Self-Love and Self-Worth

posted in: Growing | 3

Self-Love and Self-Worth: Building Resilience in Times of Uncertainty

Girlon mountain and figure, representing self-love
Image by Dudarev Mikhail, Shutterstock

In these times of great change and uncertainty, it’s more important than ever that we nurture our self-love and self-worth. In fact, this is our best way to remain centred and resilient at any time, but especially when faced with adversity or any of life’s challenges. When we practice self-love and we know our own self-worth, self-respect automatically becomes ours as well.

By practicing self-love, self-worth and loving compassion[1] for self, we deepen the connection to the deeper truth that resides in our heart, and naturally connect to our own intuition. In these times when there are so many untruths, and possible truths vying for our attention, our intuition can be our reliable compass.

And let’s be clear, when speaking of self-love and self-worth, I am not referring to any false claims of grandiosity, such as ‘better than thou’ type attitudes, nor any demeaning of others[2].

Moving from Co-dependence to Interdependence

When we do not own our own value and self-respect, we hope against hope that others will provide that to us. Unfortunately, these expectations and hopes become the basis for co-dependent[3] relationships. In extreme cases, low self-worth can result in unbalanced, abusive relationships and may even attract a narcissist into our lives.

When we are truly self-assured, we are independent and ready to successfully engage in interdependent[4] relationships. An interdependent person recognises the value of vulnerability, being able to turn to their partner in meaningful ways to create emotional intimacy without fear. They also value a sense of self that allows them and their partner to be their true selves without any need to compromise who they are or deny their values.

When self-love and self-value reverberate out from our very core to others, we attract more of the same back to us. The inner peace and non-judgmental confidence of an interdependent person conveys they are holding a ‘safe place’ for others to open up and speak their truth in honest, authentic dialogue. This is a great opportunity for co-creative dialogues to take place.

“Interdependent people combine their own efforts with the efforts of others to achieve their greatest success.” Stephen Covey[5]

Being a People-Pleaser

Like the majority of children, I was brought up to be a people-pleaser. With their best interests for me at heart, my parents trained me to be a ‘good girl’ in their eyes, and when I was, I received more love and appreciation. This gave me the belief that when I dis-pleased people, I would not be given the same degree of love.

Some parents expect much more from us. They hope to see their idea of ‘perfection’ in their children, a perfection that they did not achieve for themselves.

family group, illustrating self-love
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

There are many children who have much more challenging, unhappy childhoods, with threats and abuse resulting in much stronger beliefs of low self-worth and similar, etched in their memories for decades afterwards. This is one of humanity’s tragedies and it calls for limitless love and understanding, as those children grow into adults while still holding painful wounds from the past.

Beliefs From Childhood

Thus we grow out of childhood, holding beliefs that in order to be loved, we have to prove ourselves in some way. This often includes that we should be a hard worker, achieve qualifications, earn a decent wage, be pleasing to the eye. All of these ambitions are OK, if we have freely chosen them for ourselves, not simply in efforts to ‘make’ others happy with our behavior. In fact, all others have free choice too and we cannot ‘make’ them be happy or be unhappy, although it often feels that way.

In addition, we often find ourselves adapting to fit in with groups and cultures where we wish to be accepted. Again, as we adapt to please people within those groups or communities, we are not honouring ourselves if we are giving up part of our true selves and our deepest values.

We All Have an Inner Critic

We all have a judgmental inner critic in our minds, formed as a result of beliefs and programming we soaked up as children, and agreed to throughout our culture and societies. That inner critic is always eager to tell us how and why we are ‘not enough’ as we are. It will keep our true selves locked away and not freely expressing who we really are, for fear of judgment and ridicule from others.

When we live our lives with feelings and behaviours that demonstrate beliefs of low self-worth, we risk attracting bullies into our lives, from school age on. Bullies easily detect the chinks in our armour because they, too, are suffering from low self-worth while appearing grandiose in their behaviour.

Fear of Not Being Good Enough

If these bullies felt good enough as they are, they would not need to overpower others. They would not need to control or consciously hurt others. They would not need to demean or put others down in any way at all. Bullies in any form – acquaintances, colleagues, parents, partners, bosses and political figures, terrorists too – are living in constant fear of being seen as ‘not good enough’, which would unveil their own fearful, deep-seated beliefs. If challenged, they would totally deny this of course; because it is running in the subconscious part of their minds.

Victims of bullies may continually tolerate being bullied in a close relationship over long periods of time. They may not be able to see a safe way out. Sometimes people feel their situation is the best they can have, or – in their subconscious thoughts – believe that’s the best they deserve.

On either side of the bully/victim fence, with our inner critic steering our life, we harbour great frustrations, because we are holding ourselves back for fear of judgment. While believing we are ‘not good enough’ we cannot be fully expressed as our true selves, with our own unique skills and creativity that could shine out in the world.

We Are Naturally Worthy

You may have heard of this concept of being ‘naturally worthy’ or born worthy. Many gurus and life-coaches know this to be true: if we are here on this Planet as a human being, then we are all naturally and equally worthy. Period.

We truly are ‘enough’ as we are, with limitless potential to become more. We each have an equal right to manifest a good life and well-being. And we have the right to express as our creative and unique selves for our own fulfilment. As we each fully express ourselves in a whole-hearted way, we also contribute to the greater good of all. It is only our thoughts that tell us differently. Is this concept hard for you to accept? Sadly, we have moved a long way from this concept of naturally being worthy.

Stay-At-Home Policy: A Blessing or a Curse?

In this strange, uncertain climate right now, while protecting ourselves from the COVID-19 virus, many of us have been hunkered down at home with time to spare. If we can’t carry on with our normal work, we‘ve had the opportunity to turn to creative, enjoyable pursuits in space and time at home. We may also decide to care more for the health and well-being of our physical and emotional selves, and those around us too.

However, some have moved even further away from their self-love and worthiness. Without the distractions of socialising, bars and eateries, or retail therapy, and without that commute to a hard day’s work, personal issues and emotional triggers rise to the surface in the home. This not only upsets one person’s life, but greatly impacts those living with them. It’s a horrific fact that across the globe, domestic abuse has risen by more than 20%[6] since the Coronavirus pandemic began. The WHO says that in Europe domestic violence has risen by 60%. At the same time, support and rescue networks for victims of domestic abuse have been shattered[7].

Our Greatest Challenge?

A word of caution here: when we express passion concerning issues we care about such as the one above, our passion may emerge as rage, coupled with blaming or shaming others. This is where we can easily fall from grace in our centred discernment, tumbling back down into airs of grandiosity and angered self-righteousness.

Here perhaps is our greatest challenge: can we be deeply compassionate, while doing what is practically required to keep everyone safe? This may mean rescuing some and arresting others. But can we, at the same time, hold compassion in our hearts for those harbouring low self-esteem, or do we want to relentlessly demean the bullies? Continuing to demean others keeps us in grandiosity and maintains the same old labels on those bullies. Whereas compassion demonstrates tough love and opens us up to new opportunities for all.

A great litmus test for our behaviour is to engage with our hearts, by using a simple heart-mind coherence method[8]. Your heart will not lie and it will bring you back to your center.

Let’s Welcome Our New Normal!

self-love: love yourself logoWhether life’s challenges seem big or small, our life experiences are changed for the better if we are living from our own self-worth, self-love and self-respect.

If we feel inherently worthy, we have self-confidence. We feel centered and less influenced by others’ views, whether that is others’ perspectives of us, or others’ opinions of happenings out in the world. We’ll have examined and identified our deepest values and they feel right for us. We become self-aware and those values are our compass. They steer our life. We endeavour to express from those values in our personal and professional life and to walk our talk. This often takes courage.

Thankfully, we are no longer looking to others for validation on whether we are behaving in a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way. However, once we are confident and centred, it is easier to be open to constructive feedback from others, and to consider how we might respond to that in a freely-chosen manner that may benefit our own growth.

Exercising Self-Love

As we exercise self-love, we are compassionate and forgiving to ourselves, while appreciating our progress through life. We can forgive our stumbles and miss-takes. We all make mistakes and we are doing the best we can[9], even if we don’t always live up to our own ideals. With self-love, we can be like a benevolent parent may be with a young child. When our children learn to walk, we don’t chastise them each time they stumble and fall. We have a vision of them walking ably through life as though it’s second nature. So we encourage them to get up on their feet and try again, and we applaud them when they do. We need to do this for ourselves also. No one knows our inner self quite like we do, and although we may harbour regrets and be tempted to judge ourselves harshly, it truly isn’t the best way to help ourselves.

I used to practice being compassionate and loving toward others. This has certainly been my intention for many years. Then I hit a deeply hurtful time, grieving as I accepted that a situation was not going to change to answer my desires. I had to lift myself out of that hurt by caring more for myself. That was when I found true non-judgmental love and compassion for self. And that is when for me, it became truly possible to have non-judgmental compassion for others. There’s a sense of freedom that comes with that.

How can we sow seeds and grow into more of these qualities of self-love, self-worth and self-respect?

Knowing these three stages will help enormously:

Stage One

Nurturing our self-awareness. When we notice we’re feeling down-trodden, or observe airs of grandiosity in ourselves, we know we have some work to do on ourselves. If we are ready and willing to change ourselves, we have overcome the greatest hurdle already!

We cannot and should not try to change others

But we can change ourselves with great effect in our lives.  

Stage Two

Doing our work to uplift ourselves; for example, changing our inner critic by journaling. A habit of journaling each day, to express appreciation for the self for example, by listing five things to appreciate and celebrate in our self is a great way to change the ‘plasticity’ in our minds from negative self-judgments to uplifting thoughts.

Stage Three

Walk out in the world and conduct your life from your new centredness of self-love, self-compassion and self-respect. You will notice a difference! You will see the world differently and the world will respond to you differently. In addition, once you are more loving and compassionate with yourself, you ‘automatically’ become more loving and compassionate with others. Alongside that, you will be less willing to tolerate poor treatment from others. You will feel more empowered to say a clear “No” and hold new boundaries.

You may find yourself working through these three steps many times over. This is an ongoing life practice. However, I encourage you to expect some results quite quickly!

If you want to explore this subject in more detail, take a look at Tara Brach, renowned mindfulness teacher, as she recounts learning to deal with her own ‘not-enough-ness’ and nurturing self-trust[10]. Tara’s premise is that our personal sense of being ‘not enough’ is the most pervasive suffering in society today. Tara describes her technique for personal, gentle acceptance she calls RAIN. This is also explained in detail in Tara’s latest book: Radical Compassion[11].

Enjoy Your New Normal

Rise above any chaos or uncertainty around you! We can all get through these challenging times, with love for self and each other which is, in my opinion, essential as we move toward our ‘New Normal’.

 

Janet Lesley Powers

 

There are many coaches, guides and teachers with more tools available to help you. Many of them can be found in The Silver Tent, an international community with a private Facebook group where there is much support available for women over fifty.

References

[1] Kristin Neff defines self-compassion

[2] The Space Between Self-Esteem and Self Compassion: Kristin Neff at TEDxCentennialParkWomen (YouTube). In this TEDTalk, Kristin Neff talks to many aspects of this Blog.

[3] ‘Among the core characteristics of co-dependency is an excessive reliance on other people for approval and a sense of identity.’ Wikipedia

[4] https://www.verywellmind.com/how-to-build-a-relationship-based-on-interdependence-4161249

[5] Stephen R. Covey (2016). The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

[6] Statistics and information from many countries about domestic abuse:

Impact of the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic on domestic violence (Wikipedia)

[7] The Interpreter: A New Covid-19 Crisis: Domestic Abuse Rises Worldwide. Reporting was contributed by Raphael Minder from Spain, Vivian Wang from Hong Kong, Constant Méheut from France and Elisabetta Povoledo from Italy. New York Times

[8] Can We Trust Our Hearts to Guide Us? Silver Blog by Janet Lesley Powers

[9] See my Silver Blog article: Is Everyone Doing the Best They Can?

[10] Tara Brach Interview (YouTube): Waking Up from the Trance of Unworthiness

[11] Tara Brach Radical Compassion  (2019) Viking

Janet Lesley Powers

Janet Lesley powersJanet is a Certified Transformational Life and Leadership Coach and Certified Group Facilitator.
She transitioned into coaching in 2007, following a successful career in conservation policy for a worldwide non-profit organisation.
Janet coaches clients online and in person, dividing her time between extensive travel in her RV and her base in the Washington DC Metro area, United States.
You can reach Janet via JLPowersTLC (at) gmail (dot) com

 

Back to Silverbloggers

 

Silver Tent Books page

 

Silver Tent Marketplace

 

Follow and Share

3 Responses

  1. Cathy

    Such a good read and helpful information. I’ve been working on transforming rage and found a mantra that helps me so much. Hope many read and are helped by your writings.

  2. Renee

    Interesting. I always thought of co-dependence as one person enabling a bad behavior in the other. I like how you used it for “normal” relationships. Many people do rely on one another to feel their own value and get depressed if they don’t get enough “attaboy”s.

  3. Ron

    Very informative and reassuring with resources for upgrading our lives during these tumultuous times.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *