What is self-worth?
According to Merriam-Webster, it is “a feeling that you are a good person who deserves to be treated with respect.”
Let’s break that down for a second.
You might ask yourself, “well who would not think they deserve to be treated with respect?”
And, what does it actually mean to deserve respect?
A lot of people who are socially anxious fail this litmus test.
The story usually goes like this:
You believe that everyone else in the world is more deserving of respect than you.
Say, for example, you accomplish something really great. Maybe you get a good grade in school or are hired for a new job.
At this point, is when you start to downplay anything about yourself that may have contributed to that outcome.
Oh, well it was easy to get good grades. Anyone could have done it.
Or, that job, they just hired me because they needed someone. It’s not that there was anything special about me that got me hired.
The pattern goes..
Achievement – seeing it as not reflective of you in any way – lowered self-worth.
Anything positive about yourself – seeing it as nothing special – lowered self-worth.
What would you think/say/do if someone else accomplished the same?
Would you attribute that good grade to hard work, determination, goal setting? Or the job offer to a stellar interview, great background, or strong work ethic?
More importantly, what are you getting out of denying your self-worth?
Because, be honest, there’s a reason why you are doing it. What are you afraid of? Are you afraid of people expecting more from you? Afraid that people will discover you are not really that great (like something along the lines of Imposter Syndrome)?
What is holding you back from accepting your own worth?
While it may not seem that relevant to social anxiety, it’s actually a key part of the puzzle. Somewhere along the way you lost the ability to view yourself and others from the same objective lens. Do you know when that point was? Can you pick it out from your past?
Perhaps there was some event where you let yourself down.
That speech in fourth grade where everyone laughed. The time you did not get the job and you did make a fool of yourself in the interview.
But do you have to keep telling yourself you are that person?
I don’t think so.
So that’s the first reason. Reason #1. Fear.
What’s the second reason you might be denying your own self-worth?
Because of a need to be your authentic self.
Reason #2. Needing to be your real self.
Somehow along the way your social anxiety became entwined with your view of yourself. The need to escape the spotlight became part of a whole strategy of down-playing yourself, achievements and all. There goes that respect along with your self-worth.
I’ve talked a lot about assertiveness. But I’ve never talked about its relationship to self-worth.
You see, when you ask for the respect of others, you are actually showing them respect too.
When you say “no” because you don’t have time to do something, you are allowing the other person the chance to find someone else to do the job.
When you tell someone how you are feeling (or how they’ve hurt you), you are giving them a roadmap of how to make you happy in the future.
In essence, the cycle looks something like this:
self-worth = respect for self = respect from others = assertiveness = respect for others.
So, working on your self-worth is a proposition that helps everyone.
Let’s go back to that fear + needing to be your real self.
How can we work past these blocks?
Fear = being afraid of what it means to command respect.
Needing to be your real self = well, it’s the same definition as above.
What we are really talking about here is that you don’t feel like you deserve that respect. That piece of you, the self-worth piece, isn’t there, and it feels weird when you try to insert it. It’s not you. It feels wrong.
So like with anything, we need to take those baby steps.
Step 1. Every morning, write down three good things about yourself. Continue to do this throughout the rest of the steps.
Step 2. Make a list of things that would make you feel better about yourself. This can be anything, from as small as making your bed every morning or buying a new outfit, to as big as getting a new job or buying a house.
Step 3. Order that list from smallest to biggest. Each day, do one little thing that moves you closer to achieving the smallest item on the list. Once you’ve achieved an item, cross it off and move on to the next.
Step 4. Write down three problems in your life. They might be about social anxiety or something more general. Now, pretend you are a good friend offering advice. Tell yourself what you think you should do to solve the problem. Notice how you speak differently to yourself as a friend.
Step 5. Write down every bad thing you say to yourself in your head. Keep it in a password-protected Word doc or a note on your phone. Get tired of making this list. Make it easier on yourself by not saying bad things to yourself so that you have less to write on the list.
Get out there. Your value isn’t determined by anyone else but you.