Self worth should be an unwavering feeling of unconditional love and high-value for yourself, no matter what. Tall order but very possible to step into and make real.
What you don’t want is to have self worth only when you are “doing good” and lose your self-worth when you are “doing bad”. This polarized story of self that is rooted in being good or being bad is ego’s natural way of operating. Ego strives to be liked, valued, appreciated, and seen by family, community, co-workers, a partner, friends, and any group we belong to and find home in. Because of this, effort is required to break the mold and learn to experience self-worth unconditionally.
The work involves analyzing your family system, culture and upbringing…sifting through every value you hold to see if it is a value dear to you or the value of somebody else. Same goes with your feelings about yourself. Are they your feelings or are they the feelings of your mother, father, sibling, or another loved one? This process of differentiating self from others lays the foundation for unconditional self worth.
Once you understand and know the difference between yourself and others you can take a look at your personal values and see what is out of alignment. An example of misalignment would be if you value being balanced and your behavior continually throws you off balance. Analyzing each value and the behavior around the value will illuminate where gaps exist in your integrity. These gaps will make you feel shame. The key here is to allow the shame to be felt, expressed, and released without creating a story around the shame that you are bad, wrong, or unworthy.
You do not need to lose your self worth if you are not aligned with your personal values. Instead, you can work to get into alignment and move through the shame as it presents. Sounds so simple but the reason why it’s so hard is because when you tell yourself you are bad or wrong or an asshole or a loser (there are many ways to say it) over and over again, you drain your will of its natural motivation and impetus. Nobody grows or changes when they feel like shit about themselves. You feel like shit about yourself when you tell yourself you are bad, wrong, unworthy. It’s a viscous cycle.
The key is to intercept this story that you are bad. You have built up this story either because those around you are not giving you attention, validation or love….or because you are not in integrity with your own values. It might be both! The story of being bad said over and over creates a well-worn path in the brain. This neural pathway begins to operate on auto-pilot until you don’t even notice that you have a choice about how you perceive yourself. Once you have clarity and self-awareness, you can create a new neural pathway in the brain.
The new neural pathway: I am worthy no matter if I am failing or succeeding, making a mistake or making a contribution, aligned or misaligned, fat or thin, rich or poor, single or partnered, etc.
The new neural pathway: I am worthy simply because I am me. I am worthy no matter what.
The new neural pathway does not link self-worth with behavior, attention, validation, reward, or results. This goes against everything society teaches us. We must be like the salmon and swim upstream to rise out of our inner turmoil that is the story of being bad, wrong, not good enough, flawed, and unworthy.
The new neural pathway validates the self as an unquestioned fundamental fact and truth.
The new neural pathway of unconditional self worth is our true sense of security and the foundation of well-being.
To create this new neural pathway takes practice, awareness, repetition, time, and dedication. I wish it didn’t. I wish we could just cast a spell, receive a miracle, shift with awareness alone….but there is something about the effort, time, dedication, and awareness that is as important and vital as the result.
The practice I use is four-fold and aligns with the sacred four directions.
North: this is the actual practice. You need a practice to train yourself to be new. All animals need to be trained in order to change, human or otherwise. It’s the way of all earthly creatures. Be it a meditation practice, yoga practice, or any practice where you connect mind to body. Yoga of all forms, chanting, sitting meditation, walking meditation…pick one and do it for five minutes a day to start. Work up to your time level.
Just like building biceps or anything, practicing meditation or yoga in any form builds the ability to differentiate self from the thoughts and feelings you experience..and from the thoughts and feelings of others. The practice will also build awareness as you become the witness of your emotional reactions, thoughts, and responses. Building your inner witness will give you the space to choose an unconditional self worth story at any given time.
East: this is the mental work of analyzing your values and sense of self and differentiating from your family/culture/loved one’s values and sense of who you are. Therapy is a great way to engage in this work. You can do it alone with books, friends, podcasts, and videos as your allies on the path. The work of differentiation takes time as we can only see what we are ready to see. To stand firm in our own foundation of self requires a readiness and courage as well.
South: this is the burning up of the old pathway of conditional self worth. I know it may sound overly simple but laughing and sweating each day burns up the old neural pathway. Getting the will out of the familiar routine is helpful, be it trying new things or thinking new thoughts. Each day sweat, laugh, think a new thought, and do one thing differently,
The biggest task of the south is creative expression. When we create we burn up all that was and is and we make room for the new. You don’t need to be an artist to create. Make a painting, sing songs, make music, garden, cook, redecorate, craft something, make a collage, play with crayons, dance, make a video…it does not need to be sell and it does not have to be good. Create from a playful place like a child. Create for the joy of creating. You don’t need to be thinking about self worth or be therapeutic about it. Creating is therapeutic naturally!
West: this work is about feeling your feelings without the story and of healing the attachment wounds from the past showing up in present relationships. The west is complicated. Learning to feel your feelings without trying to fix or solve them and without putting a story around the feeling, is very hard. Not only hard but also tricky because you often are unaware you are making a story up when you have a strong feeling. You may feel extremely hurt by another and create a story of betrayal that is wrapping around the hurtful feeling, without even knowing you are the creator of the story. This work takes time to understand and practice.
Healing attachment wounds requires analyzing self to know what the wound is and forming secure healthy connections with others (therapist, healer, lover, friend, family member, a pet). If you are totally alone you can form a secure attachment with self and this should be done no matter what. You can form a secure attachment with spirit, with nature, and with life itself. This topic is too large to write about here but as many have said, “what gets broken in relationship must get healed in relationship”. Love is always the root of all healing.
In a nutshell, this four-fold practice of healing will bring unconditional self-worth into being and liberate you from much suffering. When you have unconditional self worth you no longer put this task on others and you no longer slip into the shame spiral of despair when you are just being human (making mistakes, wrong choices, having a set-back, hurting another, struggling with mental illness, losing a job, etc etc the list goes on).
Most importantly, having unconditional self worth provides a feeling of security, fulfillment, and inner peace that is independent from relationships and impervious to anything happening in your life.