My last blog post mentioned that there are no quick fixes to enhance your self worth. This does not mean that there is no roadmap whatsoever for enhancing self worth. Through my work with psychotherapy, I observe that each person’s roadmap is complex, highly individual, and takes time and patience to figure out.
Perhaps a good first step is to practice self-compassion and offer yourself extra doses of patience as you learn more about how you think about your own self worth. In other words, if your attempt to battle perfectionism is to shame yourself when you get stuck in negative thinking (“Ugh! I know better than to think that way! Why do I ALWAYS do that?!”) you might continue to feel stuck, and you might not feel a lot of movement towards better self worth. One suggestion would be to simply pause and recognize “Oh, that’s a perfectionistic thought. That’s okay. I’m learning.” One of the most radical acts of self worth is being able to call out the negative voice in our heads and let it know that it is no longer able to influence us the way it used to – we can see the wizard behind the curtain.
Another helpful tool can be to think of yourself or try to see yourself through the lens of someone who represents unconditional love to you. For me, one of these people is my grandmother. If I made a mistake, my grandmother would never say to me “You are such an idiot. How could you get that wrong?” She’d offer guidance where she could, listen to me when I felt upset, and would offer sympathy and understanding. The people I know who have the strongest sense of self worth are the ones who can separate their behavior – which is to say, their mistakes, their lapses in judgment, their struggles to succeed – as separate from who they are as people, just as an adoring grandmother could. For you, perhaps this is a parent, a grandparent, a sibling, a supportive friend or neighbor; it can even be a pet. Pause and think to yourself, “What would they have to say about this?”
You might also consider recognizing one of your positive traits that you appreciate and admire about yourself. We spend SO much time focusing on the negative – I say stupid things at meetings, I don’t look good in these clothes, I’m not good enough at my job, etc. Instead of building your case for all your negative attributes, notice the good ones you have, and “catch yourself” when you are exemplifying those traits. When your friend is struggling with something and you call her up to check on her, notice “I am a great friend.” When you suggest a new strategy for how to tackle something at work, notice “I am effective at my job.” When your child confides in you about a fight with a friend, notice “I am good at listening to my child.”
We have all heard about the benefits of regularly keeping up with Gratitude Journals. If you are specifically seeking to enhance your sense of your self worth, you could take your gratitude journal one step further, and add in each day something you are grateful for about yourself, or how you added value to your own day or your own life. One of the barriers to recognizing our self-worth is Negative Bias – the biological process we all experience that, to ensure our survival, labels negative things in our lives as more important than positive things; gratitude journals counteract this. It helps enhance our ability to “marinate” in the good things about ourselves, and the act of writing it down makes a bigger impact on our brain.
If you are reading this thinking “But I really don’t have anything good about me!” or “I don’t have a grandmother who loved me unconditionally!” or “There isn’t anything I do to add value to my day,” pause for a moment. Notice that perhaps you have believed negative things about yourself for so long you may have forgotten they are wrong. After all, you are reading a blog about enhancing self-worth, which means at least part of you thinks working on this is valuable – and part of you believing it is a good place to start.