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“How do I convince myself that I’m worth taking risks for?”. This is the question that stopped in my tracks because for once in my life it wasn’t me asking it, it was someone else. The question surprised me and broke my heart all at the same time. Firstly, I understood this person’s pain because I too spent so much time and energy trying to negotiate and figure out my worth. But secondly, I was surprised that someone else had the same question that I once did. Despite this being a question on a screen, with no name or no picture, I felt like I knew this person because I’d had the same struggle. So how do we convince ourselves we’re worth taking risks for or more simply, how do we feel we’re worthy of anything in life? These are action steps I’ve taken that have helped me to feel more worthy and build a solid foundation of self-esteem which has helped me to craft a more authentic life that I truly enjoy.
1. Stop looking externally for your value
Wow, when I look back at 6 years ago me I see just how much of my self-worth was based on what other people thought of me. The biggest reason for this was I didn’t trust my own thoughts about myself. I’d look outside to see what other people or thought or said to determine who I was and what was right for me.
This is such a common experience for many of us as we try to navigate the world as children and do what we think our parents want us to do or what society says we should do. We only start to see the cracks when we realize these things no longer bring us happiness or never did.
This is exactly what happened to me 3 years ago. I sat and looked at myself and saw just how much of my life was given away to external ideas and values – whether they were from family, friends, past experiences, or society. I then realized how miserable that had made me.
The biggest challenge is that once we start to seek our self-worth externally, we slowly, slowly, give our voice away, and soon we can no longer tell between what’s our voice or someone else.
I want to share two different examples here of external value because to me these two stories represent the difference between choosing our value versus allowing it to be chosen.
The first is a personal story of my own that I only realized recently how much I live by. As a teenager, I used to stay in my room for hours and put outfits together. I would think of all the different ways to wear something and enjoy the process of discovering how to make things look so different just by wearing them a different way. I distinctly remember one day being at a friend’s house and my friend said to my mum “she should be a clothes designer, she’s so good at this stuff” to which my mum replied, “she’s not creative enough for that”. Slowly, I can see now why years later I turned to more analytical-type subjects and work. I inherited that value and attached that to my self-worth. I wasn’t creative enough to be in fashion so I didn’t even try. Instead, I move to areas where my self-worth said “okay this isn’t as creative, you can do this”. These types of experiences would happen to so many of us. Our parents or friends say something and we attach it to our self-worth and limit ourselves by it. This is where I allowed my sense of self-worth to be externally chosen.
The second example is one I heard of recently that really blew my mind. Just to make it simple I’m going to refer to them as friend A & Friend B. So Friend A was talking to Friend B about raising the price of their services as they have their own business. Friend B then said not to, that it was a bit greedy and how much did Friend A really need. Friend A then said to Friend B, that is your limit, not mine. I don’t choose to limit myself in that way. If you do that’s fine but I choose not to live in my life like that and I am ending the conversation here.
Now, how easy would it have been for Friend A to determine the value of their services and their own inherent value based on what Friend B said? Now Friend B isn’t a bad person, just like my mum isn’t, it’s just their way of thinking. BUT the point here is the difference between seeking and choosing our value internally versus externally.
Friend A has chosen their own value internally. What happens here is when we do this is we take action based on that – for example, ending the conversation like Friend A did – and it’s like a cycle where our self-worth continues to build each time we choose to make a decision using our internal compass versus external situations or people.
So my first question to how to feel more worthy is to ask yourself, where does your worth come from? Do you work off your own sense of values or ideas or do you lean towards trusting the external to determine your sense of self-worth?
A great exercise I did when I was working through my own self-worth issues was listing down all the things I believed about myself and seeing where those beliefs/values had come from.
Then I rewrote a list of my beliefs or values based on the person I wanted to be and the things I wanted to experience in my life.
Every time I went to make a decision or action, I’d ask myself which list I was working from? The list where my self-worth was determined by others or the list I created myself.
Friend A’s behavior show’s what happens when we stop looking externally for self-worth and seek it instead from our values and acting them out. Friend A’s firm value was “I choose not to limit myself”. By owning that and living that, he was strengthening his sense of self-worth.
2. Trust your thinking, your decisions, your own knowingness
Friend A’s behavior really stuck with me because I realized another important point when it comes to learning how to feel more worthy – how important it is to trust your thinking, your decisions, and your own knowingness. It’s one thing to know something but it’s another thing to start trusting ourselves to be able to act that on that knowing.
So, what is self-trust? Self-trust was explained really well in a book I read recently called The Six Pillars Of Self Esteem. In it the author describes self-trust as:
- not the certainty that we can never make an error. It is the conviction that we are able to think, to judge, to know – and to correct our errors. It is trust in our mental processes and abilities.
- not the certainty that we will be able to master any and every challenge that life presents. It is the conviction that we are capable in principle of learning what we need to learn and that we are committed to doing our rational and conscious best to master the tasks and challenges entailed by our values
- it is deeper than confidence in our specific knowledge and skills, based on past successes and accomplishments, although it is clearly nurtured by them. It is confidence in what made it possible for us to acquire knowledge and skills and to achieve success. It is confidence in our ability to think, in our consciousness and how we choose to use it
- it is in trust in our processes – and as a consequence, a disposition to expect success for our efforts
Again, this reminds me of Friend A because when they spoke about limits they said it wasn’t that they thought they could do everything, but they knew that when they put their mind to something, they could overcome any challenges and learn what they needed to learn. They have so much self-trust in themselves which is another foundational part of self-worth.
When we take action from a place of trusting ourselves and our ability to handle what comes our way, our self-worth also increases which in turn helps us to feel and act more worthy.
3. Take action on your thinking, on your decisions – we start believing we are worthy when we start acting like we are
“If we wish to raise our level of [self-worth], we need to act in ways that will cause it to rise – and this begins with a commitment to the value of our own person, which is then expressed through congruent behavior” – Nathaniel Branden
The most important part of building our self-worth is the final step – action. We can know our values, we can understand that our self-worth is something we need to generate internally and we can understand that we need to trust our voice and process but if we don’t ACT on it, then our self-esteem, our self-worth, and our self-respect diminish slowly.
I love this quote by Nathaniel Branden because it expresses all the previous points in a nutshell. When we decide to generate our self-worth internally by assessing our values and beliefs and choosing our own what we’re doing is taking a step to developing our own person. Step 2 is then about trusting our thinking to make decisions from this place. It’s about trusting our knowingness and the values we’ve come up with to guide us. Basically, it’s about trusting and allowing our own personal process. This builds the foundation for us to take authentic action. When we take that action, we’re committing to this person that we’ve decided to be. When we act from this place, we’re walking our talk.
Each time we decide to walk our talk we take another step to building our self-worth because we’re choosing ourselves.
Friend A walks his talk. They chose their value which “I choose not to limit myself”, they trusted that they can overcome the challenges they need to overcome to achieve what they set out to do and they walk their talk by setting those boundaries as they did with Friend B and honouring their decisions by following through with them.
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