Several years ago, in my psychology practice, I began to wonder, “How can I help my clients feel their true worth and value?” For years, women and men had come in with various problems for which they were seeking help—relationships, depression, anxiety, fears, addictions—but underlying each of these “issues” was a bigger one—low self-esteem, or what I call “a poor sense of self-worth.” They may have thought they were struggling with anxiety, but really there was a deep sense they could do nothing right; or they thought they were “a recovering perfectionist,” but really they were terrified they just weren’t good enough. Yes, self-esteem and self-worth are core issues for most of us, at one point or another.
(For more on self-esteem vs. self-worth, check out the following articles: Self-Esteem & Self-Worth: 10 Things Everyone Should Know; 5 Reasons Self-Esteem is a Myth; If Self-Esteem is a Myth, then what is the Truth: Understanding Self-Worth; Self-Esteem vs. Self-Worth: Q & A w/Dr. Christina Hibbert)
The Question of Self-Worth
But how do you help someone feel loveable if they don’t believe they are? I started by teaching the tools of cognitive-behavioral therapy, like how to use a thought record to change your thinking. This helped, to some degree. It targeted the thoughts and feelings that led to poor self-worth and created more realistic beliefs. It helped people think more positively about themselves. It helped them feel more confident–sometimes. Basically, it increased self-esteem.
However, I kept hearing, “I know you’re telling me I am important and of value. I can even tell it to myself, because I know, in my head, it should be true. But I don’t feel it.” Something was obviously missing–the experience of self-worth–the ability to feel their true, innate, and infinite value.
I wanted to know what I could do to help people feel self-worth–not just try to convince them to believe what I felt and saw of their worth. I wanted them to experience it for themselves. I began to read, study, and ponder about self-esteem and self-worth. I read book after book. Soon, I had created “The Pyramid of Self-Worth,” or my theory on how to teach people to experience and feel their true worth and value.
I even chose self-worth as the theme for the first year of my Personal Growth Group (which is a group of women who gather once a month to hear a lesson and work on personal growth together, and now is online, too). This allowed an entire year to work through my theory and test it with my friends, group members, and clients. Finally, I began to see real results.
The Pyramid of Self-Worth
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The basic premise of The Pyramid of Self-Worth is this: Instead of creating our sense of self by what we think, or how we look, or what we do—self-esteem—we must build our sense of self-worth by going deep inside, into our soul. As we do this, we stop basing our worth on a “persona,” false false self, or ego. Rather, we build our sense of self-worth from the inside–by getting to know who we already are, who we desire to be, and who we have the potential to become.
This process begins with self-awareness, to see all of who we are; then, self-acceptacne, to accept what we see, and finally, self-love, or learning to truly cherish and appreciate who we are and who we have the potential to become. These three practices, I have discovered, can eventually lead to a full, rich sense of self-worth. We will be discussing each of these in greater detail in upcoming posts, but for now, allow me to just give you a brief introduction.
The 3 Components of “The Pyramid of Self-Worth”
Before you can accept who you are, you have to see yourself. Self-awareness involves being willing to see your strengths and weaknesses, your traits and states, your relationships and values and everything that is part of who you really are. It also includes getting in touch with your spirit and listening to what it whispers about your divine worth.
After you see the parts of who you are, it’s time to accept them. Some struggle to accept strengths, while others fail to embrace weakness. Some hear the whispers of who they really are but fail to believe what they hear. Self-acceptance is a crucial element in feeling your true worth, and for many people, is the hardest part.
Beyond simply accepting yourself, you must learn to love yourself. You must learn to embrace your strengths and weaknesses, treat yourself well, and take care of your needs. Self-love involves practicing self-care, self-compassion, and self-kindness. It also involves letting yourself give and receive love to/from others. It is the final layer that unlocks the full experience of self-worth.
How to Feel Self-Worth
As we work through the layers of “The Pyramid of Self-Worth,” we get out of the competitive, comparative, outward space of “self-esteem” and into the loving, accepting, inward space of self-worth. We begin to feel our potential. We begin to experience the love that fills our soul. We begin to understand we are so much more than we ever dreamed, and we begin to see our possibilities are endless. That is feeling self-worth.
~This is the first in a series of posts on “How to Feel Self-Worth.” This post is based on an excerpt of Dr. Hibberts forthcoming book on Self-Esteem After a Breakup, with New Harbinger Publications. (Coming March 2015!)
Be sure to read parts 2-5 as this series continues!
Self-Worth Building Tool:
Each of the posts in this “How to feel self-worth” series includes some “tools,” or exercises to help you build your sense of self-worth. Give it a try and see what you discover about your sense of self-worth. Then, leave a comment, below, and let us know how it’s going!
1) Can you ever relate to this statement?: “I know you’re telling me I am important and of value, and I can even tell it to myself because I know, in my head, it should be true. But I don’t feel it.”
- If so, write out the ways in which you can relate. Vent out all that you feel. Examine what you have written.
- If not, why not? Write it down. Examine what you have written.
2) What do you think/feel about the ideas presented in this post? Do you agree/disagree? Why? Do you have questions? Write these down, then leave a comment, below, and join the discussion.
Be sure to check out Dr. Hibbert’s Amazon Bestseller, This is How We Grow–
available now on Amazon.com!
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