship with yourself and your inner power isn't just important—it's essential, and the only way to lead a life that feels and is 100% authentic.

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