A friend of mine told me she had something of an “Aha” moment when she read a recent post of mine. I’d made a distinction between self-esteem and self-worth.
About 5 years ago I went to a therapist to work on some personal issues. This therapist annoyed me for many reasons, but she annoyed me the most because within 20 minutes she told me I had no self-esteem. Being a clinician myself, I was like, “What is wrong with this woman? Who says that?!” I argued back with her and said, “First of all, I do have self-esteem *rolls eyes*. I have absolutely no issues with knowing how wonderful I am.” I concluded with, “Furthermore, self-esteem exists on a spectrum. You don’t have self-esteem or not. It’s a matter of degree!”
I went home annoyed. It lingered in my mind as I was trying to figure out exactly what was wrong with me. Most people will tell you that I’m one of the most confident people they know, but there was something I couldn’t quite put my finger on… I knew she wasn’t right, but there was a surface there I wanted to scratch.
It would be about 4 years later, as I was preparing a lecture for a Personality Psychology course, that it hit me that my issue wasn’t self-esteem, at all. It was self-worth. Due to limitations of the English language and the fact that the words are often used interchangeably we think they are one in the same. But for some psychological theorists, self-esteem represents your global evaluation of self, where as self-worth represents what you think your value is—the respect you think you are worthy of. While they are two sides of the same coin, the latter speaks to how you think others should treat you.
Pantene recently did a video called, “Not Sorry.” The video highlights the fact that many woman are socialized to apologize, for no reason at all. We even start conversations with, “Sorry, but can I ask you a question?”
It also plays out in our obsessive and innumerable, “Thank you’s.” Of course, “thank you,” is a social custom—one I highly value—but we thank people for listening to us or for going out with us, as though it is a gift we don’t really deserve.
Self-worth is a matter of what you think you deserve in social interactions—be it on the job, in friendships or romantic partnerships.
5 Ways to Investigate Your Level of Self-Worth:
1. Pay attention to how many times you say, “sorry,” in a day. Ask yourself why you are even saying sorry. Have you really done something wrong or is it because you think your presence is an in intrusion or that you might not be worthy of the attention called for in the moment—so you attempt to make yourself smaller.
2. Pay attention to how many, “thank you”s you say. Are you grateful and surprised or does it come from a, lesser place that says, “I almost don’t feel comfortable with this grace or worthy of this gift.”
3. Examine whether you are in relationships where you would like to be treated better but think, “Well, this is better than nothing.” “He wasn’t there for me when I was grieving the loss of a loved one, but at least he pays the bills.”
4. Recall whether there were times when you wanted to speak up (e.g. negotiate a higher salary, for instance), but thought, “Who am I to ask for more?”
5. Question, “What was behind keeping people in your life longer than you should have?”
Take the time to journal these things and really begin to explore how high or low your self-worth is.
Leave a comment in the box below and tell us what you’re worthy of!
[info_box type=”alert_box”]If you want to practice self-care, you have to care for your finances. My book, The Happy Finances Challenge, is designed to help you learn to make money decisions that will lead to long-term financial happiness in just 42 days. [/info_box]