What is Self-Worth & How Do We Build it? (Incl. Worksheets)

What is Self-Worth and How Do We Increase it? Definition, Quotes + 4 WorksheetsChances are, you’ve heard of the many, many “self-” words.

There’s self-esteem, self-compassion, self-acceptance, self-respect, self-confidence, self-love, self-care, and so on.

There are so many words to describe how we feel about ourselves, how we think about ourselves, and how we act toward ourselves. It’s understandable if they all start to blend together for you; however, they are indeed different concepts with unique meanings, findings, and purposes.

Read on to learn more about what may be the most vital “self-” concept of them all: self-worth.

Before you read on, we thought you might like to download our 3 Self-Compassion Exercises for free. These detailed, science-based exercises will not only help you show more compassion and kindness to yourself but will also give you the tools to help your clients, students or employees improve their self-compassion and realize their worth.

What Is the Meaning of Self-Worth and Self-Value?

Self-worth and self-value are two related terms that are often used interchangeably. Having a sense of self-worth means that you value yourself, and having a sense of self-value means that you are worthy. The differences between the two are minimal enough that both terms can be used to describe the same general concept.

However, we’ll provide both definitions so you can see where they differ.

Self-worth is defined by Merriam-Webster as:

“a feeling that you are a good person who deserves to be treated with respect”.

On the other hand, self-value is “more behavioral than emotional, more about how you act toward what you value, including yourself, than how you feel about yourself compared to others” (Stosny, 2014).

Self-Worth versus Self-Esteem

Similarly, there is not a huge difference between self-worth and self-esteem, especially for those who are not professionals in the field of psychology. In fact, the first definition of self-worth on the Merriam-Webster dictionary website is simply “self-esteem.”

Similarly, the World Book Dictionary definition of self-esteem is “thinking well of oneself; self-respect,” while self-worth is defined as “a favorable estimate or opinion of oneself; self-esteem” (Bogee, Jr., 1998).

Clearly, many of these terms are used to talk about the same ideas, but for those deeply immersed in these concepts, there is a slight difference. Dr. Christina Hibbert explains this:

“Self-esteem is what we think and feel and believe about ourselves. Self-worth is recognizing ‘I am greater than all of those things.’ It is a deep knowing that I am of value, that I am loveable, necessary to this life, and of incomprehensible worth.” (2013).

Self-Worth versus Self-Confidence

In the same vein, there are subtle but significant differences between self-worth and self-confidence.

Self-confidence is not an overall evaluation of yourself, but a feeling of confidence and competence in more specific areas. For example, you could have a high amount of self-worth but low self-confidence when it comes to extreme sports, certain subjects in school, or your ability to speak a new language (Roberts, 2012).

It’s not necessary to have a high sense of self-confidence in every area of your life; there are naturally some things that you will simply not be very good at, and other areas in which you will excel. The important thing is to have self-confidence in the activities in your life that matter to you and a high sense of self-worth overall.

We explore this further in The Science of Self-Acceptance Masterclass©.

The Psychology of Self-Worth

In psychology, the concept of self-worth may be a less-popular research topic than self-esteem or self-confidence, but that doesn’t mean it’s less important. Self-worth is at the core of our very selves—our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are intimately tied into how we view our worthiness and value as human beings.

What Is the Self-Worth Theory?

The self-worth theory posits that an individual’s main priority in life is to find self-acceptance and that self-acceptance is often found through achievement (Covington & Beery, 1976). In turn, achievement is often found through competition with others.

Thus, the logical conclusion is that competing with others can help us feel like we have impressive achievements under our belt, which then makes us feel proud of ourselves and enhances our acceptance of ourselves.

The theory holds that there are four main elements of the self-worth model:

  1. Ability;
  2. Effort;
  3. Performance;
  4. Self-worth.

The first three interact with each other to determine one’s level of self-worth. One’s ability and effort predictably have a big impact on performance, and all three contribute to one’s feeling of worth and value.

While this theory represents a good understanding of self-worth as we tend to experience it, it is unfortunate that we place so much emphasis on our achievements. Aside from competing and “winning” against others, there are many factors that can contribute to our sense of self-worth.

What Determines Self-Worth?

Having a healthy Self-WorthAccording to the self-worth theory, self-worth is determined mostly by our self-evaluated abilities and our performance in one or more activities that we deem valuable.

However, people commonly use other yardsticks to measure their self-worth. Here are five of the top factors that people use to measure and compare their own self-worth to the worth of others:

  1. Appearance—whether measured by the number on the scale, the size of clothing worn, or the kind of attention received by others;
  2. Net worth—this can mean income, material possessions, financial assets, or all of the above;
  3. Who you know/your social circle—some people judge their own value and the value of others by their status and what important and influential people they know;
  4. What you do/your career—we often judge others by what they do; for example, a stockbroker is often considered more successful and valuable than a janitor or a teacher;
  5. What you achieve—as noted earlier, we frequently use achievements to determine someone’s worth (whether it’s our own worth or someone else’s), such as success in business, scores on the SATs, or placement in a marathon or other athletic challenge (Morin, 2017).

Author Stephanie Jade Wong (n.d.) is on a mission to correct misunderstandings and misperceptions about self-worth. Instead of listing all the factors that go into self-worth, she outlines what does not determine your self-worth (or, what should not determine your self-worth):

  • Your to-do list: Achieving goals is great and it feels wonderful to cross off things on your to-do list, but it doesn’t have a direct relationship with your worth as a human;
  • Your job: It doesn’t matter what you do. What matters is that you do it well and that it fulfills 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 fulfillment 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 and weaknesses, and some of us are simply not cut out for class. This has no bearing on our value as people, and a straight-A student is just as valuable and worthy as a straight-F student or a dropout;
  • 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 (which can, in fact, be $0), then you have already achieved the maximal amount of “worth” you can get from money (hint: it’s 0!);
  • 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!

3 Examples of Healthy Self-Worth

You might be thinking, “Okay, I know what does and doesn’t (and shouldn’t) determine self-worth, but what does healthy self-worth really look like?”

Given what we know about the determinants of self-worth, let’s read through a few examples.

Bill is not a great student. He gets mostly Bs and Cs, even when he spends a great deal of time studying. He didn’t get a great score on his SATs, and he’s an average reader, a struggling writer, and nobody’s idea of a mathematician.

Even though Bill wishes he had better grades, he still feels pretty good about himself. He knows that grades aren’t everything and that he’s just as valuable a person as his straight-A friends. Bill has a high sense of self-worth and a realistic view of himself and his abilities.

Next, let’s consider Amy. Amy has a wide variety of interests, including marathons, attending book club, playing weekly trivia with her friends, and meeting new people.

Amy’s not particularly good at running and has never placed in a marathon. She’s a slow reader and frequently misses the symbolism and themes that her fellow book club members pick up on. She only answers about 10% of the trivia questions correctly and leans on her friends’ knowledge quite often. Finally, she loves to talk to new people but sometimes she gets blown off and ignored.

Despite all of this, she still believes that she is worthy and valuable. She knows that her worth as a human is not dependent on her ability to run, read, play trivia, or make new friends. Whether she is great, terrible, or somewhere in between at each of her vast range of chosen activities, she knows she is still worthy of happiness, fulfillment, and love.

Finally, consider the case of Marcus. Marcus is an excellent salesman and frequently outsells most of the other people at his company, but one coworker seems to always be just a bit ahead of him. He is also an avid squash player and frequently competes in tournaments. Sometimes he gets first or second place, but usually he does not place at all.

Even though he is not the best at his job or at his favorite hobby, Marcus still feels that he is valuable. He thinks he is smart, talented, and successful, even though he’s not the smartest, most talented, or most successful, and he’s okay with that.

Bill, Amy, and Marcus all have healthy levels of self-worth. They have varying levels of abilities and talents, and they get a wide range of results from their efforts, but they all understand that what they do is not who they are. No matter whether they win awards or garner accolades for their performance or not, they still have the same high opinion of their value as a person.

How to Find Self-Worth and Value Yourself More

If these examples sound desirable to you and you wish you were more like Bill, Amy, or Marcus, there is hope. There are things you can do to boost your sense of self-worth and ensure that you value yourself like you ought to be valued—as a full, complete, and wonderful human being that is deserving of love and respect, no matter what.

How to build self-worth in adolescents

As with most lifelong traits, it’s best to start early. If you know any adolescents, be sure to encourage them to understand and accept their own self-worth. Reinforce their value as a being rather than a “doing,” as some say—in other words, make sure they know that they are valuable for who they are, not what they do.

If you need some more specific ideas on how to boost an adolescent’s self-worth, check out the suggestions below.

Researchers at Michigan State University recommend two main strategies:

  1. Provide unconditional love, respect, and positive regard;
  2. Give adolescents opportunities to experience success (Clark-Jones, 2012).

Showing a teen unconditional love (if you’re a parent, family member, or very close friend) or unconditional respect and positive regard (if you’re a teacher, mentor, etc.) is the best way to teach him self-worth.

If you show a teenager that you love and appreciate her for exactly who and what she is, she will learn that it’s okay to love herself for exactly who and what she is. If you demonstrate that she doesn’t need to achieve anything to earn your love and respect, she’ll be much less likely to put unnecessary parameters on her own self-love and self-respect.

Further, one way in which we gain a healthy sense of self-worth is through early and frequent experiences of success. Successful experiences boost our sense of competency and mastery and make us feel just plain good about ourselves.

Successful experiences also open the door for taking healthy risks and the success that often follows. Don’t just tell a teen that she is worthy and valuable, help her believe it by giving her every opportunity to succeed.

Just be sure that these opportunities are truly opportunities for her to succeed on her own—a helping hand is fine, but we need to figure out how to do some things on our own to build a healthy sense of self-worth (Clark-Jones, 2012).

How to increase self-worth and self-value in adults

It’s a bit trickier to increase self-worth and self-value in adults, but it’s certainly not a lost cause. Check out the two tips below to learn how to go about it.

First, take a look back at the list of what does not determine self-worth. Remind yourself that your bank account, job title, attractiveness, and social media following have nothing to do with how valuable or worthy a person you are.

It’s easy to get caught up in chasing money, status, and popularity—especially when these things are highly valued by those around us and by society in general—but make an effort to take a step back and think about what truly matters when determining people’s worth: their kindness, compassion, empathy, respect for others, and how well they treat those around them.

Second, work on identifying, challenging, and externalizing your critical inner voice. We all have an inner critic that loves to nitpick and point out our flaws (Firestone, 2014). It’s natural to let this inner critic get the best of us sometimes, but if we let her win too often she starts to think that she’s right!

Whenever you notice your inner critic start to fire up with the criticisms, make her pause for a moment. Ask yourself whether she has any basis in fact, whether she’s being kind or not, and whether what she’s telling you is something you need to know. If none of those things are true, feel free to tell her to see herself out!

Challenge her on the things she whispers in your ear and remind her that no matter what you do or don’t do, you are worthy and valuable all the same.

For more specific activities and ideas, see the exercises, activities, and worksheets we cover later in this piece.

The Importance of Self-Worth in Relationships

Find worth in yourselfOne of the most common mistakes you see people with low self-esteem make is to base their self-worth on one aspect of their lives—and often, that aspect is a relationship.

It’s an understandable tendency to let someone else’s love for you encourage you to feel better about yourself. However, you should work on feeling good about yourself whether you are in a relationship or not.

The love of another person does not define you, nor does it define your value as a person. Whether you are single, casually seeing people, building a solid relationship with someone, or celebrating your 30th wedding anniversary with your spouse, you are worthy of love and respect, and you should make time to practice self-acceptance and self-compassion.

This is true for people of any relationship status, but it may be especially important for those in long-term relationships.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that your partner’s love is what makes you worthy of love. If anything ever happens to your partner or to your relationship, you don’t want to be forced to build up your sense of worth from scratch. It can make breakups and grief much harder than they need to be.

Although this facet of the issue might be enough to encourage you to work on your self-worth, there’s another reason it’s important: Having a healthy sense of self-worth will actually make your current relationship better too.

When you learn to love yourself, you become better able to love someone else. People with high self-respect tend to have more satisfying, loving, and stable relationships than those who do not, precisely because they know that they need to first find their worth, esteem, and happiness within themselves.

Two people who are lit with self-worth and happiness from within make are much brighter than two people who are trying to absorb light from each other (Grande, 2018).

The Risks of Tying Your Self-Worth to Your Job

Similar to the dangers of anchoring your self-worth to someone else, there are big risks in tying your self-worth to your job. Like a significant other, jobs can come and go—sometimes without warning.

You can be let go, laid off, transitioned, dehired, dismissed, downsized, redirected, released, selectively separated, terminated, replaced, asked to resign, or just plain fired. You could also be transferred, promoted, demoted, or given new duties and responsibilities that no longer mesh with the sense of self-worth your previous duties and responsibilities gave you.

You could also quit, take a new job, take some time off, or retire—all things that can be wonderful life transitions, but that can be unnecessarily difficult if you base too much of your self-worth on your job.

As noted earlier, your job is one of the things that don’t define you or your worth. There’s nothing wrong with being proud of what you do, finding joy or fulfillment in it, or letting it shape who you are; the danger is in letting it define your entire sense of self.

We are all so much more than a job. Believing that we are nothing more than a job is detrimental to our wellbeing and can be disastrous in times of crisis.

The Self-Worth Scale

Are you interested in getting an idea of what your current level of self-worth is? If so, you’re in luck. There is a scale that is perfectly suited for this curiosity.

Also known as the Contingencies of Self-Worth Scale, this scale was developed by researchers Crocker, Luhtanen, Cooper, and Bouvrette in 2003. It consists of 35 items that measure self-worth in seven different domains. These seven domains, with an example item from each domain, are:

  1. Approval from others (i.e., I don’t care if other people have a negative opinion of me);
  2. Physical appearance (i.e., my self-esteem is influenced by how attractive I think my face or facial features are);
  3. Outdoing others in competition (i.e., my self-worth is affected by how well I do when I am competing with others);
  4. Academic competence (i.e., I feel bad about myself whenever my academic performance is lacking);
  5. Family love and support (i.e., my self-worth is not influenced by the quality of my relationships with my family members);
  6. Being a virtuous or moral person (i.e., my self-esteem depends on whether or not I follow my moral/ethical principles);
  7. God’s love (i.e., my self-esteem would suffer if I didn’t have God’s love).

Each item is rated on a scale from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). Once you have rated each item, sum the answers to the five items for each domain and divide the total by 5 for the sub-scale score.

To learn more about this scale or use it to determine your own self-worth, click here.

5 Activities and Exercises for Developing Self-Worth

According to author and self-growth guru Adam Sicinski, there are five vital exercises for developing and maintaining self-worth. He lays them out in five stages, but there’s no need to keep them in strict order; it’s fine to move back and forth or revisit stages.

1. Increase your self-understanding

An important activity on the road to self-worth is to build self-understanding. You need to learn who you are and what you want before you can decide you are a worthy human being.

Sicinski recommends this simple thought experiment to work on increasing your understanding of yourself:

  1. Imagine that everything you have is suddenly taken away from you (i.e., possessions, relationships, friendships, status, job/career, accomplishments and achievements, etc.);
  2. Ask yourself the following questions:
    a. What if everything I have was suddenly taken away from me?
    b. What if all I had left was just myself?
    c. How would that make me feel?
    d. What would I actually have that would be of value?
  3.  Think about your answers to these questions and see if you can come to this conclusion: “No matter what happens externally and no matter what’s taken away from me, I’m not affected internally”;
  4. Next, get to know yourself on a deeper level with these questions:
    a. Who I am? I am . . . I am not . . .
    b. How am I?
    c. How am I in the world?
    d. How do others see me?
    e. How do others speak about me?
    f. What key life moments define who I am today?
    g. What brings me the most passion, fulfillment, and joy?
  5. Once you have a good understanding of who you are and what fulfills and satisfies you, it’s time to look at what isn’t so great or easy about being you. Ask yourself these questions:
    a. Where do I struggle most?
    b. Where do I need to improve?
    c. What fears often hold me back?
    d. What habitual emotions hurt me?
    e. What mistakes do I tend to make?
    f. Where do I tend to consistently let myself down?
  6.  Finally, take a moment to look at the flipside; ask yourself:
    a. What abilities do I have?
    b. What am I really good at?

Spend some time on each step, but especially on the steps that remind you of your worth and your value as a person (e.g., the strengths step).

2. Boost your self-acceptance

Once you have a better idea of who you are, the next step is to enhance your acceptance of yourself.

Start by forgiving yourself for anything you noted in item 5 above. Think of any struggles, needs for improvement, mistakes, and bad habits you have, and commit to forgiving yourself and accepting yourself without judgment or excuses.

Think about everything you learned about yourself in the first exercise and repeat these statements:

  1. I accept the good, the bad and the ugly;
  2. I fully accept every part of myself including my flaws, fears, behaviors, and qualities I might not be too proud of;
  3. This is how I am, and I am at peace with that

3. Enhance your self-love

Now that you have worked on accepting yourself for who you are, you can begin to build love and care for yourself. Make it a goal to extend yourself kindness, tolerance, generosity, and compassion.

To boost self-love, start paying attention to the tone you use with yourself. Commit to being more positive and uplifting when talking to yourself.

If you’re not sure how to get started, think (or say aloud) these simple statements:

  1. I feel valued and special;
  2. I love myself wholeheartedly;
  3.  I am a worthy and capable person (Sicinski, n.d.).

4. Recognize your self-worth

Once you understand, accept, and love yourself, you will reach a point where you no longer depend on people, accomplishments, or other external factors for your self-worth.

At this point, the best thing you can do is recognize your worth and appreciate yourself for the work you’ve done to get here, as well as continuing to maintain your self-understanding, self-acceptance, self-love, and self-worth.

To recognize your self-worth, remind yourself that:

  1. You no longer need to please other people;
  2. No matter what people do or say, and regardless of what happens outside of you, you alone control how you feel about yourself;
  3. You have the power to respond to events and circumstances based on your internal sources, resources, and resourcefulness, which are the reflection of your true value;
  4. Your value comes from inside, from an internal measure that you’ve set for yourself.

5. Take responsibility for yourself

In this stage, you will practice being responsible for yourself, your circumstances, and your problems.

Follow these guidelines to ensure you are working on this exercise in a healthy way:

  • Take full responsibility for everything that happens to you without giving your personal power and your agency away;
  • Acknowledge that you have the personal power to change and influence the events and circumstances of your life.

Remind yourself of what you have learned through all of these exercises, and know that you hold the power in your own life. Revel in your well-earned sense of self-worth and make sure to maintain it.

4 Worksheets That Help Increase Self-Worth

If you’re partial to filling in the blanks instead of completing more freeform exercises and activities, not to worry. Check out the four worksheets below that can help you build your self-worth.

About Me Sentence Completion Worksheet

This worksheet outlines a simple way to build self-worth. It only requires a pen or pencil and a few minutes to complete. Feel free to use it for yourself or for your adult clients, but it was designed for kids and can be especially effective for them.

This worksheet is simply titled “About Me: Sentence Completion” and is exactly what you might expect: it gives kids a chance to write about themselves. If your youngster is too young to write down his own answers, sit with him and help him record his responses.

The sentence stems (or prompts) to complete include:

  • I was really happy when . . .
  • Something that my friends like about me is . . .
  • I’m proud of . . .
  • My family was happy when I . . .
  • In school, I’m good at . . .
  • Something that makes me unique is . . .

By completing these six prompts, your child will take some time to think about who he really is, what he likes, what he’s good at, and what makes him feel happy.

Self-Esteem Sentence Stems worksheet.

Self-Esteem Checkup

This worksheet is good for a wide audience, including children, adolescents, young adults, and older adults. The opening text indicates that it’s a self-esteem worksheet, but in this case, the terms self-esteem and self-worth are used interchangeably.

Completing this worksheet will help you get a handle on your personal sense of understanding, acceptance, respect, and love for yourself.

The worksheet lists 15 statements and instructs you to rate your belief in each one on a scale from 0 (not at all) to 10 (totally or completely). These statements are:

  1. I believe in myself;
  2. I am just as valuable as other people;
  3. I would rather be me than someone else;
  4. I am proud of my accomplishments;
  5. I feel good when I get compliments;
  6. I can handle criticism;
  7. I am good at solving problems;
  8. I love trying new things;
  9. I respect myself;
  10. I like the way I look;
  11. I love myself even when others reject me;
  12. I know my positive qualities;
  13. I focus on my successes and not my failures;
  14. I’m not afraid to make mistakes;
  15. I am happy to be me.

Add up all of the ratings for these 15 statements to get your total score, then rate your overall sense of self-esteem on a scale from 0 (I completely dislike who I am) to 10 (I completely like who I am).

Finally, respond to the prompt “What would need to change in order for you to move up one point on the rating scale? (i.e., for example, if you rated yourself a 6 what would need to happen for you to be at a 7?)”

Click here to preview this worksheet for yourself or click here to view it in a collection of self-esteem-building, small-group counseling lesson plans.

My Strengths and Qualities Worksheet

The “My Strengths and Qualities” worksheet is another opportunity for you or a young adult you know to work on boosting self-understanding, acceptance, love, and sense of self-worth. It couldn’t be easier to complete—all you need is the worksheet, a pen or pencil, and a few minutes.

For each of the eight sections, there are three spaces to respond; however, if you have more than three things to write down, feel free to do so.

The sections are:

  1. Things I am good at;
  2.  What I like about my appearance;
  3.  I’ve helped others by;
  4.  What I value the most;
  5.  Compliments I have received;
  6.  Challenges I have overcome;
  7.  Things that make me unique;
  8.  Times I’ve made others happy.

Meditations to Boost Self-Worth

If you’re a fan of meditations, check out the four options below. They’re all aimed at boosting self-worth:

If you’re not fond of any of these four meditations, try searching for other guided meditations intended to improve your self-worth. There are many out there to choose from.

Recommended Books on Self-Worth

To learn more about self-worth and how to improve it, check out some of the most popular books about this subject on Amazon:

  • The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Dr. Brené Brown (Amazon);
  • What to Say When You Talk to Your Self by Dr. Shad Helmstetter (Amazon);
  • The 21-Day Self-Love Challenge: Learn How to Love Yourself Unconditionally, Cultivate Self-Worth, Self-Compassion and Confidence by Ingrid Lindberg (Amazon);
  • Love Yourself: 31 Ways to Truly Find Your Self Worth & Love Yourself by Randy Young (Amazon);
  • Self-Worth Essentials: A Workbook to Understand Yourself, Accept Yourself, Like Yourself, Respect Yourself, Be Confident, Enjoy Yourself, and Love Yourself by Dr. Liisa Kyle (Amazon);
  • Learning to Love Yourself: Finding Your Self-Worth by Sharon Wegscheider-Cruse (Amazon).

Must-Watch TED Talks and YouTube Videos

If you’re more of a watcher than a reader, there are some great TED Talks and YouTube videos you can check out, including:

TED Talk: Meet Yourself: A User’s Guide to Building Self-Esteem by Niko Everett

In her talk, Niko Everett, the founder of the organization Girls for Change, discusses inspiring ways to build up your self-esteem.

TED Talk: Self-Esteem is Not the Answer by Heidi Landes

Heidi Landes, a parenting coach who is herself a mother of four kids, explains how the longtime focus on building self-esteem in children might be misguided. Current research indicates that self-control is a more important trait than self-esteem, Landes argues.

TED Talk: Claiming Your Identity by Understanding Your Self-Worth by Helen Whitener

Judge Helen Whitener discusses self-worth through the lens of social justice and equality in this talk.

TED Talk: The Value of YOU by Trista Sutter

In her talk, Trista Sutter advocates for building up your self-worth how hard that can be in our judgmental society.

How to Recognize Your Self-Worth from Infinite Waters

In this video, psychologist Ralph Smart argues that cultivating self-love is the key to having a high level of self-worth.

A Clever Lesson in Self Worth from Meir Kay

This video uses a dollar bill as a metaphor to demonstrate that no matter what happens to you, your worth remains constant.

12 Quotes on Self-Worth

Sometimes all we need to kickstart or motivate us to work on our self-love and self-worth is a good, insightful quote. If that’s what you’re looking for, read on.

You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.


A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval.

Mark Twain

Remember always that you not only have the right to be an individual, you have an obligation to be one.

Eleanor Roosevelt

Loving ourselves works miracles in our lives.

Louise L. Hay

The fact that someone else loves you doesn’t rescue you from the project of loving yourself.

Sahaj Kohli

Why should we worry about what others think of us, do we have more confidence in their opinions than we do our own?

Brigham Young

Don’t rely on someone else for your happiness and self-worth. Only you can be responsible for that. If you can’t love and respect yourself—no on else will be able to make that happen. Accept who you are—completely; the good and the bad—and make changes as YOU see fit—not because you think someone else want you to be different.

Stacey Charter

Your problem is you’re afraid to acknowledge your own beauty. You’re too busy holding onto your unworthiness.

Ram Dass

It’s surprising how many persons go through life without ever recognizing that their feelings toward other people are largely determined by their feelings toward themselves, and if you’re not comfortable within yourself, you can’t be comfortable with others.

Sidney J. Harris

Most of the shadows of this life are caused by standing in one’s own sunshine.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is never too late to be what you might have been.

George Eliot

Stay true to yourself. An original is worth more than a copy.

Suzy Kassem

A Take-Home Message

Self-worth is an important concept for both researchers and laymen to understand, and it’s especially important for us to be able to identify, build, and maintain a normal, healthy sense of self-worth.

Learning about self-worth can teach you how to be more happy and fulfilled in your authentic, loveable self.

What do you think is the most important takeaway from research on this topic? Do you think a lack of self-worth is a problem? Or perhaps you think an excess of self-worth is the bigger problem today? Let us know in the comments section.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our 3 Self Compassion Exercises for free.


  • Bogee, Jr., L. (1998). Leadership through personal awareness. University of Hawaii. Retrieved from http://www.hawaii.edu/intlrel/LTPA/selfwort.htm
  • Clark-Jones, T. (2012). The importance of helping teens discover self-worth. Michigan State University – MSU Extension. Retrieved from http://www.canr.msu.edu/news/the_importance_of_helping_teens_discover_self-worth
  • Covington, M. V., & Beery, R. G. (1976). Self-worth and school learning. Oxford, UK: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.
  • Crocker, J., Luhtanen, R. K., Cooper, M. L., & Bouvrette, A. (2003). Contingencies of self-worth in college students: Theory and measurement. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85, 894–908.
  • Firestone, L. (2014). Essential tips for building true self-worth. Psych Alive. Retrieved from https://www.psychalive.org/self-worth/
  • Grande, D. (2018). Building self-esteem and improving relationships. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-it-together/201801/building-self-esteem-and-improving-relationships
  • Hibbert, C. (2013). Self-esteem vs. self-worth. Dr. Christina Hibbert. Retrieved from https://www.drchristinahibbert.com/self-esteem-vs-self-worth/
  • Morin, A. (2017). How do you measure your self-worth? Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-mentally-strong-people-dont-do/201707/how-do-you-measure-your-self-worth
  • Roberts, E. (2012). The difference between self-esteem and self-confidence. Healthy Place. Retrieved from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/buildingselfesteem/2012/05/the-difference-between-self-esteem-and-self-confidence
  • Sicinski, A. (n.d.). How to build self-worth and start believing in yourself again. IQ Matrix. Retrieved from https://blog.iqmatrix.com/self-worth
  • Stosny, S. (2014). How much do you value yourself? Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/anger-in-the-age-entitlement/201406/how-much-do-you-value-yourself
  • Wong, S. J. (n.d.). 13 things that don’t determine your self-worth. Shine. Retrieved from https://advice.shinetext.com/articles/12-things-that-dont-determine-your-self-worth/


What our readers think

    • Nicole Celestine, Ph.D.

      Hi Ay,

      I’m sorry you’re having trouble with the link. Once you enter your details, the exercises should be sent straight to your email, so I’d suggest checking your spam/promotions folder to ensure our email has not ended up there.

      Let me know if that resolves the issue.

      – Nicole | Community Manager

  1. Mohammed Ayebale

    The article was worth reading and insightful, thanks for this craft, I hope to improve on my self worth and self love.

  2. Susan

    This article is very good! Thank you for your work and sharing. I am a undergraduate in China and I wonder whether I am permitted to cite this article in my thesis. If so, how am I supposed to cite it?

    • Nicole Celestine, Ph.D.

      Hi Susan,

      You can reference this article in APA 7th as follows:

      Ackerman, C. E. (2018, November 6). What is self-worth and how do we increase it? (Incl. 4 worksheets). PositivePsychology.com. https://positivepsychology.com/self-worth/

      Hope this helps!

      – Nicole | Community Manager

  3. Blessy

    Thank you for this article on Self-worth. It’s been very helpful. 🙂

  4. Caring_Cactus

    This, THIS article on self-worth is so profound in my opinion, the many references and credible sources used only further validates the many points brought up. The whole self-worth theory I believe is such a fundamental part for how to manage our social wellbeing in respect to functioning as a whole for society at large with others. I think it is a key part to social developmental theory, if we all could develop and maintain our own self-worth we would see HUGE gains in energy, efficiency, quality, productivity, complexity, comprehension, creativity, mastery, enjoyment and accomplishment.

    Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs seems to be a good outline for what needs to be done first before one can focus on esteem needs.

  5. Tania Breen

    I love this article – it provides sufficient context and theory to support it. Reading this whole article, doing the exercises and bookmarking it to come back and read again – will all help me immensely! Thank you to the author xx

  6. Jeannie K. Jones

    Great read – SUPER SAD the link is broken regarding downloading the 3 self compassion activities. But you have many others in the article that look great!!!

  7. Sandra Cayo

    This is the best short article I have read on self-worth. Diverse, structured and well written. Thank you very much.

  8. Sorab

    I do not agree with Author Stephanie Jade Wong ‘s theory that “other people do not determine your self worth”. It’s true that ‘other people’ are not the only factor but they influence over it.

    For instance, consider oppressed religious or ethnic minorities in a state. Would you be able to have self worth if your rights and dignity is consistently being violated? When you are constantly being harassed? And yet you are living at the mercy of your oppresser.

    This very hurt of pride is one major factor to inspire many people to fight back, create big movements and even put their life on line to reclaim their dignity. Yet this chance of fighting back is a privilege too because one may not be able to fight back if too weak, when fighting back directly threatens your life or even more abuse with guarantee of no change. Consider states where woman are treated as 2nd class citizen and have no rights. They live at the mercy of man around them. Those who show any subtle signs of rebellion are persecuted instantly. Consider Uighar Muslim community in China, Human trafficking, child abuse.

    I find it almost magical that some of the victims hold on to hope in unimaginable adversity like Victor Frankl in Nazi concentration camp and Palden Gyatso in China. They will always inspire me.

    However both of them were captive and completely helpless. Consider situation where you are not sure if you are helpless or you just compromise with your morals to keep you safe or you see injustice around you daily and do nothing about it. Wouldn’t the guilt of compromising with principals will torment you? What if you have not found a higher purpose in life, wouldn’t these situations rob your self worth? But I realize one should be able to forgive themselves and it’s their own responsibility to create their own ethical framework, judge conflicting situations and find their calling. Moreover self preservation is by no means unworthy. For instance, if one witnessed and kept silence about a crime by a mafia, it is not their fault but of legal system that failed to assure their safety.

    I didn’t intend contradict my contradiction but I admit others don’t have power over ones self worth. However it could be a lifelong and complicated process to create the foundation and cultivate as such self-worth.

    • Kasey Ariel Rollins

      I’m a mother and the idea that I could have high self worth but be a horrible mother is just wrong to me. So I agree, other people absolutely effect our self worth and should influence it. Later on the author asks if we took away every relationship we have, what we’d have left determines our self worth and I can’t even imagine a world without my daughter.

      • Lea

        You are clearly missing the point. Our self worth does not come from external factors, it comes from an intrinsic and undeniable convinction that you are a worthwhile human being, no matter what happens around you. We ALL are. By your own logic and example, should women who cannot bare children not have self worth? The people who managed to survive atrocities are the ones who strongly believed that skin color, gender, religion, nationality, politics or the roles they fulfill (or not) in todays society – does not define their self worth.

        • meerkat

          You’re missing the point of the comment. You’re saying that if, to use your example, a woman is treated like garbage for being infertile, that should have no effect on her self-worth and if it does, that’s her fault for just making trouble for herself for no reason.

  9. Get Inspired with Cheryl

    You are not an option, a choice or a soft place to land after a long battle. You were meant to be the one. If you can wrap yourself around the idea that you are something incredible, then you will stop excusing behavior that rapes your very soul. You were never meant to teach someone to love you. You were meant to be loved.

  10. shayla

    Lengthy article but 100% worth the read if you have time! Very affirming:)

  11. Lateefah

    Excess of reasonable self worth is much more important than lack of it. Self worth help to boost your energy, ability and confidence to do great things for yourself and people at large. It is so important that I wish everyone in the world could incorporate self worth and self love into their lives including myself, this would making this world a better place to be for everyone

  12. Jana Kyriakou

    Great article, thank you! I especially like the affirmations. I also like your article on self-esteem. Question: where would self-respect fall? Is it the same or similar to self-worth? Thank you!

    • Nicole Celestine

      Hi Jana,

      Glad you enjoyed the post, and thank you for the excellent question! I would say that self-respect is about taking steps to protect our dignity and sense of morality, assert ourselves, etc. Self-respect is something that scholars would argue can sacrificed through our actions. For instance, if a person were to do something embarrassing after a few too many drinks or not assert themselves when being taken advantage of, that person could be perceived as not having self-respect (i.e., not caring about oneself enough to ensure they protect their image and defend what is theirs). Self-worth/self-esteem, I think, tend to be tied less explicitly to behaviors and are more global assessments of oneself.

      It’s tricky stuff, but I hope this has been some food for thought. 🙂

      – Nicole | Community Manager

  13. Zalak Raval

    What a great read! Thank you so much for your thoughtful and articulate analysis. It has been most helpful. The exercises, videos, affirmations, all of it. Especially the affirmations! So important to make our adult brains work for us instead of letting the inner critic whispers think they are right. I appreciate you and I am very grateful for your work. Loved the quotes at the end too.

  14. Jamie Stains

    I battle depression and when I feel like someone is attacking me mentally I just want to crawl in a hole. I tend to then push all the things that would make me happy in to the trash and figure I’m just not or it’s just not worth the battle. What is my purpose in life – to be people’s – the one you think should love you unconditionally- door mat. I just want my time to be over sometimes. There’s always more bad/sad than good. It’s very very hard to remember the good things

    • Nicole Celestine

      Hi Jamie,
      I’m sorry to read about your struggles with depression. As you note, the people we surround ourselves with can play a role in uplifting us or slowing us down on our journey to improving self-worth. It’s important to think carefully about the company we keep, and respectfully communicate the effect those that are hurting us are having. If they are unwilling to change, where possible it’s often a good idea to prioritize your well-being and put distance between yourself and that person.
      I hope you find some peace ahead.
      – Nicole | Community Manager

  15. Mannat

    Hi, I have been struggling with low self-esteem, low self-worth and low self-confidence. This article has helped me immensely. Thank you so very much.

  16. Diego Ambrósio

    I might lose some friends here, yet I believe the article is biased according to the modern society instead of the human nature. Given the modern society keeps us far from our nature, the bias of the article might be read with due reference.
    Evolutionary psychology would view competition as to disintegrate the groups of humans estabilished to make life possible in the early days of human development. Thus, competition in society as basis for self-worth might not be accurate.

  17. Art Of Living Lifestyle

    Hello.This post was extremely fascinating, particularly because I was browsing for thoughts on this subject last Friday.

    • Nicole Celestine

      Hi there,
      So glad to hear you enjoyed the article. If you’d like more reading on the topic of self-worth, you may want to check out our other recent article, where we review 27 of the best books on the subject.
      – Nicole | Community Manager

  18. Sarah

    This was a helpful breakdown of where our self worth can stem from. I particularly appreciate the nod to what shouldn’t define our self worth. Speaking from an employer’s perspective, I think a lack of self worth is a big problem for many people. I love the 5 step process in this article that begins with that self-understanding and acceptance which I notice are key missing pieces in many of us. We rarely take the time to reflect on this and commit to a deeper understanding of ourselves. I think common practices that aim at accomplishing this are “fast food” style, emphasize boosting self-confidence, weather its founded or not, and completely gloss over self responsibility and acceptance creating defensiveness and breakdowns of self-esteem at the slightest challenge to that self-confidence.

  19. VL

    Thank-you for this article. I wonder if self worth is not only a mental concept but is also an embodied feeling. Do you have any knowledge on that? I would like to strengthen that part for I can do all of the mental things listed in the article, and I’ve already done many of them, it won’t be enough to feel my worth.

  20. Irena

    This is not fully explained. How do you know in the first place that you are a valuable and wonderful human being? Where do you get any evidence of this ? It makes no sense to me why chickens I eat are not valuable beings and can be killed and eaten, and I’m valuable only because I’m a human? I don’t feel it’s fair to think we are more valuable than any other live beings. And what if I don’t love my look? I can’t care less about compliments and how others see me…the problem is I don’t like it myself , it’s not to my own taste….I don’t want to be liked by others, I want to look so I enjoy looking at me.

    • Lenora

      Hello Irena, I would love to respond to your comment. Chickens, and all other animals, are beings that cannot express themselves or contribute to their environment, other than existence and procreation. Because we are compassionate, we still should treat all animals with compassion and kindness, but I do believe some animals are for us to consume as we need protein to survive.
      We are different. Humans can create art, music and appreciate the beauty in each other and in the world. I believe you are valuable in the fact that there is no one else in the earth like you! You are unique, special and one of a kind. No one else has experienced life exactly like you, and therefore you have a unique perspective on earth and life!! This is incredible to me, how each of us are so different, and we must appreciate each other’s difference. We are are unique in our appearances. Not even so called ‘beautiful’ people or celebrities are immune from bouts of questioning their appearance, so that is normal for all of us at one time or another. Look in the mirror, find something you like, something that is different from everyone else, and appreciate this. You are beautiful alone in your uniqueness. I’ve met some people who others called ‘ugly’, but they weren’t!! They simply took no care in their appearance, or even attempted to dress nicely. I believe every person is beautiful, and a simple flattering hairstyle and outfit is all everyone could have to increase our confidence in ourselves. I hope this uplifted you, even just a small amount.

      • Freya

        Hello Lenora,
        I just want to hit on some points you made, that seemingly make us so different to animals. 1. They are indeed able to make art
        2. We (can) get our protein from so many more sources (how does a cow/any other herbivore get its protein? Plants.) Legumes, nuts, grains etc.
        3. Killing any living being that does not want to die, for no good reason (food “production”) is not treating it with “comapssion and kindness”.
        From the rest of your text I can see, that you are an amazing, helping and inspiring human being! Please let that positivity shine through all aspects of your life.
        If they could, the animals and the world would say thank you!

    • Sakari Rain

      All beings are valuable and contribute to the experience of life as well as the ecosystem. From the tiniest living organism to our largest living being, our planet. You may not like how you look because you choose to experience this life in that manner. You must learn to see the beauty within you heart, soul and mind. Just because society behaves and believes one thing does mean it is truth. It is where humanity is as a whole for its growth and development. Until more people begin to value themselves and what’s within we will continue to eat chickens and value superficial beauty that fades with time.

  21. Stef Ashmore

    Hi, this was an excellent article. Thankyou for the clear content without making it too overly spiritual. I liked how practical and useful all the information and exercises was. Bookmarking this wonderful page for later use!

  22. Julia

    After losing my health and then 12 weeks before my 25 years lose my job because of health.. noticing family and friends don’t care for me nor have time or energy or love for me is devastating lonely and i know i need to love and entertain me but don’t know how and feel lost. Can’t find myself or what i want or need truing to learn who i am, what i like and what future i have.

  23. Nicole

    Thank you for shedding light into a dark part of my life. Very helpful.

  24. Jessica.C

    As a young female adult, I would say lack of self worth is a bigger problem than excess self worth. There are definitely gender disparities. Very interesting and useful exercises to boost self esteem here- thank you.

  25. Gloria

    Thank you for this posts. I believe we don’t focus on our self worth, due to the fact that we are looking for others approval.

  26. Wagih loutfy

    Thank you for the post.
    How we can asses our $ value specially on offers for clients

  27. chyser

    thank you for this kind of article its help me a lot to see my worth and to love my self more that anyone.and now I’m starting to rebuild my self again. a have a lots of fears.that i don’t like someone leaving me because i give a lot of love and depending on him or to others.that’s why everytime that they left me it very hard to get up again. and i’m always thinking what others say about me it really affect me a lot because i don’t have self worth i’m not seeing my self worth that im lovable and vulnerable. thank you a lot God Bless!

  28. Maria

    I believe this article on recognizing and ritualizing self-worth is a postive on all aspects thanks for sharing and providing reference…either not having self-worth or having excess self-worth are part of the magnetic lava of nature its the law of attraction.

  29. Amber

    This is such a great topic & a wonderful educational article! Thankyou!

  30. Ikenna osueke

    Courtney Ackerman thanks a lot for this beautiful piece.to answer the question asked at the end of this research topic on whether “ having no self worth or having excess of it is a problem or not “ . I will like to say that obviously having no self worth is not only a problem but also a disaster to the well being of any human because without any sense of self worth ;ability,effort and performance will be negatively affected and on the Other hand having excess of self worthless might be a problem if applied inappropriately;going by the definition of self worth as “a feeling that you are a good person who deserves to be treated with respect” by this Definition I want to believe that not everyone will treat you with respect even if you deserve it that’s a fact psychologically so that been noted I think having excess of self worth won’t be a problem if this nature of human is understood . In my opinion I think it’s better to have excess of self worth with a realistic view than non if this is noted and applied then having excess of it won’t be a problem rather it would be of great help to the person and people at large . Hope this makes sense . Thanks and God Bless ??

  31. Myke Jones

    Great post!

  32. Yang

    This is a lengthy article but it’s worth the read! What a great read!

  33. Immaculate Karanja

    wow this is such a comprehensive article!!! Great read!!!!

  34. Nichole | Wildly Alive

    Worth the read!Thank you for this wonderful post and for reminding us to reaffirm our own self worth. No one else can do that but our own-selves.Its really important to have self care and if failures exist, always be kind to yourself.


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