Ever wondered what the difference between Self Worth, Self Esteem and Self Acceptance is?
And have you ever wondered how you could go about improving on either and all?
If you have, you’re in the right place! These three value sets, or ways to consider your own self, have some commonalities, and many differences. All three are important for a balanced relationship with ourselves, and they are one of the most popular topics I discuss with my clients.
So, let’s get right into it.
Self Worth is the intrinsic sense of value you place on yourself. It’s the knowledge that you have importance, by sheer virtue of existing. It’s the knowledge that you are deserving of love, patience, understanding, health, relationships, money, and peace, just because you’re alive.
Self worth is a value that’s detached from external factors, like money, race, appearance or job title.
It’s fueled by you living life to you own beat, and to your own truth. It’s increased by you being unapologetically yourself, standing up for the causes that interest you despite other people’s opinions, and having good morals.
What good self worth looks like
Fiona is 30, and lives in a small flat in Southampton. She is part of a chess club, likes reading crime novels and going out with her girlfriends. She considers herself quite sociable, and loves chatting to new people, especially good looking single men. Her colleagues think she’s a nice, hardworking woman, and they sometimes spend their lunch break with her.
However, Fiona is a pretty poor chess player, a somewhat slow reader who never quite figures out who the bad guy is, and finds that men often don’t call her back. At work, she has recently been passed up for a promotion.
Fiona has a very realistic view of her abilities and her qualities, and despite knowing that she is likely never going to win a chess championship or marry George Clooney, she has a great sense of self-worth. Although she’s not the smartest person in the room, she still likes and values herself.
We often think of self esteem as the value you place upon yourself based on external factors, such as appearance, wealth, job title or social standing – but also genetics, health, age, life circumstances and personality. It is also affected by the opinion of others.
Self esteem is somewhat more malleable than self worth, as it’s rooted in more moving parts. This is both good and bad news; the good part comes from its changeability: if you don’t have good self-esteem, you can work on factors that can help you increase it. If your self esteem is improved by your job title, you can work harder to achieve a promotion. If your self esteem comes from your appearance, there are lots of ways to modify the way you look, and reach the goal you’re after.
Yet, because self esteem is so easy to influence and develop, we could argue that someone trying to have better self esteem will do whatever it takes to reach it. For example, if your self esteem is indeed increased by your job title, working longer and harder than others might make you achieve that; and the same can be said about physical appearance, or any other external factor. If you take value by being considered beautiful, what won’t you do to feel better?
This isn’t to say having good self esteem is a bad thing; it’s not. But be careful what you feed in order to improve it.
Self Acceptance is the concept of accepting yourself exactly as you are, with or without good self esteem or self worth.
Much like self worth, self acceptance not contingent on any external or internal factors, and it is predicated on the understanding that we are not our actions (good or bad) or our attributes (good or bad). And if you’re wondering if unconditional self acceptance is hard, you are not alone!
It’s easy accepting yourself on good days, when the sun is shining and the birds are chirping; it’s not so easy to extend the same courtesy to yourself on bad days. By the same token, it’s also important to note you don’t need to accept or forgive the traits of yourself you are not so fond of to achieve self acceptance.
Self acceptance is precisely that – the ability to coexist with yourself, exactly as you are.
Improve how you feel about yourself
You want to fall more in love with who you are; but how do you start?
I pondered the same question long and hard as well, so sit tight as I divulge my findings:)
Working on your Self Worth is a great starting point – and that’s because self worth has less to do with YOU specifically, and more to do with the fact that you’re a living, breathing creature. It’s a given of living things that they have worth, which is why it has a low entry barrier. However, it doesn’t mean it’s easy to have. I have created an in-depth work book to help you discover and improve your self worth, but here are some quick thinking points to help you get started today.
Start by finding out who you are
OK, so you know your name, your favourite ABBA song and pizza topping (nobody say pineapple, please), but who are you when you are by yourself? Who are you when you have no external factors to measure yourself against?
Take pen and paper (we all know I love a good pen and paper exercise) and let’s get answering:
- Describe yourself in 10 words, utilising adjectives only. So, only qualities like ‘brave, compassionate or diligent’ – not with nouns that describe your relationships (mother, brother, best friend), job title (nurse, marketing specialist), achievements (winner of XYZ, best employee) etc.
2. Ask yourself:
- What would I do if I suddenly woke up one day, and was no longer an employee, a sister, the best in my course?
- How would that make me feel?
- What would I have of value, if I no longer were those things?
3. Go in depth:
- Who am I? Who am I not?
- When do my qualities shine? When do my flaws come to surface?
- How do others see me?
- What is my place in the world?
- What key attributes, lessons or life moments have shaped who I am today?
- When was the last time I struggled, and what with?
- What do I dislike about my life? And my personality?
- Which five negative adjectives would I use to describe my personality?
Focus on Self Acceptance
Reading the above parts, especially the ones you are not so fond of, take a moment to take stock of your whole being. What you bring to the table, and what you are lacking. What you like, and what you don’t.
Allow yourself some words of kindness and forgiveness. If you find it hard to forgive your current self, forgive your baby self, or teenage self. If you find it hard to forgive everything you’re not a big fan of, try two or three things. I also love these empowering affirmations for self acceptance:
- I am who I am and how I am, and I’m OK with that.
- I’m at peace with the parts of myself I like, and also those I don’t like.
- I accept the good, the bad and the weird about myself.
Throw yourself a love party!
Accepting yourself as you are is a great step – and once you’ve done that, step it up and throw yourself a love, recognition, kindness and compassion party! That’s right, this is your time to celebrate you.
If you find it hard to thank yourself or recognise your qualities and values, I have a good trick for you. Try it in third person: instead of thinking of yourself as ‘me’ or ‘I’, think of your name; or think of how would treat a good friend. For example, if saying ‘I am a worthy, kind and hilarious person’ feels hard, try with ‘John (your name) is a worthy, kind and hilarious person’
Now, look at your Self Worth
After you have gone in-depth with your self-discovery, learned to accept yourself as a whole, and celebrated yourself, it’s time to recognise and appreciate your self-worth.
Some things to remember when thinking of your Self Worth:
- You belong to yourself, and have to please no one but yourself.
- You are a work in progress, and you can change at any time
- Just by starting this process of discovery and acceptance, you have taken your life into your own hands
- You are worthy of anything and everything, by simple virtue of being a human being.
Your self worth, self esteem and self acceptance are a lifelong quest. There will be times you feel more or less of them, but you can always, always strive for the life and self-love you deserve.