“What a painful encounter it would be to meet the person we could have been.”
- James McPartland
When it comes to self-worth, there is only one opinion that truly matters - your own. And no one is harder on us than we are on ourselves. We may very well be our own harshest critic.
In these unprecedented times, we are having to determine new ways of keeping score in many areas of life. Our beliefs around business results, connecting with people, parenting, exercise, personal finances, managing emotions, keeping our loved ones safe, and ensuring our own personal health are all being pressure tested. At a time when the need for national leadership is at an all-time high, our trust scores may very well be at an all-time low.
Could it be that it all comes down to what it has always come down to - YOU, and how you see yourself?
Picture yourself several years from now-- living in your future, and then imagine that future self, looking back at you now... How do you want to remember this point in time? Will you be the one to define it or will you be defined by it?
One way to define this point in time is to become the person we know deep down we are truly capable of becoming. An exercise to help illuminate this path is to examine our self-worth, independent of all the externals the world values such as wealth, education, status, size of our homes, automobile, or the number of likes, followers, and comments on our social media sites.
If there is any good news in the world we live in today, it's that difficult conditions will always reveal our strongly held beliefs. Pay attention to the conversations around you, and the ones you are having with yourself. Anytime you catch yourself playing judge and jury, putting others or yourself on trial for your words and deeds, recognize that you are identifying what you believe or don't believe. How you respond to this level of awareness presents an opportunity to refine your beliefs, live with intention, and improve your perception of self-worth.
Here are seven ways to elevate your feelings of self-worth:
Be Mindful. We cannot change what we do not recognize would benefit from change. Be aware of participating in disempowering conversations and believing limiting self-talk. Think about what you are thinking about, and don't believe everything you think. Remember, if nothing changes, nothing changes.
Change Your Story. The story we tell ourselves, about ourselves, shapes our self-image and self-worth. Sometimes automatic negative thoughts (i.e. “I'm not good enough”) can be repeated so often that we come to believe they are true. Stories are learned, can be unlearned, and ultimately be rewritten. Your life is your story, and your story is your life. As you work toward crafting a new narrative, ask yourself, “What do I wish I believed about myself and why?”
Avoid the Comparison Game. Comparisons feed the illusion that others are better than us and can only lead to negative self-talk, anxiety, and stress. Comparing ourselves to others can often lower our perception of self-worth by affecting our mental health, work, relationships, and our physical health. If you insist on playing that game, play it against yourself. Using your own personal standards as a metric, how are you becoming better today than you were yesterday? If you need another person to inspire you, compare how today’s version of you allocated time as opposed to yesterday’s version of you, as time is the great equalizer in life. People who achieve great things learn to manage their energy so as to maximize their time. Further, since time is a finite resource, let's use it to improve ourselves and not spend it wishing we were like somebody else.
Be a Genius. Each of us has a unique gift, a talent that makes us truly special. If you pay close attention, you will find there are times in a day or a week you are doing something you absolutely love-- something that benefits not only you, but those around you, and the more time you spend in this space, the more value (and self-worth) you generate. Never once take your gift for granted. In order to keep it, you have to give it away. Continuously cultivate and develop your gift, always evolving from good to great to genius.
Practice Self Care. Exercise, rest, reading uplifting stories, listening to empowering podcasts, and participating in heartfelt conversations are ways to strengthen the most important relationship you have- the one you have with yourself. Making yourself more valuable is a sure way to increase your perception of self-worth. One can not give their best if they are not at their best.
Give. Do something for someone else with no expectation of anything in return. It is a scientific fact that it is far better to give than to receive. The same pleasure centers that light up in the brain of those we give to are lit up in our own brains as we give. Test this. Spend the better part of a day intentionally putting out positive thoughts (and behaviors) to those you come into contact with. You will feel the good vibrations as those energy-generating boomerangs come flying back to you, often from places that you would least expect them to. The quickest way to get unstuck is to take action for somebody else. Action is the tried and true cure for anxiety.
Let Go. Forgive others, and forgive yourself. If we do not let go of resentment, we lock ourselves into a prison of pain and negativity. When we let go, we come to realize that the practice of forgiveness is a two-way street. If we want to be forgiven, accepted for who we are and who we are not, we must do the same for others, acknowledging that we are not without flaws. The quickest way to receive that which you hope for is to give it. So practice forgiveness. While this act is intended to absolve others, the person ultimately freed is you.
Learning to distinguish the difference between your circumstances and who you are is key to unlocking a treasure chest of self-worth. Our circumstances need not define us. Choose to make this moment your moment of impact. The juncture where you acknowledge we are all born with infinite potential and equal worth, and that any lesser thought is a limited and false belief you learned over time that has worn out its welcome. Hard work and self-compassion can greatly minimize, if not eliminate, self-destructive thoughts and disempowering beliefs.
So go ahead. Make this your “be better” moment. Recognize that the difficult period we are in may well be your crossroad of decision; the one where you say to yourself: “Now is the time to meet the person I know I am capable of becoming.”