What is self worth can be understood by understanding ‘self’. The dictionary meaning of ‘self‘ is ‘one’s essential being that distinguishes them from others ‘. In psychology today, Personality psychologists believe that all humans have a core self which remains quite the same throughout our lives. ‘Self‘ develops in the initial five years according to the psychoanalysis school of thought. On the other hand, the humanist school of thought believes the self to be ever-evolving, even if it develops largely in the initial years.
To better understand what is self, we need to differentiate between ‘self-efficacy’, ‘self-esteem’, and ‘self-worth‘. All these terms may seem alike but have different meanings. These might be used interchangeably in some contexts but some finer things differentiate them. Let us understand them first.
1. Self Efficacy
‘Self-efficacy‘ refers to the person’s belief in their capacities to perform a certain task. It refers to the confidence in one’s abilities for a task.
For example, a person who believes that they can attain good marks despite continuous failures will have high self-efficacy due to their confidence in their abilities to score good marks.
2. Self Esteem
‘Self-esteem‘ refers to a person’s opinion of themselves as a whole based on external things. Self-esteem refers to a person’s beliefs about their abilities and limitations. It is an overall belief about one’s self-worth.
For Example, a person saying ‘I am good at academic performance’ will have high self-esteem when it comes to academics.
3. Self Worth
‘Self-worth‘ refers to a person’s internal belief system about their worth. What is self worth is what a person thinks about themselves.
For example, a person who believes that he is a good person will further believe that a good thing will happen to him. No matter what happens, the person’s self-worth will not be affected as it is a relatively stable concept. To understand better, look at the section below.
4. Self Worth Defined
‘What is Self-worth‘ can be defined as a person’s thinking about themselves, the way I think about myself will govern my self-worthiness. It depends on an individual’s belief in themselves and not on any external factors. Self-worth relies on internal sources and not on External validation.
Self-worth is a relatively stable measure and does not change with small external circumstances. It refers to a healthy sense of self-acceptance, whereby an individual learns to accept themselves as they are.
Healthy self-worth means that the person accepts their limitations and focuses on their strengths. Once a person understands their worth as a person, then they refrain from self-doubt. They do not let their physical appearance, past mistakes, or job title affect their self-esteem and self-worth.
Self-worth is a broader term to include self-esteem, thus focusing on your core belief and the value you attach to yourself. Self-worth is the self-acceptance of the inner critic. It is appreciating yourself in all types of situations.
5. Examples of Self Esteem and Self Worth
Let us look at some examples to understand what is self worth and self-esteem.
A student, Chris, is good at arts and crafts. He has participated in many competitions and won. He is also good at other co-curricular activities. Chris has represented his school in zonal competitions. He also did well in music competitions. Now, he wants to try his abilities in sports activities as well.
He enrolls in a sports camp in the school and works hard. He reaches the field on time, is active in all the activities, and shows complete dedication to whatever he does.
But despite his efforts to perform better, he is unable to succeed. Now, if Chris has high self-worth, his performance in sports will not affect his self-worth. He knows that even if he does not perform well at sports, it will not impact his sense of self-worth. He can do better in many other areas and sports alone cannot impact his worth negatively. Whereas, if Chris has set his expectations from sports, it will have an impact on his self-esteem. DO NOT CONFUSE SELF-ESTEEM WITH SELF-WORTH.
Another example is Evans, a tenth-grade student who excels in academics. He performs all the cognitively demanding tasks effectively. All the teachers appreciate him. He stood first in all the internal examinations. He has also participated in Olympiads and scored well. He has won some merit scholarships too.
It is time for his final exams for which he has worked hard. On the result day, he sees that the results do not correspond to the efforts he had put in. Though he will feel irritated, frustrated, and even angry, if he has high self-worth then it will not affect his true self-worth. On the other hand, if he has low self-worth, then it will lead to more stress. If he has to build self-worth on academic performance, then he will have low self-esteem as well.
6. Why is Self Worth Important?
A sense of high self-worth is important as it guides one’s final thoughts of themselves. It makes one view oneself in a positive light and determines the kind of goals one sets for themselves.
A person with a strong sense of self will set mastery-oriented goals. It means that the person focuses on achieving and mastering the task at hand but if he/she fails to do so then, they won’t feel bad. Their sense of self-worth makes them value who they are.
A person with low self-worth will set performance-oriented goals. They are afraid of how they will look if they fail and thus they set reasonable goals which do not challenge their capacities.
Low self-worth means that the person focuses more on the negative aspects, shortcomings, and mistakes. They feel that they are not worthy of praise and thus ignore the positive qualities that they might possess.
High self-worth, is thus important to avoid feeling guilty and appreciate the feelings of happiness. The importance of a positive self is that it makes one accept their unique qualities and attach value to them.
7. Self Worth Theory
The Self-worth theory is largely based on the achievement motivation theory. In social psychology, McClelland’s work is central to achievement motivation.
McClelland’s theory describes three major sources of motivation, i.e., need for achievement, affiliation, and power. According to him, these motivating factors develop from our cultures and life experiences and are not inborn.
From this theory, arises the Self-worth theory of motivation. It is a theory that describes a person’s intention to protect their self-worth as a motivating factor for avoiding failure and moving towards success.
The basic assumption of the self-worth theory is that humans search for self-acceptance. Once you accept yourself as you are, self-worth will follow.
In today’s world, there is a tendency to measure the self-worth of a person through their achievements. According to Covington, a person’s sense of self is governed by their accomplishments. He believes that self-worth is not dependent on a single factor but rather is the sum of multiple factors taken together.
People engage in behaviors that protect their self-esteem by setting goals that lead to self-acceptance. They set performance-oriented goals to save face and thus their self-esteem. This has a positive impact on their self-worth, which should not be the case.
8. Self Worth Scale
It is not so difficult to measure what is self-worth in this era of empirical research. In today’s world, we can quantify anything and develop standardized tools to measure abstract things. What is self worth can be measured using well-developed scales.
You can measure what is self-worth sitting at home by using the Contingencies of Self Worth Scale. It is a scale containing thirty-five (35) items corresponding to seven different domains. The different domains are Family support, Appearance, Competition, God’s love, Academic competence, Virtue, and Other’s Approval.
This scale was developed by Crocker, Luhtanen, Cooper, and Bouvrette in 2003. The scale is a Seven (7) point Likert scale ranging from strongly disagree to strongly agree. To access the full 35-point item scale and calculate your self-worth, visit the following link.
Let us understand each with an example. Here, one or two statements are presented.
8.1) Family Support
One of the statements corresponding to the support from family, from the 35-point scale is, ‘Knowing that my family members love me makes me feel good about myself.’
Another statement is ‘My self-worth is not influenced by the quality of my relationships with my family members.’
One of the statements corresponding to the appearance from the 35-point scale is, ‘When I think I look attractive‚ I feel good about myself.’
One of the statements corresponding to the competition from the 35-point scale is, ‘My self-worth is affected by how well I do when I am competing with others.’
Another statement is ‘Doing better than others gives me a sense of self-respect.’
8.4) God’s Love
One of the statements corresponding to god’s love from the 35-point scale is, ‘My self-worth is based on God’s love.’
Another statement is ‘My self-esteem would suffer if I didn’t have God’s love.’
8.5) Academic Competence
One of the statements corresponding to Academic Competence from the 35-point scale is, ‘My opinion about myself isn’t tied to how well I do in school.’
Another statement is ‘Doing well in school gives me a sense of self-respect.’
One of the statements corresponding to the virtue from the 35-point scale is, ‘My self-esteem depends on whether or not I follow my moral/ethical principles.’
8.7) Other’s Approval
One of the statements corresponding to others’ approval from the 35-point scale is, ‘My self-esteem depends on the opinions others hold of me.’
9. What Determines Self Worth?
To define what is self worth as per the self-worth theory, we consider our achievements as central to our self-worth. But should that be the case? Is it necessary to achieve something to be called worthy? Should others’ opinions of me affect my beliefs about myself?
The question remains what exactly determine self-worth. Considering the self-worth theory, we can classify the factors affecting our self-worth in four categories, i.e., your contacts, appearance, occupation, and possession.
While we discuss these four categories, we should not forget the dangers of attaching our self-worth to external factors. These categories need not be applied universally to all human beings, but some people are found to develop a sense of self-worth based on these four categories.
Let us discuss these, one by one.
Some people feel their worth as a person is established by the contacts they keep. The people they sit with must be influential enough to boast about. This gives them a sense of self-worth. They attach their worthiness to the number of influential people they know and are close to.
People tend to attach their self-worth to their physical appearance. If others think they are good-looking, they will have a high sense of self whereas, if people think they are not good-looking then they will have low self-worth.
We need to keep in mind that our self-worth should not depend on others’ opinions of us. If we believe in ourselves, our appearance won’t be an issue.
People usually tie their self-worth with the kind of occupation they have undertaken. A person working in an MNC with a high salary will have higher self-worth than a peon working in the same MNC with a low salary.
Here, we forget that self-satisfaction should be the priority. If the peon working in the MNC is satisfied with what he does, then he should have a high sense of self-worth.
On the other hand, if the highly salaried person working in the MNC is not satisfied with his job, then he will have low self-worth.
People measure their self-worth according to the possessions they have. It will include money, properties, gold, etc. The higher the possession, the higher the self-worth.
We need to keep in mind that our possessions do not define us, it is our perception of those possessions that will determine our self-worth.
10. How to Develop Self-Worth?
High self-worth is not difficult to develop. What is Self-worth; it is a measure of your belief about yourself. So to develop self-worth, you have to focus on yourself. You have to move towards self-love and self-acceptance.
One can feel worthy when one is at peace with oneself. To maintain healthy levels of self, believing in yourself will always be the first step. Life is full of unpredictable circumstances and you cannot always shine in others’ eyes. But when you shine in your own eyes, you are good to go.
There are many ways to achieve a high sense of self-worth. You may follow these to boost your self-esteem as well as self-worth. Once you have understood what is self worth, you can build high self worth. Some of these are :
1. Positive Affirmations
To boost self-worth, one should focus on positive affirmations. One should start by telling oneself that ‘I am worthy’. Encourage yourself with hopeful statements like ‘I can do it’. This will improve self-understanding and reaffirm the positive self. This will improve what is self worth as you currently know of.
2. Don’t be too Harsh on Yourself
Avoid being too harsh on yourself. It is good to be self-critical but being too much critical will cause self-esteem issues. The critical inner voice should lead to improving your opinion of yourself and not self-doubt. Self doubt harms what is self worth at the current moment so be patient with yourself.
3. Develop a Hobby
What is self worth without a hobby. For improving self-worth, you can start by doing what you like. Focus your efforts on your hobbies. It will make you value your efforts and thus, you will feel good. This will help in developing a high sense of self-worth. Once you achieve something, you will feel good and thus worthy. This can be the first step towards self-love which will eventually lead to self-worth.
Do not forget to check out this article ‘How to invest in yourself: 20 best ways’.
4. Find Your Trigger Points
To work towards high self-esteem and self-worth, it is important to identify the things which stress you out. It can be someone’s demeaning words, negative opinions of family members, changing external things, etc.
Once you have identified the triggers in a particular situation, you can work towards minimizing these. The moment these triggers are minimized, self-love will follow. Your love for yourself will determine what is self worth.
5. Focus on Your Thoughts
To measure what is self-worth, look at your thought process. The way you think about yourself determines what is self-esteem and what is self-worth. This includes what you tell yourself in difficult situations and your interpretation of your thoughts.
Self-understanding will help you focus on the positive side of your thoughts and enable the reinterpretation of negative thoughts.
For example, if Lizzy thinks that she won’t be able to win the race, she might not. It is so because of her internal belief about her failure. But if she ignores the negativity and tells herself that she can win the race, then she might.
So, to determine self-worth, determine your thoughts first.
6. Be Forgiving
No one is perfect. No one is capable of doing things without mistakes. Show some self-compassion and self-care and be forgiving. It will boost what is self worth currently, thus leading to higher level of self worth.
There is no need to be self-critical beyond necessary. To ensure your well-being, ensure you forgive your mistakes. Only then will you find happiness.
7. Read Good Books
Reading good self-help books can aid in developing your self-worth. Reading about other people’s experiences will help guide you to channel your energies in the right direction. What is self worth will improve through better reading.
11. What is Self Worth Not Dependent on?
There are a lot of external things which people believe affect their self-esteem and self-worth. But we should not forget that what is self-worth. It is an internal measure of your belief about yourself. It does not need external validation.
Some of the things which do not determine what is self worth, but are believed to affect are as follows.
What is self worth is not your age. Some people think that as they age, their sense of self reduces. This is a misconception as age does not affect either your self-esteem or your self-worth.
Age should be independent of your feelings of worth. It should not measure self-worth as it does not affect your abilities and belief about them.
Job title is not what is self worth. The position you hold in a job should not impact your feeling of being worthy. You are more than your job title. You are you and not your job.
Human beings should not be limited to the job position they hold. They should value themselves for who they are irrespective of what they achieve. If you find your job satisfying, then you are good to go.
In this era, social media influence much of our thinking. It affects the way we think about ourselves and also makes us question our choices. But it is not the sole detriment of what is self worth.
What other people do should not affect your beliefs. A person should feel worthy in their own life by their achievements. The value you attach to others’ opinions should not reduce self-love. Learn to value yourself.
Your academic performance is not what is self worth. Every person cannot be good at academics, so it is not wise to determine self-worth based on your grades. Your self-esteem may get influenced by such external factors but you have to be cautious about it affecting your self-worth.
Academics is just one part of life, not the whole of it. Even if you do not perform well in school or college, you can do well in life. This belief that ‘I can do well in life’ guides you towards high self-esteem.
What is self worth is not limited to your relationship status. As a teenager or as an adult, one aspires to be in a loving relationship. It is largely based on trust, love, and loyalty. But seldom does young relationships continue. They tend to break for many reasons. These reasons could include cheating, another love interest, loss of trust, etc.
Being in a relationship, breaking up from it, or not being in one should not affect your ‘self’. Being in a relationship is not a competition that you have to win. Self-worth is not dependent on how the other person makes you feel. Even when in a relationship, you should not lose your true self, rather be your person.
Only you know your value, so do not let anyone take you for granted.
Some people will always have more money than you. Comparing yourself with others will lower your self-esteem, thus refrain from doing so. Financial status cannot determine what is self worth. The money you earn should satisfy you, not others. If you are satisfied with your financial status, and you have enough money to support yourself, then no need to have low self-esteem.
Remember self respect is important for self-worth. What is self worth can be determined by self love and self respect.