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Hardly a week goes by without seeing an article online or in a magazine where there are tips and tools claiming to increase our self-worth, and how important it is that we do so.  We are regularly subjected to adverts that sell us products because “we are worth it” and the significance of our worthiness is a regular staple on visual quotations shared via social media. So, what is this “self-worth” that has become such an important backbone of modern life and was rarely heard of decades ago?

Self-worth is a nominalization; a construct of the mind that has been created into a noun which collectively determines how we feel about ourselves in terms of esteem, value or respect.  For example, a healthy self-worth may indicate someone that feels good about who they are, sees themselves as having a modicum of self-respect, a well maintained outside appearance and perhaps values their contribution in society.  Whereas, those with low self-worth could be considered as having low standards, particularly with their appearance or living conditions, and believe they have nothing of value to add to the world.

Some psychologists believe that self-worth is actually a theory of motivation, aiming predominantly at achieving self-acceptance as its ultimate goal.  How we determine our self-worth is governed by the value we place on ourselves and our interactions with others in our environment.  We, therefore, measure our worth through comparison with others and our relationship with the world, in order to determine the health of how we feel about the level of our abilities, the way we look, or the way we behave.  In short, self-worth can be said to be a yardstick in measuring our acceptance of who we are and our place in society.

But there is a danger with that.  The ego loves to compare itself to others and that promotes the malignancy of self-judgement.  Being worthy is an immeasurable concept which is competitive by its very nature.  It can only ever exist through comparison with others in order to ratify a judgement we hold about ourselves.  Worthiness cannot exist without judgement and what we are really searching for is self-acceptance.  The promotion of worthiness actually does more to harm society than enhance it as we are never satisfied with who we are and what we have to offer.  We therefore fall into the trap of comparing ourselves constantly to others and believing we always deserve better.

The truth is we are all so unique and creative that no two of us are alike.  Even identical twins have idiosyncrasies that are individual to them.  So, if we continue to compare our value, respect or image with others, then we continually reject any acceptance that we are enough and instead reinforce that judgement that denies us that truth.

So next time you fall into the conditioned trap of saying, “because I am worth it”, stop and reflect as to why you feel a need to say that.  What is it that you are not accepting about yourself that you employ the concept of worthiness?  In truth, we are all “worth” it because are all enough just as we are right now.

Caroline Cousins

Published in the New Milton Advertiser and Lymington Times, March 2019