Worthiness from Within—Creating Your Own Strength
Everyone wants to be liked and loved. Everyone likes to hear praise from people they admire and respect. But there’s a big difference between wanting and enjoying the love and admiration of others and needing it to feel worthy. If you can only feel good about yourself when you have an incoming stream of affection and love and don’t feel happy or confident if that stream slows or stops, then you need to reflect on your sense of worthiness. The trick with developing self-worth is that, ideally, you won’t have a time when you don’t feel loved or that you’re not getting praise, so it can be hard to determine where your sense of worth is coming from. Adding to this opacity is the fact that love and admiration are good. In general, they do suggest that you are a valuable person, and they feel good to receive. So, understanding the foundations of your sense of worth can be challenging. The key is the difference between want and need—the difference between independence and dependence.
It’s healthy to be independent
Independence may feel to some like a barrier between themselves and others. You may feel that if you’re independent, you don’t have strong connections, you’re selfish, or you’re alone in the world. The fact is that a healthy sense of independence is necessary for healthy relationships. It can support your contributions to others and can help you to engage with others in a healthy way. Independence is a mark of self-confidence and is indicative of a sense of personal wholeness. When a person is whole, they can live a courageous life and allow themselves to be vulnerable and take risks, knowing that they have a strong personal foundation to fall back on. Conversely, dependence is a mark of someone who is incomplete—someone who needs someone or something to make them whole. Something they don’t have within themselves.
Can someone who is independent be part of a loving, trusting relationship? Absolutely. I would argue that only someone who is independent can. Only an independent person can give of themselves in a truly healthy way, because they are giving from a perspective that does not involve unhealthy demands of another in order to complete themselves.
Developing worthiness from within
Generating self-worth is challenging. It’s like an internal marketing exercise. You’re trying to convince yourself that you’re worthy, while maybe not quite believing it yourself. So how do you go about it? First, you have to actually be worthy. If you’re selfish, self-centered, or unkind, you have to step back and work on yourself first. Another challenge might be related to having an inaccurate sense of self-worth that you show to others. If you find yourself constantly making the case about how great you are, it may be a defense mechanism to overcome a low sense of self-worth.
One great way to test your sense of self-worth is to spend some significant time alone. If you are able to just be with yourself and still feel good and positive, then chances are your self-worth is healthy and stable. On the other hand, if you feel like you need to constantly be with other people in order to feel worthy, then it’s likely your self-worth isn’t as strong as it could be. Being alone is also a good way to develop self-worth. When you’re alone and you start to feel down about yourself, it’s a great opportunity to reflect on why that is. It’s an opportunity to think about your own worthiness and what that is based on. Of course, spending time alone can be lonely. Feeling lonely and feeling the need to be with other people is not the same thing as having low self-worth. It’s important to make that distinction.
Seeking out self-worth
Another way to assess your own sense of self-worth is to examine your behavior around other people – your words and your actions. If you find yourself questioning what other people will think of what you do or say, or if you’re strategizing about how to put yourself in the best light in front of people, it’s likely you have a need for external validation. Again, there’s nothing wrong with wanting people to like you or wanting praise from other people, but if you need that in order to feel good about yourself, then that’s a red flag. I’ve had people in my life who I really wanted to like me, because I liked and respected them. I went out of my way to endear myself to them and to put myself in places where I could shine in their eyes. It made me think about my motivations for doing so and the gray area between wanting people to like me and needing them to approve of me.
Ultimately, the most important person for you to impress is yourself. You should be able to think back on everything you do and say and believe that you’re a worthy person without anyone else telling you. If you do fall short, and you find yourself regularly seeking the approval from others, then that’s an indicator you need to work on yourself first.
You need to work on becoming the person you were meant to be before you start thinking about how others think of the person that you are.