How to cultivate a sense of unconditional self-worth
by Adia Gooden, PhD
In college or in our current daily lives, busyness gets mistaken for a false sense of self-worth. Getting good grades, starting a new relationship, or landing a new job are all great, but it can be easy to let your feelings of self-worth slowly slip away if your internal sense of self-worth is nonexistent.
Ads, our educational system, our family, social media, and countless other things can give off a false sense of self-worth if viewed with the wrong lens.
What really is unconditional self-worth then? “Unconditional self-worth is the sense that you deserve to be alive, to be loved and cared for to take up space.” — Adia Gooden, PhD
However, Adia points out that the concept of self-worth isn’t as easily digestible for everyone. “Some people might fear that if they get too satisfied with themselves, they won’t be motivated to grow and change. Others could feel that accepting themselves as worthy would be arrogant. And some may simply believe that feeling worthy is just not possible.”
Here are Adia’s tips for feeling a stronger sense of self-worth:
- Forgive yourself: “Many of us struggle to feel worthy because we are angry with ourselves about past mistakes. Forgiveness involves acknowledging and accepting what has happened. Acceptance releases us from blaming ourselves and others and allows us to move forward.” — Adia Gooden, PhD
- Practice self-acceptance: Your looks, your current job situation, your grades, the way you’re feeling…all of it — just embrace it. There are certainly things you probably wish you could change about yourself, but there’s no harm in accepting yourself. This doesn’t mean you have to be complacent, but acknowledge whether you’re breaking complacency from a place of internal self-acceptance vs. external validation.
- Be there for yourself: “When life gets rough, many of us abandon ourselves during times of challenge. We engage in harsh self-criticism — which only leaves us feeling worse. What we need most when we are going through a difficult time is for someone to say “I see you. I see how badly you’re hurting. I’m here.” — Adia Gooden, PhD
- Connect to supportive people: Know that you are not alone in your suffering and occasional feelings of a lower sense of self-worth. The worst thing you can do is isolate yourself and think that there’s something wrong with you. Pulling away from our relationships and family only makes the feelings of unworthiness worse.
Adia adds, “Knowing that we are not alone in our struggles and pain reminds us that challenges don’t make us unworthy. Connecting to people who are supportive helps us to get in touch with our humanity and our sense of worth.”
My two cents: Back to Adia’s point on how ads, our educational system, our family, social media, and countless other things can give off a false sense of self-worth — I think it all points to external validation. We’re sending signals out in the hopes of getting validation in return. I’ve been trying to shift my focus towards more internal validation.
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