The relationship you have with yourself shapes virtually every aspect of your life; your well-being, your relationships, and the way you see and experience the world. Self-value is the foundation of this relationship.
When you value yourself, you believe you are deserving of respect, love, and success, and you are willing to invest your time and energy into bettering yourself and working towards your goals. Though developing your sense of self-value can be a long-term journey, there are many things you can do to work towards valuing yourself more.
This article will dive into what self-value is, why it is so important, and some things you can do to increase your sense of self-value.
What does it mean to value yourself?
Self-value and self-worth are two concepts that are often used interchangeably.
Self-worth is defined as “the sense of one’s own value or worth as a person”.
Self-value goes beyond regarding yourself as worthy or important. As Stonsy (2014) states, “self-value is more behavioral than emotional, more about how you act toward what you value than how you feel about yourself compared to others”.
To have self-value means you not only recognize yourself as inherently worthy but are also willing to invest your time and energy into nurturing and sustaining yourself.
Valuing yourself by putting your needs and desires first is not selfish; it is an integral step to strengthening both your belief in yourself, as well as improving important relationships in your life. Having strong self-value plays an essential role in how you see and treat yourself every single day.
The concept of ‘valuing yourself’ means that you believe you are worthy of love, respect, success, happiness, and all things good. It means you believe in your capabilities and recognize the innate strengths and resilience within you. If you value yourself, it makes it easier to take actionable steps towards growth and achieving your goals.
Valuing yourself does not mean you devalue others. In fact, having a strong sense of self-value means that you also value others, and extend your self-nurture and self-care to the relationships and communities present in your life.
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Why is it so important to value yourself?
Believing in your value is a crucial element of living a life where you feel good about yourself with no influence from another person or external source.
Valuing yourself first allows you to understand and believe you are worthy of love, affection, and good things in life. When you believe these things, it becomes easier to appreciate validation and recognition from the outside world when it comes.
If you do not value yourself, no amount of love, appreciation or recognition from external sources will satisfy you. Rather, devaluing yourself will lead you to believe that you are not deserving of such accolades.
Additionally, it can also lead you to experience more negative self-talk and experience more self-esteem and self-image issues.
A study conducted at the University of Michigan found that college students who based their self-worth on external sources, such as appearance, approval from others, and academic stress, reported higher stress, anger, academic issues, and relationship conflicts and had higher levels of drug and alcohol use, as well as symptoms of eating disorders.
Additionally, the same study found that students who based their self-worth on internal sources, such as being a virtuous person or adhering to moral standards, were found to do better academically, and were less likely to use drugs or alcohol, or develop eating disorders.
Another study found that those with high self-esteem suffer less emotional distress when encountering negative feedback from others. The research clearly illustrates the importance of building a strong sense of internal self-value, rather than basing your self-worth and value on outside sources.
Ways to value yourself more
Building up your sense of self-value is no small feat, but thankfully there are things you can do to help.
1. Stop comparing yourself to others
We all do it; it is natural to compare yourself to others and think that you are not doing enough or are lacking in some aspect of life.
Comparing yourself to others can have detrimental impacts on your sense of self-value and overall mental health.
It does not matter what other people are doing, what they think of you, or what they have accomplished. Your personal sense of self-value is far more important to nurture and maintain.
Although it is easier said than done, when you stop comparing yourself to others you can begin to focus on your own unique path, your goals, and what you personally value in life.
If you need pointers on this aspect of your life, here’s our article on how to stop comparing yourself to others.
2. Set boundaries!
Your self-value and the boundaries you set for yourself go hand in hand.
Setting personal boundaries for yourself means that you get to define how you would like to be treated by others. They allow you to protect yourself from being taken advantage of or mistreated.
Having a strong sense of self-value combined with secure boundaries shows that you respect yourself and that you expect the same respect from others.
Sometimes it can feel uncomfortable to set a boundary, as we feel like it can be mean or selfish (it is not!). However, you are doing yourself a disservice if you are not establishing clear and respectful boundaries in your life, as it can often lead to a pattern of neglecting yourself in order to appease others or tolerating disrespectful or harmful behavior.
The more you are able to practice boundary setting in your life, the more people will treat you with the respect and kindness that you deserve; and those who are unable to abide by those boundaries may not be conducive to the healthy relationships you need and want in your life.
3. Challenge your negative self-talk
Our internal voice plays a significant role in how we see ourselves, others, and the world. Everyone experiences negative self-talk from time to time; it is natural!
What’s important is being able to recognize and challenge your critical self-talk. If you continue to let your inner critic thrive with no challenge or intervention, you will begin to believe these thoughts and treat them as a fact. To build and sustain a strong sense of self-value it is important to be able to first identify when negative self-talk is occurring.
Some common forms of negative self-talk include:
- Personalizing: personalization means that you believe that you are to blame for something even if you had little or nothing to do with the outcome, or it is beyond your control. Some examples of personalization include thoughts like “everyone is mad at me” or “it’s all my fault”.
- Catastrophizing: this happens when you automatically assume the worst-case scenario is going to happen. For example, “I am not in the mood for hanging out with my friends, but if I don’t go to the party, they will not like me anymore and I will be lonely forever”.
- Filtering: filtering means that you amplify the negative parts of a situation and ignore the positive. For example, you just finished playing a soccer game and your coach compliments your performance multiple times. He also adds one piece of constructive criticism. Instead of accepting and appreciating positive feedback, you can only focus on constructive criticism.
- Polarizing: when you are experiencing polarizing self-talk, it means you only see things as good or bad. An example of polarizing thoughts is thinking that you have to be perfect or else you are a failure.
These types of negative self-talk can be difficult, but there are things you can do to conquer them. Some common questions you can ask to challenge your negative thoughts include:
- Is there any evidence to support this thought?
- Is this thought factual? Would it be accepted as a fact by other people?
- Am I jumping to conclusions?
4. Seek therapy
Exploring therapy as an option to strengthen your sense of self-value can be extremely beneficial.
Studies show that low self-worth, self-esteem, and self-value can be effectively addressed through therapy.
For example, a case study researching the effectiveness of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for an individual experiencing low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety showed that after completing a course of therapy, they no longer met the diagnostic criteria for any mental health disorder and showed clinically significant improvement in their symptoms.
A therapist can help you to understand the underlying reasons for issues you may be experiencing, including struggling with your self-value and worth.
A therapist can offer a new perspective and assist you in developing the skills to challenge negative self-talk, address past trauma that may be a contributing factor to low self-value, and develop healthy coping strategies.
If you need more convincing, here’s our article on the ways therapy can help you live a happier life.
5. Cultivate gratitude
Gratitude is a powerful tool in enhancing self-value. Start by acknowledging the positive aspects of your life and your personal achievements, no matter how small. This practice shifts focus from what you lack to what you have and are capable of, fostering a deeper appreciation for yourself.
Create a daily routine of listing three things you are grateful for about yourself. This could be related to your character, achievements, or how you’ve overcome a challenge. Regularly recognizing your own worth in this way reinforces self-value and builds a positive self-image.
If you want more tips to cultivate gratitude, here’s one of our articles on how to be more grateful.
6. Embrace self-compassion
Self-compassion involves treating yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you would offer a good friend. It’s about recognizing that imperfection is part of the human experience and not being overly critical of yourself.
Practice self-compassion by speaking to yourself in a gentle, reassuring voice, especially in times of failure or difficulty. Replace self-criticism with self-encouraging words.
Additionally, engage in activities that promote well-being, like meditation or spending time in nature. This approach nurtures a compassionate relationship with yourself, enhancing self-value and emotional resilience.
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Having a strong sense of self-value is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Although it can be difficult to value yourself at times, there are positive steps you can take to build up your sense of self-value. By implementing some of the strategies discussed in this article, you can take steps toward positive change, and recognize that you are deserving of respect, love, happiness, and success.
What do you think? Do you find it hard to value yourself? Or do you want to share your own tip on what helped you find your value? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!