How to Define Your True Self-Worth

woman standing looking at herself in mirror
by Dr. Margaret Paul

Marilyn asked in one of my webinars:

Do you believe your self-worth is in your looks and performance? If you do, is this working for you and bringing you joy?

“I’ve noticed there are times I define my worth in a negative way. For example, if I see a picture of myself and I like it, I’ll define myself as cute or thin or something positive like that. If I don’t like the picture, I will define myself as frumpy or unattractive. So, while I’m defining my worth, it seems dependent on how a picture comes out. The picture is just an example. I may do the same thing with how I feel after interacting with someone. If it’s lively, I’ll see myself as social or interesting. If the interaction doesn’t go well, I may see myself as boring or awkward. So, while I’m defining my own worth, it still seems not quite right. Any suggestions for me?”

The problem is that Marilyn is defining her worth externally—by her looks and performance—rather than intrinsically by her enduring soul qualities.

Most of us learned as we were growing up to define our worth by our looks, performance, and achievements, and this creates many problems.

What happens when you get older and lose some of your looks? What happens if you stop being as productive at work, or you retire? Does this mean that you now have less worth? This is the problem with attaching your worth to looks, achievements, or performance.

Mark asked:

I am often plagued by feelings of jealousy and a lack of self-worth when I see others do well in their careers, who have prestigious qualifications from Ivy League universities to which I was unsuccessful for acceptance. I sometimes feel I have ‘missed out’ on life’s opportunities and that no matter how hard I try I will never be as good as others. When I do not succeed against others, I feel this is my fault and it reflects that I am just not good enough when I must compete against others for places, opportunities, and rewards in life. Would you please help me to understand where I am in error how to see the truth?”

This is another example of the problems that occur when you define your self-worth externally by performance and achievement, rather than internally by your intrinsic soul qualities.

Defining Self-Worth Through Your Intrinsic Qualities

Think for a moment about how you pick your friends. Are you more drawn to a thin and successful person who is arrogant and insensitive, or to a kind and caring person who might not be skinny or rich? When I ask this question, I almost always hear that people choose kind and caring friends. A person who says they would pick the successful arrogant person is usually someone whose wounded self defines them by who they are seen with.

When a baby is born, do you value the baby because the baby is skinny and rich, or do you value the baby just because he or she exists? Anyone who has spent time with infants knows that babies are little bundles of love, goodness, and joy, which is why parents are so enamored with them. They have not yet learned to cover up their soul self with the protections of their ego-wounded self.

What would happen if you defined yourself as a unique expression of the love and goodness that is God?

If you really knew that this is who you are, would you doubt your value? Is there anything more valuable than love? (Obviously, the wounded self believes that looks, performance, achievements, and money are more valuable, but what does the wounded self know?!)

I suggest you experiment with defining yourself as love and goodness and joy and creativity and passion and aliveness and compassion—and see what happens!

To learn more about the path to happiness, contentment and self-worth see: Discovering Self-Love

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