No. 1 - A Disastrous Formula

No. 1 - A Disastrous Formula

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Everyone Should Be of Value for Their Uniqueness and Special Qualities

Is this formula the best way to determine our self-worth?

Many people use this method, or part of it, to determine how they value themselves, and this has the potential to cause a great deal of emotional damage. Here it is:


Let's take a closer look at this formula.

'My self-worth' means the value I put on myself. There are two extreme positions we can take. Some place so much value on themselves that they perceive themselves superior to others in almost every aspect. Their opinions are the best, they have excellent skills, better families and have better holidays. Just ask them. You have probably met some of those people. They talk about themselves a lot. They expect favours. They expect, and assume, that everyone has the same opinion of them as they do themselves. They often seem resistant to any comment that comes short of saying they are perfect. They tend to narcissism. In their early years, they may have been favoured children in the home.

Then we have the other extreme. The people who undervalue themselves or see in themselves as nothing to recommend. They see everyone better than themselves. They expect that others see them as worthless and will treat them accordingly. Some are so lacking in self-worth that they reject any attempt by others to change that opinion by praise or commendation. Many become that way because love was lacking in the home or they have been through traumatic experiences such as abuse or neglect.

Most of us fit between the two somewhere. Our background and current experiences continually tend to move us backwards and forwards, to a greater or lesser degree, between the two extremes. The result is that there is no security for us, no constancy or predictability in the way we value ourselves. One minute we feel we are okay, the next we don't. The first step in moving away from this insecurity trap is to realise that our response to our past and current experiences is always a choice. In other words, we have the power in our own hands to determine how we value ourselves.

Let's use some logic and reason. We are unique individuals, no two of us are the same, having unique skills and abilities, but also deficiencies and disabilities. What we need is a healthy sense of our faultiness and a healthy acknowledgement of the positive aspects of our character and skills. By healthy I mean one that does not lift us up to be proud, or push us down to devalue ourselves. It is an objective, unbiased self-evaluation, measured against a high standard of character.

Self-worth works hand in hand with self-respect. Can a person who has many negative character attributes have self-respect? No! So a feeling of self-worth is related to the positive character traits we have, not whether we perform well, or what other people's opinions of us are. Our character is made up of our thoughts, feelings, and habits, and these we can change if we choose. It all starts with the way we think about things, and this determines our emotional response. This movement from thinking to feelings, if repeated enough times, becomes a habit. Our character is our thoughts, feelings, and habits combined. Changing a habit then begins by changing the old thoughts and replacing them with more productive ones.

See more in the Article Library series, Character Development. Go to Character Development Part 1.

We should evaluate our performance, but not to determine our self-worth. But even here we need to be careful. Setting unrealistic goals and expectations will mean less chance of achieving those goals or fulfilling those expectations. We should ignore the many external expectations others put on us. If the expectations are from our bosses, then we should aim to achieve them. However, in the long run, if we have put in a reasonable effort, in the time available, we should be happy with ourselves no matter what our bosses think.

If we have unrealistic expectations of ourselves, we will have a constant sense of failure. Setting unrealistic goals is not helpful, "I am going to be perfect by the end of next month." Set realistic goals and do your best.

A practical understanding of flawed humanity can influence our self-evaluation for the better. No-one is perfect. Have you noticed? Mistakes are our little (or big) helpers toward success and improvement. Do we learn to walk without falling over? Does anyone become skilled at mathematics without making mistakes? Through mistakes, we learn what not to do so that we will have more success. Making mistakes just proves we are human.

If we do the job well, we might be pleased. If we mess it up, we might be frustrated, but in the end, we are still the same person. Our self-worth doesn't come into it.

Aaah! Now, this is another story. We may be able to respond to making mistakes or underachieving according to our expectations, but few of us are insensitive to the opinions of others. As mentioned above it is not the views of others or our performance that determines our self-worth but who we are under the skin.

To a certain degree, we need to protect our reputation, but we need to keep in mind that no other person can know enough about us to make a value judgment. We struggle enough to know ourselves. People will gossip, tell lies, tarnish our reputation, get us sacked or turn friends against us, but that in no way should impact on our sense of self-worth. Even if you think you are worthless, that does not mean that you are.

Everyone on this earth has attributes that would be of great value to someone else if they will only use the attributes they do have for the good of others. The givers of small gifts are of more worth than the takers that give nothing. Think about it.

Richard Warden


Next Article in this Article Series: No. 2 - We're All Soccer Balls

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