Thoughts about Self-Worth

Yesterday I had an interesting conversation about a question that I feel a lot of teachers/professors must also face in the classroom:  How do you instill a sense of worth in another human being?

Someone in my life is trying to get his 19 year old daughter to finally start working but since she has never adequately/maturely understood the value of money before this point, he’s having a difficult time convincing her to work.  My mom suggested that he sit her down and ask her about her dreams and goals in the next few years noting that if she doesn’t seem to have any goals then there’s a much larger problem than simply an immature vision of money. 

My mom felt that having a job would instill a sense of worth into the girl, but sometimes I think it goes beyond that.  It goes back to the difference between cognitively knowing something and believing it.  I remember when I first started working full time I KNEW that I had a good job which must have meant that somewhere along the line I was a good worker who provided some sort of value to the organization; however, for a while I didn’t BELIEVE it.  I felt like really wonderful things kept happening to me by chance – that I didn’t deserve compliments or promotions.  I even remember that every time someone would say something nice about me growing up I felt like I had to work harder and harder because I didn’t feel worthy of their kindness.  It’s a great way to burn your candle at both ends really quickly until you have nothing left to offer.  That’s the funny thing about chasing after the idea of perfection – the more you chase after it, the faster it slips away.

 It was a strange mindset I had developed and to this day, I’m not quite sure why or how I developed that kind of unhealthy relationship with myself.  I didn’t even become aware of my self-deprecating mindset until about three years ago and I didn’t start to overcome that mindset until about nine months ago!  But I thought about how lazy, unmotivated, and emotionally immature all of that negative thinking had made me and it reminded me of the 19 year old girl in this story.  I don’t think anyone in their “right mind” wants to be lazy, unmotivated, and jobless.  It’s when you don’t believe in your own self-worth that you literally start to act like you don’t have any self-worth.  This girl has had an extremely difficult life – much more difficult than my own.  If I had such a hard time growing up and believing in my own self worth, I can imagine that her thoughts about herself might be even worse. 

I suggested that her father find a self-esteem coach or a therapist who can get her to become aware of her own thoughts about herself.  I think if she believes in her own self worth she’ll want to have a job, she’ll MOST definitely have dreams, and maybe she might even want to go back to school!  I think at the very least, belief in oneself sparks the motivation to have dreams and having dreams gives you something to strive for – something to work for…. Something outside of yourself. 

And then I thought about all of the students, who maybe like me and this girl, don’t believe in themselves for one reason or another.  Sometimes school is even the culprit that causes this vision of low self-worth – dividing people into tracks based off of their “academic intelligence”.  I’m not sure what the answer is, because I don’t think anyone can bestow the gift of self-worth onto another human being.  We can work to help someone understand that they deserve to believe in their own worth, but I’m not so sure if we can make someone BELIEVE it.  I feel like it’s a process that involves a lot of work and effort from the individual and I don’t know how to teach that work to someone.

It’s something I would like to continue to think about throughout my life.  How do we instill a sense of worth in our fellow human beings????????

I was trying to find an Albert Einstein quote to end this blog in which he says something along the lines of, “Life begins when  you get outside of yourself.”  Instead I came across a short article that I found to be really interesting and in line with the notion of changing your habits of mind (such as believing that you are worthless) in order to become a different person and to change your life.  Please don’t disregard the message because of the overly bombarded with adds website… I promise it’s a good read:  What was Albert Einstein Thinking by Vickie Milazzo. 

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2 Responses to Thoughts about Self-Worth

  1. Tuttle, Adam says:

    Thanks for the thoughts, Erin. This inspired me to reach out to someone I know whose goals I’m not sure of (I asked what they are), and hopefully I can help him realize his potential. :)

  2. Erin Murphy says:

    Good luck Adam!! If I find anything that works for the girl in the story I’ll be sure to pass it along. Come to think of it, it’s probably cool for all of us to know each others goals… maybe that can be the next whiteboard question hahahah!


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