Brene Brown spent six years doing extensive research on vulnerability, connection, and shame. She found that people could be divided into two groups, those who have a strong sense of love and belonging, a sense of connection with others, and those who struggle for this sense of love and belonging, wondering if they are good enough.
One of the amazing things she found was that people who have a strong sense of belonging believe they are worthy of love and belonging. Conversely, those that don’t have a sense of love and belonging, believe they are not worthy. Can you believe that?! What keeps us from feeling loved is the belief or sense that we are not worthy.
But wait there’s more…She goes on to say that those who feel worthy have certain things in common. For one, they have courage, and people, she is using the original definition of the word as it first came into the English language. Courage: to tell the story of who you are, with your whole heart.
“So these folks had the courage to be imperfect. They had the compassion to be kind to themselves, first, and then to others, because as it turns out, we can’t practice compassion with other people if we can’t treat our selves kindly. They had connection (and this is the hard part) as a result of authenticity. They were willing to let go of who they thought they should be, in order to fully be who they are, and you absolutely have to do that in order to have connection.
The other thing they had in common was this: they fully embraced vulnerability. They believed that what makes them vulnerable makes them beautiful. They didn’t talk about vulnerability being comfortable, nor did they talk about it being excruciating, they just talked about it being necessary. They talked about the willingness to say ‘I love you’ first, the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees, the willingness to breathe through waiting for the doctor to call after you’ve had your mammogram, the willingness to invest in a relationship that might not work out, they thought this was fundamental.”
The biggest problem is that “you cannot selectively numb emotions. You can’t numb hard feelings without numbing joy, gratitude, happiness. Once we begin numbing, suddenly we feel empty and then we are looking for purpose and meaning, and we feel vulnerable, and then we numb again. We need to look at how and why we numb ourselves.” The challenge is to move away from these habits toward full range feeling, toward vulnerability. And the pay off? Deeper connection with others and a sense of love and belonging.
Vibrantly healthy and successful people have a sense of self worth. This self love or self-esteem is the notion that we are valuable and deserving of success, love, and respect. It’s a soft feeling of easy nurturance and caring for oneself.
Our childhood experiences play a part in what we think we are worth. If our parents had low self image, they modeled this, and soon we too felt we weren’t good enough. If we were bullied or mistreated, if our boundaries weren’t respected, if expectations were too high for our developmental level, if we were in a stressed environment, (and the list goes on) we began to believe something was wrong with us. When this happens, we can come to believe that we deserve the mistreatment and then perpetuate the belief by unconsciously choosing people and situations that continue to mistreat us.
So I am here to tell you, if you are stuck in a cycle where deep down inside you secretly know you are not good enough or worthy of good things, that deep down you aren’t like other people because you are flawed, I am here to tell you you are mistaken. It just doesn’t work that way. Life is a dance between what we are and what we can be. It’s time for you to take matters into your own hands. I challenge you to increase your self worth.
The reason it’s called self worth is because you determine it. At the end of the day, you are the one that gets to decide if you deserve respect and love…and then give it to yourself. Still, if it’s helpful in any way, let me affirm for you, just by being here on this blue turning ball in the stars: You deserve friends who are good listeners and want you to be the best you can be. You deserve to eat healthy, vibrant food that makes your body feel good. You deserve love. You deserve to have your needs met. You deserve to feel safe. You deserve to feel nourished and healthy and alive. You deserve to feel good about your body and your sexuality and the way you look.
How we value and feel about ourselves affects every area of our lives: relationships, career, parenting, and our own self-care and health. It’s powerful because it’s often unconscious and unexamined. In other words it has an influence even when you’re not aware that your self worth is playing a part.
Self worth comes across in our body language, the way we communicate, the way we carry ourselves. It plays a part in all the choices we make, who we date or choose as a partner, the goals we set or the dreams we let go.
If we suspect our self worth could use a little work, what next? Increasing self worth begins when you take an interest in yourself, when you bring awareness to the story you tell yourself about yourself. Become curious about what it really means to love yourself.
Suzanne E. Harrill is a writer and licensed counselor who has created a self esteem quiz. It’s not meant to be a precise test, think of it as a great starting point to identify areas you can strengthen. You can even use the questions as affirmations to build the muscle of self worth.
Whether you take the time to check it out or not…either way your self worth has a huge effect on your life. For some it may take a leap of faith, awkwardly saying affirmations, that at first, aren’t even believed. If you fall into this category, push through, go through the motions until you do believe in yourself. Please have the courage to be imperfect and love yourself anyway. You deserve it.
We all talk to our selves in our heads. But have you ever taken the time to notice how you talk to yourself? In the field of psychology, they know that healthy, optimistic, happy people have internal self-talk that is supportive and encouraging. Whatever the state of your innermost conversation, more often than not this inner discourse was developed at a young age and has a lot to do with your childhood experiences.
So how’s the chatter in your head? Are you as kind to yourself as you are to other people? As you observe your internal voice, are you surprised by what you find? What tone or flavor does the voice take? Is it nurturing, kind, mellow, snarky, silly, or intense? Does it motivate you through goal setting and cheerleading or through threats? Do you notice that the voice changes based on your environment or whom you’re around? Does it come across different when you’re stressed? Do you tell yourself jokes and make yourself laugh? Or does your inner voice bring you down?
Many years ago, I heard about the concept of internal dialogue. As I began to pay attention, I must admit I was shocked by what I found. There were times when I was being downright beastly to myself. I worked to change this and over the years I have used my internal voice as a kind of barometer. If I begin to get negative with myself (or judgmental about other people for that matter), I see it as sign to stop what I am doing and notice what’s going on. Am I stressed or in fear? Do I need to make an adjustment to my self-care? What needs to change?
If you find that you don’t like aspects of how you talk to yourself, not to worry. The coolest thing about how our brains work and how we think, is that if we choose to, we can change it.
The first step is becoming aware of this inner voice. The next step is to replace the unsatisfying self-talk with something more productive. You cannot just stop thinking…you have to insert an alternative. One idea is to create a simple affirmation that you say every time you notice your inner voice going off course or being less than encouraging. Something like: “I love and accept myself for who I am,” or “Even though I have a problem, I am okay.” This affirmation can be anything that you find comforting or encouraging. For some it may have a spiritual angle. You know you’ve chosen the right affirmation when you notice it helps you breathe more deeply.
Some people think of this voice as the part of them that is coaching them along. When you are tired, that voice should be saying, “Time to rest. Why don’t you take a hot bath? You got a lot done today.“ What it shouldn’t be doing is running you ragged, urging you to do more and more. If you are someone who has procrastinated and let things pile up around you, the ideal internal voice will encourage you with goals and rewards: “Tell you what, you get that one pile done and then it’s time for a break.” What it shouldn’t be doing is beating you up or berating you. One reason top athletes, CEOs, and many others, pay coaches to help them reach their goals, is because having someone on your side works. Are you on your side?
If you are skeptical about how this could affect your life, or even if you’re not, I encourage you to do an experiment. For the next month, choose a positive affirmation, and say it in the morning, whenever negative self-talk arises or whenever you could use some encouragement, and as you go to sleep at night. Make a commitment to do this everyday for one month. Then see what happens; notice what changes.
Some of you may already have mastered the art of internal self-coaching, if you have any thoughts or suggestions, please share with us. I invite anyone to leave questions or comments as well.