Self-Worth, Part Ten: The Benefits of a High Sense of Self-Worth

With a strong sense of your self-worth, you will be in a position to see what you can bring to different situations and different relationships. This can affect your life in multiple positive ways from your family life to work relationships and from your vocation to your avocations.

You will see value in your ideas, and therefore you will contribute them. You will see value in other people’s ideas, and therefore you will consider them. You will see that you can help to improve some part of the world, and therefore you will make the effort to make a difference. You will see the good you have to offer to your family members and friends, and therefore you will put yourself out there. You will see the value in your family members and your friends, and you will invest time and energy with them.

You will be able to confront changes as adventures because you will believe that you have the necessary substance, the gravitas, to effectively deal with the changes. When you are promoted into a higher level of responsibility, you will feel you are ready to handle the new role. The greatest challenge in getting promoted is not in developing the necessary skills, but rather in making the mental shift of seeing yourself at one level and now having to see yourself as being capable at the next level. The adjustment happens more successfully if you already have in place a high degree of self-worth, of the value you see within yourself.

Your life and the lives of the people you impact will be significantly enhanced by the efforts you make to strengthen your sense of self-worth.

Self-Worth, Part Three: Accept, Do Not Evaluate or Compare

When you’ve invested time and energy into really understanding yourself, the next step is to positively accept yourself as you are right now with a warm regard. Embrace the person you are right now. You don’t have to agree with everything you’ve done or every part of who you are right now. Just say, “This is who I am.”

Avoid evaluating the different parts of yourself as good or bad, and resist the temptation to compare yourself to other people. Simply increase your awareness of the different aspects within you and work to understand how you came to be the way you are. Then embrace this person as though you are welcoming a special friend into your house. Don’t try to make yourself feel better by working to find a person who appears to be weaker or worse off than you are in some way.

When you truly accept yourself as you are right now with all of your complexities and contradictions, you strengthen your sense of self-worth. This is the starting point of long-term success. When you value the person you are at this moment, you can consistently put that value in the service of yourself and other people.

This all sounds so easy, but it almost always becomes overwhelmingly difficult for people to do it. We disparage parts of ourselves because we’re so used to being compared to other people and if we’re compared often enough we will eventually see parts of ourselves as being weak or damaged in some way. Society and even families and friends can damage a person’s sense of self-worth without even realizing it.

Perhaps the most important thing you can do for yourself is to truly accept who you are at this moment. In her book, Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy, Jane Leavy wrote about the enormous pain Koufax experienced after every game he pitched for the Los Angeles Dodgers. His elbow would swell up because of the way he threw the ball, and he would have to put it in a tub of ice for several hours to get it back to its normal size. However, he accepted this reality. Leavy quoted Koufax as saying, “Since I have accepted all of the advantages of the way I am built, I don’t see how I can complain about the disadvantages.” I think that’s a great mantra for all of us to use. In his book, Further Along the Road Less Traveled, Scott Peck wrote, “Self-love implies the care, respect, and responsibility for and the knowledge of the self. Without loving one’s self one cannot love others.” Nathaniel Branden wrote, “Without self-acceptance, self-esteem is impossible.”

If you spend your whole life trying to be someone else because you’re jealous of who you think he or she is, you will simultaneously spend your whole life avoiding being who you are. This is the most common way to never acknowledge your self-worth. In The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem, Nathaniel Branden wrote, “Persons of high self-esteem are not driven to make themselves superior to others; they do not seek to prove their value by measuring themselves against a comparative standard. Their joy is in being who they are, not in being better than someone else.” This is the same attitude that Abraham Maslow wrote about over and over again in describing self-actualizing people in his books, Toward a Psychology of Being and The Further Reaches of Human Nature.

Self-Worth, Part Two: Increase Awareness & Understand Yourself

Increase your awareness of the different compartments that make up who you are right now. Work to understand your personality, your moods, your impulses, your strengths, your weaknesses, and so on in the different situations of your life. Think of yourself as a notebook rather than a sheet of paper. A sheet of paper implies that you can be described in a single way, but in reality there are many components within you with different values and different impulses.

For example, inside your head in different situations you might hear the voice of when you were a child and when you were a teenager and where you are in life right now, you might hear the voices and values of your mom at different stages in your life and you might hear the voice of your dad, and you might hear voices of other important people in your life. This is all part of who you are at any given moment. While I know I’m extroverted in most situations, I can become very introverted in some. For example, when I was in fourth grade my music teacher told me to never sing with the group. She said, “Don’t sing anymore. Just mouth the words.” So for the past 40 years whenever I’m in a situation where people are singing I just stand there totally quiet, even when they’re singing “Happy Birthday” at a family gathering. That’s just part of who I am today.

If it helps you, write down a description of yourself on the different pages in a notebook.

Here’s a suggestion on how to use your notebook. On each page right down a different role that you play: son or daughter, sibling, friend, parent, spouse, protégé, mentor, work role, community member, and so on. Under each role, write down different situations that you find yourself in or different circumstances that you find yourself facing. For each situation write down the different voices you hear going off in your head: you as an adult or you as a child or you as a teenager. Write down how you approach these different situations and what your personality is like in each of them. Write down what beliefs and values are driving your behavior in these various roles and situations and circumstances. If you invest two hours in this exercise, you will have a very good idea of how complex you really are. You will realize that it’s not easy to describe yourself in a few sentences.

By doing this exercise, you can come to a much better understanding of who you are today. The key at this stage is honesty. It’s not about who you wish you were, but rather an honest awareness of who you are right now.

Self-Worth, Part One: Understand the Family Theater

(Author’s Note: This is the first in a series of entries on self-worth. Self-worth is the value you see within yourself, and in my opinion it’s one of the most important factors in being a great leader. In order to be effective in the opportunities you have to lead in today and to be able to be effective in even greater opportunities in the future, I encourage you to always strengthen your sense of self-worth.)

One very important aspect of self-worth is to understand yourself, and one of the most important parts of yourself is the part that was formed within your family as you were growing up. Just like in a theatrical performance, each person had a part to play, and over time those parts became solidified. As a result, each person was affected in a different way.

For example, in my family growing up I was the fourth of six children. Consequently, decisions were made on almost anything and I was not consulted on any of them. This wasn’t a good or a bad thing. It was just a reality. My parents, and sometimes my older siblings, would gather together and make a decision. It was just natural for them to not have to ask me. They weren’t being rude. It was just part of their roles to make decisions, and they didn’t feel it was necessary to go all the way down to the fourth kid to figure it out.

Recently, I realized that this role in my family created in me a great desire to be heard, to be considered, to be respected, and to make an impact on other people, primarily because I didn’t have those opportunities within my Family Theater. Consequently, my Family Theater led me into a career that met those desires: teacher, coach, advisor, consultant, speaker, and author. I used to be frustrated by my role in my Family Theater, but now I’m thankful for the crucible that I grew up within because it guided me to work that I really love doing.

Questions to Consider

  1. What was your role in your Family Theater?
  2. What desires did that experience create within you?
  3. How are you meeting those desires today in a healthy way?
  4. What else could you do to meet those desires in a healthy way?