How We Measure Self-Worth
We all measure our self-worth in unique ways.
You may or may not know how you determine and assign value to yourself, but you do it every day…
Some days are just better than others.
Yesterday, I saw a video online about child sex-trafficking. My mind and ego got busy. Why aren’t I doing something about this? Couldn’t I be doing more with my life? I’m not making a difference to anyone. What contribution am I really making? It certainly doesn’t feel like much now…What about those kids?
On and on, until I began to feel like my life wasn’t worth shit.
No matter how many miles I’ve traveled on my journey of self-discovery, no matter how many stones I’ve overturned and insights I’ve gathered along the way, there are still times when I’m infected. Like a poison coursing through my bloodstream, the feelings of unworthiness consume me and make me feel what can only be described as worthless and bad.
It can be triggered by any number of things. This time, it just happened to be other people doing more than me.
When I feel unworthy, my notebooks and calendar fill up with to-do lists outlining all the things I’ve started, but not finished, and all the things I think I need to do…right now. Anyone can gauge my sense of worthiness, at any given time, just by glancing at the weeks in my calendar. The ones filled with the most to-do items, accompanied by little red check marks, would prove to be the worst.
Whether we know it or not, we all grow up believing there are certain things we have to do, be, or have to prove our value. As adults we focus our energy on fulfilling these expectations. I call them Value Markers. You may use any combination of the following Markers to measure your self-worth. You may be able to identify one or two strong ones, or you might use all of these, just at varying levels
Money/Material Gain –
When how we feel about ourselves is in direct proportion to the amount of money we have or are making. The ability to buy what we want, when we want it, can also affect how we feel about our true value. Not having enough money feels crappy.
American culture puts so much emphasis on how people look. It’s hard not to feel less than someone who better fits the “norm” depicted in ads, magazines and movies. This is especially true for women, but no gender is exempt from standards of appearance. How we look determines how we feel about our self.
Being in a relationship is preferred. Anyone not in one is probably asking, what’s wrong with me? It’s tough to keep a high level of self-esteem when no one seems to want to be with us. And so we judge our relationship status as if it means something about who we are and our worth.
Some people need to be the center of attention to feel okay about themselves…in work, in their social sphere and online. If no one is paying attention, what does that say about our likability?
A huge percentage of people attach their feelings of self-worth to their job or career. If it’s going well, we’re on top of the world. If problems come up at work, it can throw a serious wrench in how we feel. Being unemployed or underemployed can make our self-value plummet to all-time lows.
People who value integrity want to feel they are doing things right or correct. The level of honesty they bring to interactions and their ability to make good decisions weighs heavily on how they value self.
The family and the culture we belong to have their own set of expectations. Many of us feel compelled to uphold them even when they don’t match our greater belief system. Being shut out of our tribe eats away at our self-esteem and so we work to stay in its good graces.
When’s the last time you put a notch in your belt? Active goal setting and being able to accomplish the things we set out to do can keep our self-esteem fueled from a baseline perspective, but it also sets up a high level of pressure to maintain and up the ante for the next big thing. Accomplishment-based self-value is fleeting.
Measuring Our Self-Value
The truth of the matter is that no external person, place, thing, or occurrence can determine your value. Nothing you can say, do, be, or have will improve or detract from your worth. God has already assigned your permanent unchanging value equal to all others, perfect in your path and progress.
But it’s not enough for me to tell you that these things don’t dictate your self-value because we all have expectations and we use them to a greater or lesser degree to measure our self-worth. They are the source and substance of all our good days and bad days…and we all have bad days now and then.
None of us are evolved or enlightened enough not to use Value Markers to assess our self-esteem.
And if it was simply a matter of feeling bad, unworthiness might not be a big problem. But, when we feel undervalued, we often turn to unhealthy behavior to offset our low self-worth. And that means we’ve fallen into a trap of self-loathing or self-hatred that we need to get out of quickly.
For instance, when our appearances are challenged, we might engage in excessive cosmetic procedures or buy expensive clothes, makeup, jewelry to make us feel prettier. If we feel financially threatened, we might spend more money than we have, racking up large amounts of credit card debt. We might go on shopping sprees buying things we don’t even need. When we doubt our sexuality, we might engage in pornography or casual, meaningless sex just to support our sexual identity. We all have antidotes lined up to combat the poison, but sadly none of them work.
Antidotes to threats against our self-value are usually unhealthy, dangerous and often addictive behaviors. They are not solutions, only band-aid measures that actually end up doing the opposite. They affirm the feelings of doubt and insecurity we face when we give Value Markers permission to decide our worth.
Even though I know where true worth comes from, I’ve yet to master self-value completely from within. But what I do know is that the feeling of unworthiness is temporary. No matter how much is on my to-do list, none of it will make any difference. I could accomplish everything in short order and it wouldn’t stop the feeling of unworthiness from returning another day, another time. Plus, there will always be new things to add to the list, more expectations to call my own.
So, what I’m slowly learning is how not to try to chase it away with the to-do list. Unworthiness will run its course and leave just like it came – in time.
I urge you to identify the Value Markers you use to measure your worth and the antidotes you use when any one of those has been threatened. Awareness is key to improving your ability to stay grounded in your self-value and keep a watchful eye on your own habits and deep-seated beliefs.
If you can develop this knowledge, then the poison’s effect isn’t nearly as powerful. You can say, “Oh, I know what that feeling is and what it means.” Just maybe you can sometimes avert the sting…, or pile on the self-care instead of fighting back with unhealthy, ineffective measures like excessive do-ism, workaholism, deviance, addictions and distractions.
So what’s your biggest Value Marker? Share in the comment section below. I bet you can’t guess mine!!
Thanks for reading my friends. You’re invaluable to me and I can’t say how much I appreciate your taking this empowerment journey along with me. Please share if you know someone who can benefit from these thoughts.
In Life and Love,