How to cultivate a sense of unconditional self-worth

“I’m worth the care.”

Namo namaha.नमो नमः

“Unconditional self-worth is the sense that you deserve to be alive, to be loved and cared for to take up space.”

Maria King

I just want to clarify: Self-worth is not the same as self-esteem.

Our self-esteem is derived from our abilities, accomplishments, social positions and things we believe and we can achieve. We can bolster our self-esteem by improving our skills or performance, and our self-esteem goes up and down depending on how we’re doing in various aspects of our lives.

In contrast, unconditional self-worth is distinct from our abilities and accomplishments. It’s not about comparing ourselves to others; it’s not something that we can have more or less of. Unconditional self-worth is the sense that you deserve to be alive, to be loved and cared for. To take up space.

Advertisements tell us that we need to buy things to be loved, accepted or to succeed. Our educational system teaches us that our worthiness as students is based on our grades or test scores. Our parents may have implied they’d love us more if we made straight A’s. Those of us who’ve experienced abuse, sexual assault and trauma may question our personhood and very right to exist. And, as social media pervades our lives, we have also begun to feel that our worthiness is based on the number of followers we have and likes we get.

Whatever the cause, for many of us our self-worth is tied to our accomplishments and possessions. As soon as we fail or lose approval, we experience low self-worth.

Unconditional self-worth is the antidote to low self-worth. It is a way out of self-criticism, shame and unhealthy behavior. It is a way out of depression, anxiety and substance abuse. It is time for us to base our worth on the fact that we are human to cultivate a worth that persists even when life does not go as we hoped.

So what keeps so many of us from cultivating unconditional self-worth?

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. People compare themselves to others and conclude that they’re not good enough. Still others believe that they have behaved badly and failed to meet some arbitrary standard they set for themselves. They are disappointed in themselves, in their moral character.

Our values are important and useful because they tell us what we are for and what we are against. They are the ideals that reflect our opinions about things that matter to us. They are chosen life directions. A direction can never be reached as you are not trying to get to a specific place. Values are thus something you do rather than something you simply have. Values are also choices about what we want our lives to be about.

I believe people would resolve conflicts without violence and that more people would dare to do amazing things if they lived according to their positive values. I believe that if our self-worth wasn’t on the line, the world would look a lot better and more peaceful for all of us.

So how do we make this vision real? What values can we choose to follow to strengthen our self worth?

“See if you can let go of the thoughts you have about how the way you think, feel or look should be different. Instead, focus on the things you like about yourself.”

Maria King

Cultivating unconditional self-worth is an ongoing practice. Here are four ways you can begin to feel more worthy starting right here, right now:

You’re in charge of surviving

1. 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.

To forgive yourself, reflect on the circumstances that led to past mistakes, acknowledge the pain you experienced and identify what you learned from the situation. Then say to yourself “I forgive you” — in an honest and kind way.

2. Practice self-acceptance

I think many of us struggle with low self-worth because we think there’s something wrong with us and we refuse to accept ourselves the way we are. We receive so many messages that we are not OK the way we are. We’re told that we need to change our bodies, our clothes, our jobs or even our personalities to be acceptable.

See if you can let go of the thoughts you have about how the way you think, feel or look should be different. Instead, focus on the things you like about yourself. Over time, begin to embrace your quirks — your awkward laugh, your crooked smile, your unusual way of thinking about things. Through this acceptance, you’re acknowledging that you are worthy just the way you are.

“Knowing that we are not alone in our struggles and pain reminds us that challenges don’t make us unworthy.”

Maria King

3. 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 for you.”

We can do this for ourselves.

The next time you experience emotional pain, acknowledge how you were feeling and offer yourself some comfort. Place your hand on your chest, give yourself a hug or say something kind and soothing to yourself. “This is a moment of suffering. This is part of the human condition. It’s ok, everybody feels like this at some point. May I be kind to myself. I’m here for you. What do you need?” Then wait for the answer. It may come as an idea, as a suggestion to call a friend for support or advice, as the request to take a much needed break or as the encouragement to write a bout it or to sit in silence.  Regardless of the answer, know that it comes from that still point deep inside of you and that it can be a trusted source of support and advice for you.

You’ve made a difference in the world

4. Connect to supportive people 

Low self-worth can leave us feeling isolated and alone. When we think there’s something wrong with us, we tend to pull away from our relationships, and this isolation only exacerbates our feelings of unworthiness. 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.

One last thing: The journey to unconditional self-worth is not always easy. The path is not straight or smooth, and you’ll face setbacks along the way — I certainly have.

It takes courage to free yourself from the conditions you’ve placed on your worth. The process of forgiveness can be messy, it can be scary to accept ourselves as we are, being there for ourselves can put us face to face with emotional pain, and connecting to others can make us feel vulnerable.

But I’m here to tell you that this journey is also beautiful and worth taking. On it, you’ll find strength, become grounded in your humanity and know that you are worthy. So I challenge you to embrace yourselves and begin living from a place of worthiness to find your own metaphorical dance floor and move freely.

References

Managing your Mind: The Mental Fitness Guide 3rd Edition by Gillian Butler, Nick Grey and Tony Hope

How to cultivate a sense of self worth by Adia Gooden from TEDHow to be a better human” series

Thank you for joining me on this journey to freedom.

Love, light and blessings to you all.

OM shanti, shanti, shanti.

Namaste.

© 2020 A Yoga Mindset. All Rights reserved.

ayogamindset

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