THE BLOG

What Is Your Self Worth?

02/12/2015 01:14 pm ET | Updated Apr 14, 2015

How do you value your self? Do you sometimes consider your resume or education to get an idea of how an employer would value you and use that standard? Are there ways your unconscious beliefs might be dictating your value and self worth that you are not aware of? Are there emotional responses or thoughts of feeling unworthy, less than, or not good enough in some way that bother you? Perhaps some stories are running around in the background of your belief system with their own labels and numbers. If some of these exist, consider that these narratives and labels are changeable if you want them to be. There is no need letting an old story dictate your emotions.

By the time we are adults, much of our self worth has been unconsciously decided. Starting in childhood we have learned to believe things about our self and our value that is held in agreement in our mind through adulthood. What is important to understand is that even if it has been there for a long time, you can change your self worth. Once you understand how your self worth is determined your beliefs about yourself, then it is a matter of identifying these beliefs and changing them. The tricky part is that a lot of these beliefs are hidden in our sub-conscious and may take some investigation. We might at times hear the thoughts or notice the emotions of not measuring up, or comparing our self to others. These thoughts and emotions are at our conscious level of awareness but usually arise from beliefs that are below our conscious awareness.

There can be a lot of emotional attachment to the thoughts we think and how we describe our self. One way we can become aware of these beliefs of self worth, and thereby begin the change process, is by making a list of the way we label our selves. Take some time to write down the narrative thoughts that go through your head about your self. On a scale of 1 to 10, how do those thoughts rate you? What do you imagine other people think of you? And then consider that those thoughts are coming from your imagination as well.

Julie, a client, was recently surprised to discover beliefs about her self worth this way. After becoming pregnant, her and her husband thought it was time to move from an apartment and buy a house. At the finance office they are told that they would do better with a loan if Julie was not on the mortgage. In spite of a good credit score she did not have much credit history. Julie felt offended, hurt, and angry at being devalued this way. She also thought it was ridiculous because she considered herself to be very financially responsible. She only recently left her job as an engineer, but had worked for years making good money. She had always paid cash for things instead of financing them, including her car. To Julie, people like her should be the kind of financially responsible person banks would want to lend to. However, her attempts to prop herself up with these stories didn't make the finance person budge, nor did it make her emotions of unworthiness she felt change.

When Julie filled out the loan application, she recalled how weird and unsettling it was to put down "housewife," a new and uncomfortable label. I asked her on a 1 to 10 scale how she valued herself based on being a housewife. "It's about a 2," she replied. We went through several labels and titles that could be used to describe her and she put a number representing a value to each.

Engineer: 8 or 9

Wife: 3 or 4

Breadwinner: 9

Yoga Instructor: 5

Expectant Mother: 6

Daughter: 4

It was revealing to see that she had a different value for herself depending on which label or title she used, and yet all of them applied all the time. Who she is didn't change and yet her perceived value, and emotion, changed from one moment to the next, depending on which label she identified with in that moment. It seemed that changing her value was as easy as changing the label she identified with.

What was more interesting was that when the loan company implied to her that she had no value, she took on that label as well. It hurt, and it conflicted with the other higher value stories about herself, but she still adopted it, if only for 24 hours. It was some else's measurement, but she still felt it heavily hanging around her. How is it that what a credit agency we've never met says about our worth can so quickly become the feeling of our worth? It is because our mind is incredibly flexible. It can dream up any sort of dream about our self, or others, and present it to our imagination as if it were real. The good news is that if our mind is so flexible, then what we believe about our self worth is changeable.

It doesn't make sense that we would value ourselves the way a credit agency would. Yet without awareness, we might fall for the illusion our powerful imagination can concoct. The imagination can jump from high to low self worth unless we are aware and manage our mind in these moments. If we agree to it in our imagination we get the emotional punch in the gut. If we are aware and don't agree to this proposal in the mind, then we don't get the emotional punch.

Personally, I don't want to be valued by a credit agency or an employer. Can you imagine being at your own funeral, where family and friends are gathered and they talk about how they valued you? "Here lies Gary. He lived a good life. He paid his bills on time and achieved a credit score of 790 and for that we respect and appreciate him." And then they read from my resume? No thanks. That's just some stuff I did. That's not what I am. I've taken time in my adult years to consciously choose what is important to me in terms of values. They are quite a bit different than the standards of winning and good grades that I unconsciously adopted as a kid. My emphasis these days is on kindness, respect, being happy, and supporting others in being happy. How well I am doing in these intangible categories isn't as easy to measure as a credit score and varies from day to day. That's okay because I know over time my work and investments in these practices pay off in my happiness and fulfillment, even if they don't show up on a resume.

How do you value your self, and do you want to change it? If the answer is yes, then it is up to you to go and do something about it. No one else can change your self worth because no one else's opinion of you will have as much impact on you as your own beliefs.

Gary's book MindWorks is available at Amazon and other sources.