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Self-esteem vs Self-worth

Kerry Thompson
The subject of self-worth really resonates with me, particularly as I’m someone who has suffered at the hands of low self-esteem. If you were to meet me in person, you would likely not believe that I suffer from low self-esteem.

“Self-esteem is a bit like walking down the street as if you owned it. Self-worth is walking down the street and not caring who owns it.” 

John Niland

This fantastic quotation, by the equally fantastic John Niland (Author, Speaker and Business Coach), sums up perfectly the difference between self-esteem and self-worth. In this post, I want to explore more about self-worth, and share some helpful hints and tips...

The subject of self-worth really resonates with me, particularly as I’m someone who has suffered at the hands of low self-esteem. If you were to meet me in person, you would likely not believe that I suffer from low self-esteem. I am genuinely confident, happy, positive and upbeat.

I’ve spoken many times about my business being called “Akeno” because it means “bright and shining” in Japanese, which is a reflection of me and my business, and that is certainly accurate. What you see when you meet me isn’t an act; I am all of those things, however, I can also be crippled by low self-esteem. For example, I do a great job of avoiding the camera, specifically because I hate myself in pictures so much! I therefore make sure I always offer to be designated photographer whenever friends, family or colleagues suggest a group photo!

So, how do you overcome low self-esteem in order to succeed? Self-worth.

Self-worth is a deep and genuine belief in your inherent value as a person; both in your personal life and your business life. If we have an unconditional sense of our own value, we don’t spend our time trying to prove ourselves; we more easily focus on the task in hand. 

Self-esteem on the other hand, is the reputation that we have with ourselves, even when no-one is watching. John Niland talks about the need for self-esteem starting early in life. It’s aiming for the highest marks, weight loss, awards, romance, appearance, cars, houses, the best career, affirmations from people around us… As soon as we slip on any of these slightly, we’re hit by a feeling of low self-esteem.

So, how do we improve our self-worth? How do we walk down the street with confidence, but not care who owns it?

I read an article by the Author Stephanie Jade Wong about correcting misunderstandings and misperceptions about self-worth. She listed all the factors that go into self-worth, and outlined what should not determine your inherent value and self-worth. It’s a fantastic summary and a useful set of hints and tips on how to improve our own self-worth…

  • Your to-do list: Achieving goals is great and it feels wonderful to cross things off your to-do list, but it doesn’t have a direct relationship with your worth as a human. It’s OK to park some items for another day.
  • Your job: It doesn’t matter what you do. What matters is that you do it well and that it fulfils you.
  • Your social media following: It also doesn’t matter how many people think you are worthy of a follow or a retweet. It can be enlightening and healthy to consider the perspectives of others, but their opinions have no impact on our innate value.
  • Your age: You aren’t too young or too old for anything. Your age is simply a number and does not factor into your value as a human being.
  • Other people: As noted above, it doesn’t matter what other people think or what other people have done or accomplished. Your personal satisfaction and fulfilment are much more important than what others are thinking, saying, or doing.
  • How far you can run: Your mile run time is one of the least important factors for your self-worth (or for anything else, for that matter). If you enjoy running and feel fulfilled by improving your time, good for you! If not, good for you! Your ability to run does not determine your self-worth.
  • Your grades: We all have different strengths weaknesses, and some of us are simply not cut out for some subjects. This has no bearing on our value as people, and a straight-A student is just as valuable and worthy as every other student.
  • The number of friends you have: Your value as a human has absolutely nothing to do with how many friends or connections you have. The quality of your relationships is what’s really important.
  • Your relationship status: Whether flying solo, casually dating, or in a committed relationship, your value is exactly the same—your relationship status doesn’t alter your worth.
  • The money (or lack thereof) in the bank: If you have enough money to physically survive, then you have already achieved the maximal amount of “worth” you can get from money.
  • Your likes: It doesn’t matter if you have “good taste” or not, if your friends and acquaintances think you’re sophisticated, or if you have an eye for the finer things. Your worth is the same either way.
  • Anything or anyone but yourself: Here we get to the heart of the matter—you are the only one who determines your self-worth. If you believe you are worthy and valuable, you are worthy and valuable. Even if you don’t believe you are worthy and valuable, guess what—you still are worthy and valuable!

Take some time to read through the summary above, and assess your own self-worth. Listen carefully, though, self-worth can often talk to you in a quiet whisper, whereas self-esteem shouts loudly. You often have to dig deep and listen carefully to find your inherent value. But when you do, the voice will become stronger and stronger, trust me. 

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