When people who do surveys for a living create the questions for a quality of life survey, they often ask about things such as your income, your relationship status, and your job satisfaction… but they almost never ask a question that has far more impact: How is your self-worth?
Let's step back for a moment… what is self-worth? It is, quite simply, the value you place on yourself. Do you think that you, as a whole, have no value, low value, average, or high?
Low self-worth often leads to depression, sometimes deep enough to bring on thoughts of suicide. Even a small problem with self-worth can drain the energy from your life.
Are you satisfied with yourself? Are you truly confident in your relationships with others (not just on the outside)? When you think of yourself, do you think of the good things first? Do you truly believe you are worthy of success, and have the confidence to go out and act like it?
If you answered yes to all of the questions above, you won't need the rest of this article, unless you're just looking for a refresher. If you answered no, particularly if you answered no to all of the questions, read on.
A Step By Step Guide To Rebuilding Your Self-Worth
The first thing you need to do to rebuild your self-worth is to step back from your current life. You may need to take a day off to do this… and I mean a day off of everything. No work, no school, no family… get a babysitter if you need it.
This is a day to just be alone and be able to leave the rest of the world behind. You spend enough of your time and energy on the rest of the world… take some time to just let all of that go.
Understand Your Independence
Ironically, low self-worth almost always comes from other people… in a way. Low self-worth is very nearly always the result of your perception that someone, a person in whom you have invested a lot of your time and energy, doesn't respect or doesn't love you. You may even be wrong… they may respect and love you, but that doesn't matter… it's your perception that counts.
The key here is to understand that you are indepedent. No one else has any control whatsoever over who you are…. even if someone does or says something horrible to you, it only changes who you are if you choose to have it do so. The choice may be subconscious, but it's still there.
That means that your worth is also independent of everyone else. Your worth only comes from you… because who you are only comes from you.
Let Go Of Pain From The Past
Once you have begun to understand your independence, it's time to start letting go of the pain from your past. You can start with the big things, the ones that caused the low self-worth in the first place, or you can start with the little things, as they ease the overall burden, freeing up more resources when you work on the big ones.
Letting go of mental pain is seldom easy or painless… but when you let go of something big, the sheer relief of not dragging it around with you any more can be amazing. Letting go of one really big thing can change your entire perspective on life.
More detailed directions for letting go of the pain can be found here.
Discover Who You Really Are
The next step, after you start dealing with your pain (you certainly don't have to, and probably shouldn't, wait until it's all done), is to figure out who you really are. That means figuring out what your core values are, the things that really deep down inside are what drive you.
You can find this by sitting down by yourself, in a time and place that you won't be interrupted, and writing down each thing that comes to mind as a possibility, without thinking about it. When they stop coming so fast, look back over what you've already written down, and see if there are any that simply don't belong (there probably will be), and if there are any recurring themes (like helping people who need it). Write down any new ideas inspired by looking back over the list, and keep going until you're down to things where you can feel, not think, that they are right.
Make Like/Dislike Lists
After you discover who you really are, at your core, the next thing to do is to look at the next layer up, the things that overlay that core. That means coming up with things that you like and things that you dislike about yourself. Try to find something that you do like for each thing that you don't like… it will help to keep you from focusing so much on the bad things.
When making these lists, it's a good idea to break it down into pieces… for example, when I did this myself, I used three categories: physical, mental/emotional, and personality. When making the list for physical, try not to focus too much on things that you can't change (like your height) and stick to the ones you can, like your grooming, or your physical fitness.
Make An "I Want To Do" List
After you make you list of likes and dislikes, you can move on to making a list of things you want to do. This can be things that are purely want, like learning to play guitar, or things that improve upon the things that you put on your dislike list, such as exercising (if you don't like your physical fitness).
My "want to do" list includes things like eating better, exercising more, writing a book (3, actually… already have ideas for two and started one a long time ago), and cooking more. It's considerably longer than that, but hopefully that will give you some ideas of the range of things you can put on this list.
Take Action On Each Dislike
Whether it's on your "want to do" list or not, for each dislike that you listed in step #5, you need to find an action that moves you in the direction you want to go. The hardest part about changing yourself and becoming who you want to be is the first step… once you get moving in the right direction, it's much easier to continue that path.
One thing to keep in mind, though, is that you don't need to make massive changes all at once… in fact, that can be counterproductive. Small steps still get you a little momentum in the right direction, and they add up without exhausting you.
Get Started On Your "I Want To Do" List
Fun is important, too… don't make everything work. Pick some of the fun, unimportant things off your "want to do" list and get started on them. Sign up for classes, buy the necessary equipment, or whatever else you need to do, and get started.
Fun and creativity are extremely important… they are, in a sense, "rest" for your mind, and any time you want to grow, physically or mentally, rest is important.
Evaluate Your Progress
So now you've made all these changes, and taken action, and started doing things that are fun and make you happy… it's time to step back and evaluate how far you've come. Look at not just the visible difference, but also the difference in the way you feel.
Looking at how far you've come, especially if you write it down, too, can really help you to keep going. Sometimes it's easy to focus on the destination, and only see how far away it is, rather than looking at where you started from, and how far you've come since then. That kind of focus, on what you haven't done, rather than what you have, can sap your motivation, your energy, amazingly quickly.
Repeat As Needed
This isn't a one time process… you're going to need to go through most, if not all, of it again at some point. And that point is probably going to come sooner than you think… in fact, you're likely to only realize afterwards that you should have already started again some time back.
It's easy, sometimes, to switch from being in gear to being in neutral, and just letting your life glide along. If you don't take active control, though, things will start slipping away… your self-worth, your passion, your energy, and your success.
Your self-worth is probably the thing that affects your quality of life the most… because true quality of life is in your perception of life, not in abstract numbers. Even if you have okay self-worth, if you follow the steps listed above, it will grow stronger.
And so will you.