“If you find yourself constantly trying to prove your worth to someone, you have already forgotten your value.” ~Unknown
There’s nothing like being one of the few black kids in your school to make you feel like the odd person out.
Well, that was my experience, anyway. I appreciate my parents’ desire to provide my brother and me with a safe neighborhood to live in and a good education, but growing up in a predominantly white area really affected me. I very rarely felt like I fit in among my peers.
That didn’t stop me from trying, though. I did all I could to get people to like me—to feel accepted. Perfectionism quickly became my best friend.
The pressure I put on myself to be perfect wasn’t completely unproductive. I ended up earning the honor of being my school’s first black valedictorian. I also lost seventy pounds and became a renowned soloist in my school district.
But those accomplishments still weren’t enough to make me feel worthy. Deep down, what I really wanted was a boyfriend. Maybe if I could find a boy to like me, I thought, I wouldn’t feel so different from my peers.
Unfortunately, finding a boyfriend proved to be difficult. It wasn’t until I was twenty-one years old that I had my first kiss and met my first serious boyfriend. Finally, I felt normal—all because a man believed I was special.
The problem with connecting my relationship status with my self-worth is that I desperately clung to my boyfriend, despite the many red flags present within our relationship. It took nearly four years before I accepted that his behavior toward me was rather abusive and that I needed to leave.
By the time I left that relationship, my sense of worth was pretty shot. It’s ironic that low self-worth is what led me to the relationship, kept me in the relationship, and what I had to deal with once I left the relationship.
I learned the hard way that when we connect our worth with anything outside of ourselves, we’re setting ourselves up for failure.
Yes, it’s a common trap many of us find ourselves in, but it’s a dangerous one. During the last five years of healing from abuse, I’ve eventually come to realize that my worthiness is an entity separate from my appearance, relationship status, and success.
Yours is too.
These days, I firmly believe that a deep sense of self-worth is the foundation each person needs to fully thrive in his/her work, relationships, and other life endeavors. Despite what society likes to tell us, weight loss, engagement rings, and becoming the CEO of your company aren’t what make us worthy. Such things just don’t have that power in the long-term.
On the contrary, it is because we are worthy that we’re able to accomplish and enjoy such wonderful things. And when we believe we’re worthy, we bring more of our light into the world. We tend to attract similar light too.
So, how exactly does one develop a deep sense of self-worth?
That is the question—and the challenge.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you’re looking to deepen your self-worth. The following list is certainly not a formula, but it just might get you thinking about how you can get in touch with your own worthiness.
Acknowledge when you are seeking external validation.
It’s common to seek validation from others, so I wouldn’t expect you quit that habit cold turkey. You’re human!
That said, it’s important to at least acknowledge when you’re seeking it. “I’m looking for people to validate me so I feel worthy” might sound like a silly thing to say aloud, but you can’t address a problem until you acknowledge its existence.
Then, think about why external validation is so important to you.
Sometimes, when I find myself pining for more Facebook likes or a quick compliment from my husband, I stop myself and think. There’s certainly nothing wrong with wanting people to appreciate my work or my husband to tell me I’m attractive, but if I’m wrapping up my entire well-being in either of those things, I’m in for some major disappointment.
Other people weren’t created to make me feel good about myself; that’s my own issue that I need to work on.
Usually, when we’re urgently seeking external validation, there’s a fear underlying our desperation. Getting in touch with those fears is important because then we can determine whether our fears are reality or just fears. Most of the time, they’re just fears, and we shouldn’t give them more power than they deserve.
Practice self-love by caring, comforting, and soothing yourself.
Often, when we’re longing for validation, it’s because we’re in need of attention. Caring, comforting, and soothing ourselves, particularly during hard times, need to become common practices. A lot of times we can give ourselves the attention we’re yearning for; we just have to get used to doing so.
I’m not suggesting that individuals can replace the role of community in their own lives; we still need loved ones to share life with us. But when we really value something, we treat it well. And you deserve to be at the top of the list of things you value, especially if you haven’t been for a significant period of time.
In other words, treat yourself like you know you’re worth it and one day, you just might believe it.
Be willing to believe you are worthy.
You might not have a whole lot of self-worth today, but that doesn’t mean you never will. So, while you’re doing the work of deepening your self-worth, believe that you are capable of doing so too. Otherwise, what’s the point?
Commit to the journey.
Deepening your sense of self-worth is no easy feat. It is, indeed, a journey. And because of all the topsy-turvy feelings this journey might invoke, it’s wise to commit to it prior to taking the first step.
Humans make significant decisions every day that require displays of commitment (i.e.: getting married, buying a house, adopting a pet). While I don’t think you have to plan a wedding ceremony for yourself (unless you really want to), I do think the decision to deepen your self-worth should be viewed as a significant one requiring the utmost commitment.
In fact, I’d say deepening your self-worth is one of the most significant commitments any person can make. Don’t you?
Grasping the connection between my self-worth and the way I treat myself was life-changing for me. If you’re struggling to believe in your own worthiness, I strongly suggest that you embark on your own journey towards doing so. That journey just might change your life too.
Besides, you’re worth it.
Woman relaxing image via Shutterstock
About Akirah Robinson
Akirah Robinson is a licensed social worker, writer, and breakup coach who helps women heal and seek healthy relationships. Learn more about her at akirahrobinson.com and check out her new book "Respected: How One Word Can Change More Than Just Your Love Life" in paperback and Kindle. Wanna connect? Follow Akirah on Facebook and Twitter.