What does feeling worthy mean to you? This can be tricky for us to determine for ourselves, as we only know our minds and experiences and see everyone else from the outside. Do you equate worthiness with happiness and inner peace? Do you equate it with quantifiable achievements that anyone could see? How would you describe a feeling of self-worth? Is it knowing and respecting your boundaries? Is it feeling confident in who you are no matter what environment you’re in? Is it knowing you deserve consistent care and respect? Where would you rate yourself on having confidence; do you feel confident in yourself?
The truth is that the work of self-worth and self-confidence is all done internally. Sometimes, the results of this work can be seen by others, but not always. Sometimes, the actions we take to build, improve and maintain our sense of self-worth become behaviors resulting from having it, like a self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, if you take the time for self-care and boundaries, you enforce to yourself the idea that you are deserving of self-care and boundaries, and then you continue to practice self-care and having boundaries because you know you deserve them. If and when you are struggling with your confidence, it can feel overwhelming to imagine these habits and patterns. These feelings may have been established as early as childhood if you were raised in an environment of neglect, high demands, and/or abuse. Or they may have accumulated over time as life experiences altered how you see yourself and the world around you.
Signs that you are struggling with low confidence and feeling unworthy
Feelings of self-worth and confidence can be confusing to try to analyze. This is because our day-to-day life can impact how we perceive ourselves. For example, if you have a really
great day where you achieve something at work, have heard from a couple friends to make plans on your lunch break, then get to do something fun with your family in the evening, you probably feel like you’re succeeding personally and professionally. If someone were to ask you at the end of that day if you feel like a person who is worthy of love, respect, and happiness, you would say yes. On the flip side, if you have a day where you wake up after a bad sleep with a crick in your neck (wake up “on the wrong side of the bed” and start off feeling a little depressed, don’t feel like you’re able to keep up at work, and go home alone and don’t hear from anyone, you might feel like you’re not achieving very much.
While we all have “off days” or days that are easier to navigate than others, these days will feel like a disappointing day to someone who has a strong sense of self-worth and confidence, as opposed to “yet another example of my unworthiness.” Some signs and symptoms of a feeling of low worth are clear when they are persistent and/or intrusive. They include:
Comparison and magnifying mistakes speak to the inner sense of not being “enough” as you are and being confident in yourself. When you base your worth on how you stack up next to another person, you are seeking external evidence of your value. When you can only focus on your mistakes and weaknesses and refuse to see your wins, it is because you feel that your mistakes speak more to who you are as a person. These other signs and symptoms are things we tend to do to take the place of emotional regulation. If we cannot feel confident and worthy on our own, we may seek validation from others and become codependent. If we are concerned about our values, we may always pursue perfection and control as a way to manufacture an appearance of self-respect. If we are mired in feelings of being unworthy of love, we may turn to substances to alleviate our pain. Any or all of these signs may indicate an underlying feeling of low self-worth.
3 Ways to Boost Self-Confidence
1) Practice self-compassion:
How you talk to yourself sets the tone for how you feel about yourself. When you criticize your every move, what you are saying to yourself is that you disapprove of yourself. Your
constant disapproval of yourself is a major barrier to getting to a place where you feel worthy. Everyone has something to like about themselves. Start there. It doesn’t matter how small you feel the compliment is. Say it. It can be something you do well or something you are proud to prioritize. This doesn’t mean that negative thoughts won’t come sometimes. It’s about responding to them appropriately. If you think, “I didn’t achieve that goal!” and then follow it up with, “I’m a failure,” then what? How does that motivate you in a healthy way? A more neutral response to your thought might go something like: “I didn’t achieve that goal, which is disappointing, but I tried my best.” Don’t hesitate to be your own biggest cheerleader. The voice in your head is the one you hear the most often and the one that will be with you till the end. Make it a kind one.
Showing yourself compassion means allowing yourself to feel your disappointment and practice self-care as you reflect upon it. If that means you go for a walk to clear your head, go for a drive blasting your favorite songs, take yourself for dinner at a restaurant you enjoy, pour yourself a nice bubble bath, or any other self-soothing measure, then great! Self-compassion is about telling ourselves that the way we feel is valid and that we deserve to feel better. Having self-compassion requires acceptance of your disappointment. Boosting your self-confidence requires you to move on from it, however slowly. Self-compassion involves having gentleness with ourselves and a curiosity about where we are truly in the moment.
You may find this really difficult to do for yourself, so another tip is to talk to yourself like you would talk to someone you love, like a friend or family member. If you were speaking to them, would you say, “You didn’t achieve that goal; you really are awful!”? I would hope you wouldn’t! You would probably say, “You didn’t get it this time, but I saw how much progress you made, and I’m really proud of you!” or, “You didn’t achieve your goal, but you learned a lot, and I think we can use what you learned to try again.” If your instinct isn’t to shame a friend or family member, why is it your instinct to do it to yourself? We all have strengths and weaknesses, and no one is a perfect person. The people around you probably make missteps all the time that you wouldn’t judge them for and don’t impact how much you love and respect them. Treat yourself as kindly as you would treat them. If you truly aren’t able to, there may be other work to be done.
2) Process any past traumatic experiences that have shaped your feelings of unworthiness:
Is there a mistake or a regret from your past that you are holding on to as “proof” of your unworthiness? Do you consider it to be indicative of your character, your skills, your intellect, your potential, and your kindness? You may be clinging to it so tightly because you feel it was a very grievous error or because somewhere along the way, you got the message that it was perfectly reflective of who you are. Your inability to let go of it may be tied to some level of denial you have about the incident; you can ruminate on something while also refusing on some level to accept it. If you haven’t accepted it yet, you can’t begin to move past it.
If you’re under the impression that your mistakes are “on brand” for the kind of person you are because people have told you so, where did that begin for you? Do you have a history of relationship wounds and abandonment that has left you feeling unlovable? Did it begin with a parent, a friend, a series of friends, and/or romantic relationships? Would you perceive your situation and history differently if you were in a different position now? For example, do you feel that your past relationships would bother you if you were with the love of your life? You might be surprised at how you would still think about your past breakups even if you were dating someone great; often, these are issues that only we can heal for ourselves. Having a person to look you in the eye and love and accept you for who you are is reassuring and supportive. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have your past to unpack and process.
This is the sort of work we do at our therapy practice in Woodland Hills. We see many people who have carried a long history with them of these feelings. Even as adults, they may be able to reflect on their childhood experiences and understand them; that doesn’t heal the inner child who didn’t know better and couldn’t comprehend and articulate what was happening. It is through time and effort that we are able to put the puzzle together and then take it apart so that it no longer paints a picture that doesn’t suit or serve us.
3) Practice healthy boundaries:
You may wonder why we are talking about relationships with others when this blog is about feeling good about oneself. Here is the thing: the more you set healthy boundaries, the better you are at practicing
self-advocacy. People with healthy confidence and a sense of worthiness also have strong self-advocacy. Therefore, by practicing healthy boundaries, which include asserting your needs, asking for help, and delegating, you are communicating to yourself that you value yourself and are here to protect yourself. This self-regard is vital when it comes to knowing, loving, and accepting who you really are, what you really want, and what you really need.
Too often, we don’t assert or respect our boundaries because we are afraid of upsetting other people. We go along with plans that don’t work for us, agree to work shifts we’re too tired for, and keep our opinions to ourselves so we don’t rock the boat. Some of these behaviors have a time and place. There will always be circumstances where you compromise for the greater good or because the other person compromised for you last time. But ideally, these are rare occasions. Consistently putting yourself last is called people-pleasing, and it comes from a deep need to be liked and then reinforces that you deserve to be the lowest priority. If you are a people-pleaser, you may feel consistently overburdened and underappreciated. Having strong boundaries reinforces to yourself what your standards are and allows others to uphold that same standard of care in their dealings with you. People-pleasing does not actually create harmonious or healthy relationships; in fact, it does the opposite.You may be someone who isn’t sure of what your boundaries are; start considering what they might be and keep in mind that they may change over time. You cannot be expected to make a one-time compilation of boundaries that will never change, and you can never add to. Instead, start with the big ones. If you’re unsure how to identify them, look at your priorities. Your boundaries will go hand in hand with those. An example of this is if you prioritize getting enough sleep, you will have a boundary about how late you’re out of the house on any given night. If you prioritize spending quality time with your family, you will have boundaries about how much time you spend away from them. You may have boundaries about your schedule, the kinds of conversations you want to participate in, your body, or anything. They are your boundaries, and they are personal to you.
In her book ‘The Power of Self-compassion,’ Dr. Kristin Neff says, “Feeling worthy is your birthright.” It is a powerful reminder that each of us deserves to feel good about ourselves. We go through times and experiences that can lead us to feel that we do not have this birthright, that we have to earn love, respect, compassion, support, and happiness. This is not true. We can all take action to feel more confident and feel that we are contributing to the world in a positive way, but these aren’t tokens we store up to unlock our worthiness. We are worthy at our best and our worst. We deserve to love and respect ourselves and to be loved and respected by others. At the end of the day, we all need to feel that we are enough as we are.
Anxiety treatment in Woodland Hills, CA is a personal time for you to work on having a better relationship with yourself, your feelings, and your ideal life. We offer individual, couple’s, or group therapy for adults at Embracing You Therapy.
Contact us today for your complimentary 20-minute phone consultation with our Client Care Coordinator. Meanwhile, check out our blog library for more readings on anxiety therapy!
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