What would it take for you to feel worthy?
Maybe validation for the great work you’ve been doing at the office? Getting a “Hey beautiful!” from the guy you’ve secretly been crushing on? Or looking in the mirror and telling yourself, “I am enough”?
These are great boosts for your neurochemicals. But how long does it last until you’re Bridget Jones-ing it on the couch with ice cream?
Discover how you can go from falling into self-loathing to increasing your feelings of self-worth, with invaluable insights shared by clinical psychologist Dr. Adia Gooden in an interview with Mindvalley’s co-founder, Kristina Mänd-Lakhiani (members can listen to it free on the Mindvalley app).
What Is Self-Worth?
Self-worth, like all concepts of self, comes from within. It’s not based on the recognition of your value from others. Rather, it’s how you value yourself.
Even in movies, though they may encompass other themes, the search for self-worthiness is often the core of the protagonist’s existential crisis. Think Bridget Jones, Erin Brockovich, and Mulan — they all went through a journey of self-discovery that resulted in recognizing and honoring the virtues of self-worth.
“The core of self-worth isn’t just about affirmations or navel-gazing or saying, ‘I’m the best’,” Dr. Gooden explains. “It’s really about ‘how do I go through life for and with myself?’”
Now, self-worth is often used interchangeably with self-esteem. But one shouldn’t confuse the two.
Self-esteem is what you think, feel, and believe about yourself. However, self-worth is recognizing, acknowledging, and embracing your value as a human who is worthy of love.
Why Do We Not Feel Worthy?
Feelings of unworthiness can be caused by several reasons, including:
- Past trauma
- Imposter syndrome
- Mental health conditions
- Regret and remorse
- Covert narcissism
- Low self-esteem and confidence
In fact, a 2021 global report by The Body Shop revealed that in the U.S., women experience an extent of unworthiness due to their financial status, the state of the world, and feeling that they’re not making progress towards the things they want in life.
At the core of it all, self-worth is deeply rooted in beliefs.
“Most of us struggle with the relationship with ourselves,” says Dr. Gooden. “Many people engage in a lot of harsh self-criticisms, feel a lot of shame, and experience a lot of blame.”
When it comes to a sense of self-worth, many people feel like they’ve got to follow the culturescape. They feel they have to be different and look different from who they authentically are.
This can lead to self-criticism and self-esteem issues, which, as research has shown, can have toxic effects on one’s mental health.
So if we know the darkness that comes hand-in-hand with not feeling worthy, what’s keeping us from cultivating unconditional self-worth?
In her TED Talk, Dr. Gooden highlights the following points:
- Some people may fear that if they get too satisfied with themselves, they won’t be motivated to grow and change.
- Others may feel that accepting themselves as worthy would be arrogant.
- Some may simply believe that feeling worthy is impossible.
It’s human nature to want to satisfy our need for love, belonging, and validation. And there are steps you can take to help increase your self-worth.
How Do You Start Feeling Worthy?
When it comes to feeling good about themselves, many people’s go-to’s is to Google motivational quotes. And while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with scrolling through feeling-worthy quotes to boost your happiness, there are several other ways to cultivate unconditional self-worth.
Here are four key insights from Dr. Gooden you can benefit from:
#1: Forgive yourself
Many think forgiveness is only about moving on or letting go. However, according to psychologist Bob Enright, Ph.D., what makes forgiveness virtuous and powerful is offering an element of positivity — empathy, compassion, understanding — toward the person who hurt you.
“Many of us struggle to feel worthy because we are angry with ourselves about past mistakes,” explains Dr. Gooden. But when you acknowledge and accept what has happened, it releases you from blaming yourself and others as well as allows you to move forward.
What’s more, research shows forgiveness has been linked to reduced anxiety and depression as well as with fewer physical health symptoms and lower mortality rates.
#2: Practice self-acceptance
It’s a well-known secret that marketing strategies aim to ‘help improve’ our bodies, clothes, jobs, and personalities. They play on our feelings of FOMO and the need to be acceptable with ads like the Marlboro Man, celebrities and their milk mustaches, or any fashion or beauty campaigns, really.
A 2021 poll by CBS found that 37% of younger American adults often feel FOMO, some saying social media contributes to this feeling.
“Many of us struggle with low self-worth because we think there’s something wrong with us,” says Dr. Gooden. “We refuse to accept ourselves the way we are.”
But by practicing self-love routines, you can learn to acknowledge that you are worthy just the way you are.
#3: Be there for yourself when life gets rough
Compassion is deeply rooted in human nature. In fact, science has shown that we’re intuitively wired to be cooperative with others instead of selfish.
This emotional response is made up of five key elements:
- Recognizing someone’s suffering
- Understanding that everyone suffers
- Having feelings for someone’s suffering
- Dealing with uncomfortable feelings
- Feeling compelled to act or alleviate the suffering
And compassion is a wonderful act of service. However, when it comes to self-compassion, we’re our own worst critics.
More often than not, we abandon ourselves when the going gets rough, allowing ourselves to spiral down a rabbit hole of self-criticism. And this is what happiness is not.
Dr. Gooden explains when you experience failure, self-compassion may just be what you need. As a matter of fact, it’s associated with emotional resilience and psychological well-being.
She says, “What we need most when we are going through a difficult time is for someone to say, ‘I see you. I see how badly you’re hurting. I’m here.’ And we can do this for ourselves.”
#4: Connect to supportive people
It’s a scientific fact that friends make us happier. Our need for a sense of belonging is what pushes us to go out and meet like-minded people.
Unfortunately, it’s a human reaction to pull away from our tribe when we feel something’s wrong with us. And isolation can result in low self-worth.
“Knowing that we are not alone in our struggles and pain reminds us that challenges do not make us unworthy,” says Dr. Gooden. “Connecting to supportive people helps us to get in touch with our humanity and our sense of worth.”
Beautiful, Capable & Worthy
If, at any point in your life, you asked yourself, “Am I worth it?”, the answer is this: yes, you are. Always.
Because self-worth comes from — where else? — the self.
The journey to happiness (though it may be scary and bumpy at times) is beautiful and one worth taking. So what are the next steps?
- Connect with Mindvalley’s incredible tribe of like-minded people who are also forging their paths to happiness,
- Be guided by transformational experts like Kristina, and
- Have access to resources to help you realize your infinite worth.
And who knows — along the way, you may just find forgiveness, acceptance, compassion, and love. Not for anyone, but for you.
Images: @dradiagooden / Instagram