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How do we uncover our self-worth? Is it assigned by others, ourselves, or combination of the two? What does it mean to feel worthy? And how do we know if our self-worth has been impacted by our interactions or relationships?
Self-worth, simply put, is how you value your own personhood. In the face of any and all judgments, your worth is decided by you and your own advocacy. Is your well-being a priority? Do you make space for your existence? Determining our self-worth can feel ambiguous if we don’t know what scale we’re operating on. When we consider how we prioritize ourselves, we may also consider the other priorities in life.
Learning to balance and rotate the priorities in our lives allows us to make space for all the things that matter. Putting ourselves back into the rotation of priorities gives us the opportunity to assign our value, improve our relationship with self, and subsequently improve our relationships within our care community.
The Self-Worth Framework
Prioritizing self doesn’t always come naturally. We get caught up in caring for others and realizing the more we care for others, the better we’ll feel about ourselves. It does feel good to take care of people, but doing so to the detriment of self-care will create a vicious cycle of having an empty cup and chasing the wrong fill, or caring for others in an attempt to get them to care for us in return.
Establishing personal boundaries is essential to achieving personal happiness and success. Knowing when it’s time to care for others and time to care for ourselves cultivates balanced healthy relationships. We can lose our sense of self by allowing our care for others to set the dynamics of the relationship. Personal boundaries ensure we’ve made space for ourselves amongst the love and care we have for others.
Each of us is responsible for facilitating optimal circumstances for our own personal comfort.
Self-worth depends on creating time and space to identify and respond to our own needs. As we interact within our care communities, we rotate where our energy is spent. Deliberately including ourselves in the rotation leads to a healthy relationship with ourselves in the same way we have healthy relationships with others.
This includes establishing healthy relationship practices with ourselves:
- Open, honest communication
- Met needs
- Periodic exploration and check ins
We take control of facilitating happiness on our own terms by defining our priorities and establishing and enforcing the right boundaries.
Others won’t always willingly respect boundaries, and it’s important to remember the boundaries we set for ourselves aren’t meant to benefit the people we love. The boundaries we set are meant to benefit our self and protect the space in which we exist as true and authentic.
It’s our responsibility to ensure what’s important to us is protected. This space, inside our boundaries, is where we can do the internal exploration, name our feelings, and prioritize the needs we want to share. It’s where we decide the behaviors we’re willing to interact with and who’s worthy of accessing our vulnerability.
Setting the right boundaries is a display of self-respect. Acknowledging the space we need gives us the room to expand into our worth, to separate from others and define self.
Setting Healthy Boundaries
Setting personal boundaries will be a trial and error process.
After determining what met needs will result in personal happiness and success, we have to protect ourselves from distractions and the infringement of others. This is where boundaries come in. For example, if you’re working on becoming the world’s most successful entrepreneur and established 8pm to 10 pm as your work time, you’re responsible for enforcing the boundary related to those hours.
Similarly, if you’ve determined yelling to be an activating behavior that erodes your comfort and feelings of safety in a relationship, it’s up to you to communicate and protect that boundary within your care community.
We can ask people to respect our boundaries but the enforcement and protection of the boundary established is entirely up to us. We have control over how and when boundaries are enforced. The threat of a lost relationship or retaliation from a loved one can lead us to believe we don’t have full control over exerting our boundaries. Establishing boundaries can disrupt current relationships and there may be a healing process to moving forward after they’ve been communicated.
How to Establish Your Own Boundaries
Our priorities help establish our boundaries. If we want to create boundaries with the expectation they be followed, we have to communicate them. This means letting people know we’re serious about our boundaries and have certain expectations within the relationship.
Creating expectations does not mean we control anyone’s behavior. Sometimes people forget about boundaries or believe they have an exceptional circumstance that excludes them from respecting the established boundaries. Healthy communication can help us when boundaries have been crossed, but repeatedly violated boundaries will impact our self-worth.
Beyond communicating our boundaries we must acknowledge the need for enforcement. When people stop respecting our boundaries, we need an enforcement process in place to protect our self-worth space.
For example, if you’re trying to build a business but your spouse or children keep interrupting you, it’s your job to either change locations or find another way to remove access to you from your family.
Self-Respect and Self-Worth
There are a number of reasons we feel we need to make ourselves accessible to people we care about. We worry taking space will create a problem, but acknowledging our self-worth is knowing we sometimes deserve our own undivided attention.
There’s time for us, and there’s time for them. When we prioritize someone else’s wants or needs over our own, we’re limiting the space in which we exist as our authentic selves. Respecting ourselves takes communication with and on behalf of ourselves, discovering our feelings, needs, and cooperating with others to achieve fulfilling relationships.
Showing respect for ourselves takes practice as we can find ourselves following the path of least resistance during times of emotional turmoil. This path can lead us to lessen our needs or our perceived imposition on others, reducing the space in which we have to exist. Taking a stand on our own behalf to re-establish boundaries exhibits a kind of love we can’t feel from another person.
How Boundaries Protect Our Self-Worth
The way we value our needs is directly reflected in the boundaries we set. Relying on others to set those boundaries results in prioritization of their comfort and happiness. It’s natural to want others to be happy around us, but if that deprioritizes our needs, expectations, or feelings, it impacts our self-value and self-worth.
We’re our own most vital advocates, we facilitate our own happiness through identifying our needs, establishing our boundaries, and learning to enforce them in healthy and productive ways. Determining ourselves worthy means treating ourselves in a respectful way.
If we want our boundaries to be respected, we have to be willing to enforce them, no matter what.
Exploring Self Worth
Relating our self worth to how we’re treated, paid, or acknowledged is a collective value assigned to us rather than by us. These matters—how we’re treated, paid, and regarded—make up associative self-worth, or the value we can reflect on by associating with others. But our inherent self-worth is purely self-assigned. It doesn’t vary with interactions or others view.
Assigning worth to ourselves depends only on how we choose to prioritize our needs and set boundaries to allow ourselves space to have those needs. Uncovering how we prioritize our needs will take time to monitor ourselves and our responses in various situations. We have to give ourselves time to encounter different circumstances within our care community.
Various reasons can cause us to mask our needs under the guise that it will be more protective or beneficial. We concern ourselves with others perspective or maintaining a relationship and fear that expression of our feelings or needs would create distance in the relationship. Fear of losing relationship and our place in our care community is a motivating factor in suppressing our own needs.
Exploring self-worth takes time and patience to move through each experience with more awareness.
How to Build Your Self-Worth
So how can you discover where you’ve placed your happiness on the priority scale? What is your self-worth? One way to uncover our own worth is to bring awareness to how we value the expressed feelings and needs of others:
- Pay attention to the way you accept, reject, or judge expressed feelings or needs
- Acknowledge when you’re forcing yourself toward a conclusion, or telling a story
- When faced with a choice, ask which outcome feels better, regardless of outside obligations
- Identify what kinds of criticisms you make of yourself or others
- Pay attention to how often you fill in the narrative for others
Paying attention to these micro-moments lets us uncover which feelings or needs we designate as good or bad. Feelings are neither good or bad. Categorizing them can lead us to suppress rather than explore the feelings that arise in us. Suppressing our feelings will obstruct our ability to uncover our true needs and connect more authentically with our care community.
Compassionate evaluation allows us to bring awareness to how we value feelings and needs. Establishing our worth happens when we consistently take steps to cultivate our true feelings and get our needs met. As we lean into our feelings and needs, our worth feels stronger.