In what domains do you try to earn your self-worth?
Let’s talk about self-worth today. When you have a healthy sense of self-worth, you believe you are good enough and are worthy of love, belonging and acceptance from others. However, many people struggle with self-worth and assume their worth is based on external factors. Some experts have referred to this as rigid contingencies of self-worth. This means that many people assume that their worth as a person is contingent upon their performance in a particular domain.
Research suggests a few broad categories or self-worth domains. We all prioritize certain domains over others. I will describe each below and provide examples.
Before we get started, if you haven't yet, grab my free guide on how to improve anxiety and self-doubt by identifying any negative core beliefs you hold about yourself.
(1) OCCUPATIONAL STATUS OR COMPETENCE
If someone believes that their worth as a person is contingent upon how they perform in their professional role, then they might live by this assumption:
“IF I make an important contribution at work or school, THEN I am worthy.”
And then they might DO certain things in order to increase their occupational competence (or improve status) and, thus, make themselves more worthy:
Excessive checking of work
Poor boundaries/people-pleasing at work
Difficulty with criticism
Procrastinate or avoid tasks
(2) APPROVAL OF OTHERS
If someone believes that their worth as a person is contingent upon the approval of others, then they might live by this assumption:
“IF others approve of me, THEN I am worthy.”
And then they might DO certain things in order to seek the approval of others to make themselves more worthy:
Put in tons of effort to please others
Seek reassurance from others
Worry a lot about what others think
Have difficulty with being assertive
(3) SOCIAL COMPARISON
If someone believes that their worth as a person is contingent upon how they perform in terms of social comparison, then they might live by this assumption:
“IF I am ‘better’ than others, THEN I am worthy.”
And then they might DO certain things in order to compare more favorably to others and make themselves more worthy.
Be competitive with others or try to outdo or “one up” others
Constantly compare themselves to others to see how they measure up
Avoid people or situations if they doubt their ability to compare favorably
(4) LOVE OF A SIGNIFICANT OTHER
If someone believes that their worth as a person is contingent upon having the love of a significant other, then they might live by this assumption:
“IF I am loved by a significant other, THEN I am worthy.”
And then they might DO certain things in order to find/keep that significant other and make themselves more worthy.
Tolerate unacceptable or unhealthy behavior in dating relationships
Have poor boundaries
Jealous and controlling
(5) INTEREST & LIKABILITY
If someone believes that their worth as a person is contingent upon being liked by others, then they might live by this assumption:
“IF someone finds me interesting and/or likable, THEN I am worthy.”
And then they might DO certain things in order to be seen as interesting or likable:
Avoid social situations or conversations if they think they won’t be liked
Overextend oneself to be liked or found interesting (e.g. overcompensate, overly agreeable, attention-seeking behavior, people-pleasing)
Remain quiet or in the background
So, how is this all working out for you?
Do any of these resonate with you? Which ones? If you have rigid contingencies of self-worth in any of these domains, then you likely assume that if you perform poorly, you are not worthy. Living this way can make your self-esteem feel like a rollercoaster, always dependent upon external factors. It is exhausting.
Let’s kick this mentality to the curb.
Learn to prioritize experience and learning over performance in each of these domains. We are constantly learning, growing and changing. Life is a series of experiences. Enjoy it. Learn from it. Embrace these processes and try to stop viewing everything in terms of performance outcome (e.g. “I did well.” or “I did terribly.”).
Most importantly, you need to learn to see yourself more accurately. You are valuable, worthy, lovable, capable. The more you can see this, the less you will rely on external validation to feel worthy. Embrace your unique personality traits, strengths, gifts, talents and skills. And let go of the faulty assumption that you need to earn your worth.
If you want to take the first step toward improving anxiety and self-doubt, grab my free guide!