By Jeremy Godwin
Never miss an episode of the Let’s Talk About Mental Health podcast! Sign up here to have new episodes land in your inbox (plus the weekly mini-newsletter full of better mental health inspiration).
Welcome to Let’s Talk About Mental Health, the weekly podcast full of simple ideas for better mental health by Jeremy Godwin. Each episode focuses on practical and simple ideas that you can use to improve and maintain your mental health and wellbeing every day, based on quality research.
This is Episode 78 and this week I’m talking about self worth. In this episode I’ll cover what self worth is, why healthy self worth is vital for your wellbeing, and how to improve and maintain your sense of self worth. So, let’s talk about mental health!
Listen to the podcast episode now in the Spotify player below (or using your preferred podcast service; see below for links) or continue reading for the full transcript.
Watch Episode 16 of Let’s Talk About Mental Health TV — in this latest episode I’m sharing five lessons for better mental health from… Eurovision?! Yes, really! 😁🤣
Watch it below or visit the channel on YouTube:
This podcast episode was originally released on 9 May, 2021.
Hello and welcome to Episode 78, and thanks so much for joining me! 2021 is The Year of Wellbeing here on the Let’s Talk About Mental Health podcast, and each week I’ll be exploring ways you can make a positive difference in your own life.
This week is all about self worth. How we feel about ourselves has an enormous impact on our mental health and wellbeing, because when you don’t feel particularly great about yourself or you don’t consider yourself to be ‘worthy’ or ‘good enough’ then you can often tend to make decisions that may not be in your best interests, such as using unhealthy coping mechanisms or belittling yourself on a regular basis. So this episode is all about recognising when you might need to do some work on your self worth, and how to begin to do that work.
Before I get into that, two quick updates which will take me just a minute or so. First, Episode 16 of Let’s Talk About Mental Health TV is out now on YouTube which is my favourite episode I’ve released so far. Why? Because this week I’m looking at five lessons Eurovision can teach us about better mental health. And yes, I am totally serious! Regular listeners will know how much I love the Eurovision Song Contest and so I decided to combine that with my love of talking about mental health, and the results are actually surprisingly-helpful! The episode is out now on YouTube and the content I post there is completely different to this podcast — watch it now on YouTube or head to letstalkaboutmentalhealth.com.au/YouTube.
So my other update is that Episode 2 of my other YouTube channel, No-Nonsense Advice for Living, is out now! On that channel I talk about topics that are much broader than just mental health, and in this episode I’m talking about why you need to stop waiting for the right moment to do the things you want to do in life. I post new videos on that channel every Saturday, and you can watch it now on YouTube or head to www.jeremygodwin.com.au. You’ll also find the links for both YouTube channels in the episode description text on whatever podcast service you’re currently using.
So, with that said, on with this week’s episode about self worth…
As you may be aware, I often look to the great philosophers throughout history to begin these conversations. In 2002, the great sage Christina Aguilera sang, “I am beautiful no matter what they say, words can’t bring me down” and even though that song mainly focused on what other people say about you, it’s just as applicable to the conversation we can often have about ourselves with ourselves inside our mind; sometimes, the things we say to ourselves or the way we treat ourselves (or both) can be inconsiderate, offensive, and even downright nasty.
Why does that happen? Often it’s because we may not be feeling completely positive and confident in our sense of self worth.
So let me ask you this: what are you worth? I’m not talking about monetary value here; I’m talking about the value that you place on yourself as someone who is decent, kind, and worthy; someone who deserves to be treated with respect by others and by yourself. This is the stuff that I’m going to be exploring today, so settle in and devote some time to feeling good about yourself in order to improve your self worth — because you deserve it!
Let’s begin with some definitions and let’s talk about…
What is self worth?
If you look up the term ‘self worth’ in the dictionary you’ll see it listed as another term for self esteem (which I talked about in Episode 43) and although they are definitely related, there are some specific differences between the two (or at least there are in positive psychology terms!). I’m going to explain what I mean by quoting from PositivePsychology.com which featured this quote by Dr. Christina Hibbert:
“Self-esteem is what we think and feel and believe about ourselves. Self worth is recognizing ‘I am greater than all of those things.’ It is a deep knowing that I am of value, that I am loveable, necessary to this life, and of incomprehensible worth.”Dr. Christina Hibbert (source: https://positivepsychology.com/self worth/)
Self worth, self esteem, self respect and self confidence are all very closely related and they effectively describe different sides of the same coin, because it’s all about how you view yourself. Do you consider yourself to be a good person who is worthy of being treated respectfully by others as well as by yourself? Because it is that sense of worthiness that sets ‘self worth’ apart from everything else — it all comes down to whether or not you think you are deserving of kindness, love, belonging and all the other good things in life. And most importantly, it means that you give yourself kindness, compassion, love, respect, dignity and understanding.
Unfortunately we can sometimes become our own worst enemy, in the sense that if we don’t feel great about who we are or where we’re currently at in life, we can wind up turning against ourselves. A few months ago I read this quote somewhere (and I don’t remember where so if anyone knows please tell me); the quote is, “don’t be your own bully” — and as someone who was bullied mercilessly all throughout high school that really resonated with me, because the things we can say to ourselves can be incredibly unkind and even cruel sometimes. Why would we choose to bully ourselves?! Healthy self worth is about knowing that those types of things are just simply not true, and instead being able to focus on your good qualities.
Why is a healthy sense of self worth vital for your wellbeing?
I mean, hopefully it’s obvious but let me blunt: if you can’t feel good about yourself, life is probably going to feel a bit shit isn’t it?!
When your sense of self worth is low, you can tend to do and accept things that are damaging to you. I’m talking about: unhealthy relationships. Addictive behaviours. Engaging in risky behaviours. Seeing yourself as a failure and so never trying to change things for the better. These are just some examples of the damaging consequences of low self worth, and it’s something that can often go hand-in-hand with conditions like depression.
So the other thing I want to talk about here in terms of healthy versus unhealthy self worth is about how you define your worthiness. Traditionally, especially in the West, we’ve fallen into the trap of defining our success by factors like your job title, your salary, the size of the house you live in, the car you drive, the clothes you wear and so on. All of those things are, in a word, bullshit. Because it sets up an expectation that you have to wear the right clothes or drive the right car in order to be worth something, and that is the biggest load of crap ever — you can be wealthy or well-educated and still be a total train-wreck of a human being.
Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about. A few years ago someone trolled me with a nasty message following a blog post I published where he commented that I had gained my degree from a regional university and so therefore, in his eyes, my degree was sub-par. First of all, that had nothing to do with me and everything to do with the type of person he was. And secondly, it didn’t diminish my sense of self worth one bit because (a) it’s the quality of the education not the location and (b) that completely dismissed the amazing accomplishment I had achieved: in the middle of severe depression and anxiety, where I could barely leave the house for two years, I somehow managed to complete a full degree in psychology and sociology with great grades (like, I didn’t just scrape through). And that’s what matters, not what some ignorant prick thought (a quick note here: I really haven’t been thinking about his comments all these years, I just wanted to share it because I think it’s a good example of the kind of ridiculousness that goes on when some people try to reduce your self worth based on what they think is worthy versus not worthy).
It is absolutely possible to improve and maintain your sense of self worth with time, effort and perseverance. How do you do that? Well, let’s get into the how-to part of this week’s episode!
How to improve and maintain your sense of self worth
So this week’s how-to is less a set of steps to follow than it is a selection of general things to be mindful of; consider it advice to live by rather than a step-by-step process. At the end I’ll talk about some specific things to do if you’ve tried everything I suggest and nothing seems to be working. So let’s begin with…
Embrace your uniqueness — you are a perfectly unique little snowflake; there is only one of you amongst the nearly-8 billion of us on this ball of rock spinning through space, and it’s up to you to remind yourself every single day that it is your uniqueness that makes you worthy of love, kindness and belonging. I’m going to talk about a few aspects of that, starting with:
Choose to define yourself based on who you are and not on your things or status — I live in a tiny two-bedroom cottage in a very small town in the country and I drive a car that is 10 years old. Does that make me unsuccessful? Quite the opposite. Because I’ve been able to reframe how I view success and for me it’s about living somewhere I love (which I absolutely do) and being able to spend my days doing work that feels purposeful and rewarding. I work a maximum of 30 hours a week, usually more like 25, and as I’m self-employed it’s up to me to set my hours so I can be as flexible as I like. Now, for someone who used to work in the corporate sector, to me this lifestyle is success. It’s not for everyone and that is absolutely fine, and I think we need to stop trying to force our version of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ or ‘successful’ onto one another because that’s how wars start (I mean, nobody ever went to war because they agreed with one another too much!). If you choose to define yourself based on your qualities as a human being, instead of these material things that we can never take with us when we leave this life, then your sense of worthiness becomes much more human in its focus. What does that look and feel like? Well that’s my next point, which is…
Choose to do no harm, be kind and give more than you take — and of course regular listeners will be well aware of this statement because it’s become a mantra here on Let’s Talk About Mental Health! Here’s the thing: if you are someone who can say, hand on heart and with all honesty, that you do no harm to others or yourself, that you are kind to others and to yourself, and that you give more than you take from others and from yourself, then you are more than a decent human being, you’re a damn role-model! And what if you’re not perfect at that all the time? Well nobody’s perfect so you’re not alone, but at least making the effort every day is what matters. I’m certainly not perfect at it; just this morning I found myself saying very unkind things (and very swear-y things) to someone who pulled out in front of me suddenly then proceeded to sit 20 kilometres (or 12 miles) under the speed limit until I could finally overtake them. Did I question their intelligence? Yes. And once my rational brain took over from the highly-emotional reaction I initially had, did I feel a bit unkind? Yes. Who knows what they were going through and really my reaction was just because of having to slam on the brakes so I didn’t ram up the back of them when they were cutting me off, so even though I was angry and frustrated it’s actually a reaction based on fear. So, I know that and so I can choose to be kind to myself and let go of feeling guilty about my reaction, and aim to do better next time (working on my impatience and my explosive emotional reactions to stupidity are two big things I’m working on in terms of my own self-improvement and I have been for some time). Do I have a point in amongst all this? Yes… somewhere! Just because you don’t get it right all the time that doesn’t make you less-than or unworthy; it just makes you human. Instead of beating yourself up every time you drop the ball, reflect on it so you can learn from it and then apply what you’ve learned to do better and be better next time. If you make a daily commitment to yourself to do no harm, be kind and give more than you take, it drives your focus each day and if it’s front-of-mind then you can continually assess the decisions that you’re making and change course if you need to. I mean the choice is up to you, but it’s certainly much more preferable to being someone who does do harm, is unkind, and who takes more than they give… unless you’re planning on going into politics, in which case I’d say it sounds like a perfect match! So my next point is…
Choose to focus on your positives — that doesn’t mean you ignore challenges (and I’ll come back to that in a minute) but what I mean is that when you focus on the negative then you’ll see plenty more to think and feel negatively about; whereas when you actively focus on the positive you’ll see plenty more to think and feel positively about. The choice is yours but either way, what you look for is what you find.
Choose to be 100% you — self worth is about seeing value in yourself, and so if you’re trying to be something or someone that you’re not then it’s going to be tough to have a healthy sense of self worth because you’re not being authentic (something I looked at back in Episode 55). Get to know who you really are and be absolutely and unapologetically you. Speaking of, my next point is…
Choose to only compare yourself with yourself — so what I originally wanted to say here is “don’t compare yourself to others” however as I’m sure many of you know from basic psychology, as soon as you tell someone not to do something that is exactly what they will do! It’s called reverse psychology and it’s why ‘do not touch’ signs make you immediately want to touch things you might never have even considered; I once took a photo in a museum in New York of a truly ugly piece of art just because the sign said not to… I know, it’s sad! So I’m not going to say that, even though I already basically did, but instead I want to remind you that the only person you have to compare yourself with is yourself, and what I mean by that is comparison in terms of considering if you are learning and growing every day — because if you are then you will, by now, be significantly further along than where you were five or ten years ago. I talk often about the purpose of life as working to be the best version of yourself possible, which you accomplish by improving a little each day. While some days might be tougher than others, when you step back and look at yourself over the course of a year, five years, a decade, you’ll begin to see the bigger picture and hopefully that’s an upward trend of self-improvement. If not, that’s OK because that’s what today is for, so you can choose to make this the day that you steer yourself towards being the best version of yourself possible. But for the love of cuddly puppies please only ever compare yourself to yourself because it’s not possible to make a direct comparison with others; we’re all unique snowflakes so you’re making an unfair comparison (like comparing apples and oranges which can never and will never be the same). Speaking of self-improvement…
Choose to make self-improvement the foundation of your wellbeing practice — if you want to be better, be better. If you want to do better, do better. Progress is made in small steps so take the time to understand your strengths and your challenges or development opportunities so that you can build on your strengths (by leveraging from them and doing more of what you’re good at), overcome your challenges and learn new skills to address your development opportunities. Almost anything can be improved with the right mindset along with time, effort and perseverance.
Now, you’ll probably notice throughout all of those points that I started each of them with the word ‘choose’ and that is because when it comes to your mindset your mindset is a choice (and that’s something I explored back in Episode 31). You get to choose how you view yourself and how you view the world.
So speaking of mindset, here are a few things I want you to consider…
Your self worth is not dependant on others — what other people think about you is about them, not you. If you need validation from someone in order to feel worthy, then you need to work on your self-esteem because self worth is, like happiness, an inside job. This is especially true in close relationships, regardless of whether they are romantic or platonic… a healthy relationship does not complete you but rather it complements your life. Which leads me to…
Never let someone or something else determine your self worth or detract from it — continuing on from that last point, this is a more forceful way of basically saying, “don’t take any shit”. You can be kind without being a pushover, and if someone tries to take advantage of you or make you feel bad about yourself then that is 100% on them and it has nothing to do with you, so let that stuff be water off a duck’s back. You know, it’s like when people sit at home and criticise others who are out doing things in the world and being the best version of themselves possible; that has nothing to do with the person they’re attacking and everything to do with who they are and how miserable they are. In those cases I say just meet unkindness with kindness and then leave those people be, because they have no control over your sense of self worth unless you let them.
If you’re struggling with being treated as worthy by others, change the people around you — hopefully it goes without saying (which I just realised I say a lot in this podcast!) but if the people in your life are arseholes then change the people in your life. If you let people do harm to you then you are doing harm to yourself, which will only have a damaging effect on your self worth. If you need some guidance in this space, check out Episode 45 on assertiveness or Episode 53 on boundaries, along with Episode 75 on toxic people. Speaking of…
Don’t be your own bully — I mentioned this one earlier today and I like it so much that I’m including it in the how-to because I really do think it’s a good reminder (and of course it’s quite a blunt way of saying to be kind to yourself, and you all know how blunt I can be!). Also I know it’s better to tell people what you want them to do rather than what not to do (that whole reverse-psychology thing I talked about earlier) but seriously I don’t know how else to say this without diluting the message: just don’t be your own bully! There are enough bullies in this world without you adding fuel to the fire by bullying yourself, and if you can’t be kind and supportive to yourself then how can you expect other people to be?!
And finally… if you are struggling with your self worth and nothing seems to be working, talk to a professional — I pretty-much say this one towards the end of every episode and with good reason: there are lots of do-it-yourself things you can and should do when it comes to improving and maintaining your mental health and wellbeing (and since it’s your mental health then it hopefully makes sense that you are the one in the driver’s seat) however that does not mean that you have to go through the tough times alone… nor should you! Talk to a therapist, counsellor or coach depending on your circumstances and the type of challenges you’re dealing with, and get support to work through your situation.
Summary and Close-Out
Because when it comes to self worth and mental health, what it all boils down to is this: The way you think about yourself and the value you do or don’t see in yourself will have a direct impact on your overall sense of life satisfaction. If you feel negatively about yourself then it’s going to be hard to see the positives in yourself, and that can do real long-term damage to you in terms of your happiness and confidence. Choose to focus on your positives and celebrate all the things about you that make you worthy and valuable. There is nobody else on this planet like you and so you have something valuable to contribute to this world, no matter how big or small that might be.
The choice is yours, as it is with all things related to your wellbeing… so, what choice will YOU make today?
Each week I like to finish up by sharing a quote about the week’s topic, and I encourage you to take a few moments to really reflect on it and consider what it means to you. This week’s quote is by American speaker Rob Liano, and it is:
“Self respect, self worth and self love all start with ‘self’. Stop looking outside of yourself for your value.”Rob Liano
Next week I’ll be talking about supporting others. Providing support to other people in your life, especially those you are close to, can be a real balancing act in terms of maintaining your boundaries so that you don’t take on too much or find yourself stuck with the ownership for dealing with someone else’s issues. It’s a challenge that many of us face in our daily lives and it can be even more complicated when you’re dealing with challenges like anxiety or depression yourself, and in fact I’ve had several people contact me and ask me to explore this topic. So next time I’ll be talking about what healthy support for others looks like, why having a mindful approach to supporting others matters, and how to support other people in a healthy way.
I hope you’ll join me for that episode, which will be released on Sunday 16th May. And join me for Let’s Talk About Mental Health TV on YouTube, with new episodes released every Wednesday, along with weekly episodes of No-Nonsense Advice for Living every Saturday on my other YouTube channel [or visit www.jeremygodwin.com.au].
Head over to letstalkaboutmentalhealth.com.au for links and all past episodes and, while you’re there, join the mailing list for exclusive updates, my weekly newsletter and the transcript and audio links for all episodes. You can find the website links in the description of this episode on whatever podcast service you’re using.
Thank you very much for joining me today — look after yourself and make a conscious effort to share positivity and kindness in the world, because you get back what you put out. Take care and talk to you next time.
Did you like what you just read? Then please share this with someone who might appreciate it, like a friend, family member, or coworker… because word of mouth helps other people to find Let’s Talk About Mental Health! Thank you 🙂
Let’s Talk About Mental Health.
Simple ideas for better mental health.
Let’s Talk About Mental Health. © 2021 Jeremy Godwin.