What is Self-Worth & How Do We Build it?

March 13, 2024

As we explore how we see and value ourselves, we may come across many terms related to

'self-', each holding its own importance. At the heart of these is self-worth, a concept that transcends self-confidence or esteem. It's the inherent value we place on ourselves, independent of external accolades. Today we will delve into understanding self-worth, examining its fundamental role in emotional and psychological well-being. We’ll explore what self-worth truly means and how we can nurture and enhance it, paving the way for a more resilient, fulfilling life.

Key Takeaways

  • Self-worth is a comprehensive self-evaluation that goes beyond assessing actions or outcomes and is considered crucial for mental health and overall life satisfaction.
  • Key indicators of low self-worth include negative self-talk, difficulty in setting boundaries, and a fear of failure, all of which can significantly impact one’s quality of life and mental state.
  • Improving self-worth is possible through strategies such as practicing self-compassion, challenging negative thoughts, engaging in meaningful activities, using affirmations, and therapy, including cognitive-behavioral therapy and psychodynamic therapy.

What Is Self-Worth?

At its core, self-worth is an individual’s comprehensive assessment of their own value. It’s an internal compass, guiding our interactions, influencing our relationships, and shaping our self-perception and even the way others perceive us. Differentiating it from the assessment of actions becomes essential. While evaluating actions involves considering outcomes and performance, evaluating personal worth involves a more comprehensive self-evaluation that encompasses one’s inherent value as a person and developing a healthy sense of self-worth.

Self-love, a close ally of self-worth, can significantly improve an individual’s self-worth. It’s about treating ourselves with:

  • Kindness
  • Tolerance
  • Generosity
  • Compassion

This leads to more positive and supportive self-talk, which in turn uplifts the individual’s self-perception and helps them recognize their positive qualities.

The criteria we use to assess our worth can be as diverse as we are. Some factors that influence how individuals gauge their self-worth in comparison to others and help them see themselves as a worthy and capable person include:

  • Abilities and skills
  • Success
  • Material possessions
  • Appearance
  • Social status

Individuals use different criteria to evaluate their self-worth, and while various factors influence this self-assessment, the specific attributes that individuals consider important in defining their self-worth vary from person to person.

The Role of Self-Worth in Mental Health

Self-worth plays a pivotal role in our mental health. It impacts our self-esteem, self-confidence, and overall life satisfaction. The maintenance of a healthy mental state relies heavily on recognizing one’s healthy self-worth as a human being.

Nonetheless, the presence of a critical inner voice, a negative internal dialogue persistently projecting destructive thoughts about oneself or others, is common to all. This self-critical voice, which can be considered our internal sense, undermines our self-worth and may result in self-destructive or maladaptive behaviors, further exacerbating feelings of inadequacy.

Self-Worth vs. Self-Esteem vs. Self-Confidence

When it comes to personal evaluation, self-worth offers a broader evaluation of ourselves than the more constrained concepts of self-esteem and self-confidence. Self-esteem is commonly defined as the thoughts, emotions, and beliefs we hold about ourselves, whereas self-worth encompasses a more comprehensive assessment that incorporates these factors as well as our inherent value as individuals.

Society’s prioritization of high self-esteem often entails comparing oneself to others and neglects the significance of acknowledging one’s inherent worth. This is where self-compassion and personal growth come into play. They help build self-worth without relying on external comparisons.

However, relying heavily on external factors to determine one’s self-worth can result in detrimental effects on mental health, including:

  • Stress
  • Anger
  • Academic difficulties
  • Conflicts in relationships
  • Behaviors such as substance abuse and eating disorders

The Benefits Of Self-Worth

A wealth of benefits is associated with acknowledging and improving our self-worth. One such benefit is improved decision-making. Self-worth is frequently linked with confidence in our capabilities, which can aid in selecting the most suitable course of action. Recognizing our self-worth during key life moments can lead to better decision-making and overall life satisfaction.

Possessing a high level of self-worth can result in fostering more transparent and sincere relationships with our loved ones. Moreover, a robust sense of self-worth bolsters our resilience, allowing us to more effectively endure and bounce back from challenges and adversities.

Factors Influencing Self-Worth

Our self-worth, much like a river formed by the terrain through which it flows, is shaped by several key factors. These factors encompass our personal experiences, relationships, and core beliefs about ourselves. Each factor, a tributary, feeds into the river of self-worth, shaping its course.

Personal Experiences

Our personal experiences, whether they be victories or setbacks, shape our sense of self-worth. Personal successes and achievements foster a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment, contributing positively to our self-worth.

However, experiences of failure can impact our overall sense of well-being and adjustment, shaping our self-worth negatively.


The relationships we foster in our lives wield a considerable influence on our self-worth. Studies have shown that enhanced self-esteem can lead to increased satisfaction in a relationship for both partners. Conversely, low self esteem or the quality of social relationships can have a detrimental impact, potentially initiating a negative cycle.

The significance of maintaining healthy relationships cannot be overstated. They offer support, validation, and acceptance, thereby enhancing self-esteem and contributing to a positive self-concept. Moreover, healthy relationships cultivate empathy, trust, and cooperation, resulting in reduced levels of anxiety and depression.

On the other hand, toxic relationships can result in diminished self-worth. The dynamics of such relationships, characterized by belittling, criticizing, and manipulation, can undermine an individual’s sense of self-worth. Persistent negativity and emotional mistreatment within a toxic relationship can gradually diminish self-esteem, leading to experiences of shame, guilt, and self-blame.

Core Beliefs

Our core beliefs, often molded during our formative years, hold a substantial sway over our self-worth. These deeply ingrained perspectives shape our perceptions about ourselves, others, and the world around us. They are developed as a result of experiences and interpretations of events and feelings during childhood.

These beliefs function unconsciously, impacting our self-perception and interpretation of experiences. Since core beliefs are typically developed during an individual's formative years, it can be difficult to reverse the negative aspects of specific core values without the help of a mental health professional.

Signs of Low Self-Worth

Recognizing signs of low self-worth is crucial in understanding and improving our relationship with ourselves. Often subtle and deeply ingrained, these indicators can manifest in various aspects of our behavior and thought patterns.

From the way we interact with others to the internal dialogue we engage in, these signs offer valuable insights, helping us to acknowledge and address areas where our sense of self-value may need nurturing and support.

Negative Self-Talk

Negative self-talk is a clear sign of low self-worth. It’s the critical inner voice that consistently presents destructive thoughts about ourselves or others. This voice undermines our self-worth and may result in self-destructive behaviors, exacerbating feelings of inadequacy. Negative self-talk can result in various psychological effects such as:

  • An elevated susceptibility to mental health issues
  • Heightened stress levels
  • Diminished achievements
  • Decreased sense of contentment
  • Strained interpersonal connections
  • Fueling of anxiety and depression
  • Reduced capacity to recognize opportunities

Difficulty Setting Boundaries

Difficulty in setting boundaries is another sign of low self-worth. Individuals with low self-worth often struggle to assert their needs and establish healthy boundaries. They may find it challenging to prioritize their needs over others, often due to feelings of guilt, fear, or habitual compliance.

Fear of Failure

Fear of failure is another potential sign of low self-worth. Individuals with low self-worth might refrain from taking risks and striving for objectives because of an excessive concern about the prospect of failure. The fear of failure can become evident in everyday life through behaviors such as:

  • Avoiding challenges or risks
  • Procrastination
  • Perfectionism
  • Self-doubt
  • Negative self-talk
  • Fear of judgment or criticism
  • Feeling overwhelmed or paralyzed by the fear of not succeeding

How To Improve Self-Worth

Embarking on the journey to improve self-worth is both empowering and transformative. It involves adopting practices and mindsets that nurture a positive and realistic appreciation of oneself. Many individuals who are suffering with a healthy sense of self-worth can find relief by speaking with a mental health professional who can guide you through the process of improving this aspect of life.

While enhancing self-worth may appear challenging, it is certainly attainable. The exact techniques and methods required to improve your self-worth will vary for each individual but some of the most common methods include:

  • Practicing self-compassion
  • Challenging negative thoughts
  • Engaging in meaningful activities
  • Using affirmations
  • Finding the good in oneself

By focusing on personal growth and self-improvement, we can gradually build a stronger sense of self-worth, develop a healthy self esteem, and foster self acceptance. The therapists at Resilience Lab specialize in guiding individuals through the process of identifying the cause of low self-worth and creating a personalized approach for improving this aspect of your life based on your needs.

Practicing Self-Compassion

One of the most effective strategies to enhance self-worth is practicing self-compassion. Self-compassion involves treating ourselves with the same kindness and compassion that we would typically extend to a friend. Many individuals will come to the realization that they are their own harshest critics and struggle to provide themselves with the same empathy and self compassion that they show to others.

Treating ourselves with kindness and understanding during challenging times enhances self-worth. It allows us to see ourselves in a compassionate, non-judgmental light, fostering a healthier sense of self-worth.

Challenging Negative Thoughts

Challenging negative thoughts is another vital strategy to enhance self-worth. By recognizing and confronting our negative thoughts about ourselves, we can foster more positive and realistic self-perceptions. This shift encourages behaviors that support self-esteem and self-compassion, contributing to our overall well-being.

While it may take some time to see improvement in self-worth from challenging negative thoughts, with consistent practice, we can gradually reframe our self-perception and build a more positive self-image.

Engaging in Meaningful Activities

Engaging in meaningful activities is another effective strategy to boost self-worth. Participating in activities that resonate with personal interests can strengthen our sense of identity and self-esteem. Meaningful activities are not only enjoyable but also contribute to our personal growth. They enable us to develop new skills and knowledge, fostering a sense of empowerment, pride, and well-being.

Use Affirmations

Affirmations are constructive declarations that can enhance self-worth. These positive yet realistic statements strengthen our self-confidence and motivate us towards personal objectives. By replacing negative thought patterns with positive affirmations, we can promote a more optimistic mindset, thereby enhancing our self-worth.

Research has indicated that affirmations have the potential to enhance one’s sense of personal worth, diminish negative self-talk, and alleviate anxiety and defensiveness in difficult circumstances.

Find The Good In Yourself

Finding the good in oneself involves focusing on our strengths and accomplishments. Recognizing our strengths and accomplishments can contribute to cultivating a more positive perception of self-worth. There are various methods to recognize our personal strengths, such as:

  • Identifying our strengths and aligning them with potential career paths
  • Taking a strengths test
  • Engaging in conversations with family members and colleagues
  • Documenting feedback on personal strengths
  • Seeking input from others
  • Understanding our personality
  • Maintaining an open mindset
  • Cultivating self-awareness

The Role of Therapy in Improving Self-Worth

Therapy serves as a valuable resource for enhancing self-worth. It provides a safe space for individuals to tackle fundamental aspects of self-perception and offers assistance for individual advancement and progress.

Get started with therapy today.

Our team can help you find the right therapist.

Various types of therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and psychodynamic therapy, can be beneficial for addressing self-worth issues. The therapists at Resilience Lab utilize a personalized approach with measurable outcomes to help each individual tackle the root cause of their low self-worth.

Types of Therapy for Self-Worth

Cognitive behavioral therapy is designed to assist individuals in:

  • Recognizing and substituting negative thought patterns that could be contributing to maladaptive emotions and behaviors
  • Improving self-worth by helping individuals identify and confront negative thoughts and beliefs about themselves
  • Fostering more positive and realistic self-perceptions

This type of therapy contributes to improving self-worth by helping individuals identify and confront negative thoughts and beliefs about themselves, fostering more positive and realistic self-perceptions.

Psychodynamic therapy, on the other hand, aids individuals in addressing profound issues associated with self-worth, often by exploring past experiences and unconscious thought processes. This type of therapy fosters:

  • Better self-understanding
  • Emotional stability
  • A more positive self-image
  • Increased resilience in self-esteem

How Resilience Lab Can Help With Self-Worth

At Resilience Lab, the journey to enhance self-worth is tailored through a distinct methodology. The process begins with ensuring a perfect match between client and therapist, recognizing the importance of a customized fit. This is achieved through a diverse array of available clinicians and a dedicated clinical team, facilitating the right therapeutic partnership from the start. In addition,our therapists work collaboratively, supporting each other  in providing holistic and high-quality care for every client.

The approach also includes a holistic assessment, acknowledging that an individual's mental health is influenced by various life factors. This comprehensive view allows therapists to understand and address the root causes of each person's unique challenges. In addition, personalized care is a cornerstone of Resilience Lab's methodology. Every therapy experience is tailored to the individual, considering their unique traits and circumstances, ensuring that the therapeutic journey is as unique as the client themselves.

Measurable outcomes are also a key focus at Resilience Lab. Therapy success goes beyond subjective feelings of improvement. From the outset, specific goals are set, and progress is monitored through both quantitative and qualitative measures. This structured approach allows clients to see tangible progress and understand the extent of their growth by the time they complete their therapy. This methodology ensures not just temporary relief but lasting changes that positively impact a person's sense of self-worth and overall well-being.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below we have answered some of the most frequently asked questions about an individual's "self-worth". Since everyone's experiences and situations are different, we'll answer these questions from a general viewpoint. For a more personalized answer, we recommend you reach out to our team of mental health professionals.

What is an example of self-worth?

An example of self-worth is when an individual acknowledges their value regardless of external factors like social status, achievements, or failures. For instance, a person who has faced a professional setback but still maintains a deep-seated belief in their inherent worth and capabilities exhibits healthy self-worth. This individual understands that their value is not solely defined by career success or external validation but by their intrinsic qualities, such as kindness, integrity, and resilience. They recognize that their worth as a person is constant and not contingent on external circumstances.

What is the difference between self-worth and self-esteem?

Self-worth refers to the intrinsic value you place on yourself, independent of achievements or external validation. It's about recognizing your inherent worth as a person. Self-esteem, on the other hand, is more about how you evaluate your abilities and qualities, often influenced by successes and failures. Although these two topics are intertwined and related, there is a difference between the two and how they can potentially impact your mental health.

Can self-worth be improved?

Absolutely. Self-worth can be enhanced through various practices like self-reflection, positive affirmations, setting and achieving personal goals, and seeking therapy or counseling. It's a continuous process that involves acknowledging and appreciating your intrinsic value.

How does low self-worth affect mental health?

Low self-worth can lead to negative mental health outcomes, such as anxiety, depression, and unhealthy coping mechanisms. It might result in a tendency to undervalue oneself in relationships and professional settings, leading to a cycle of negative self-perception and emotional distress. Addressing self-worth issues is key to improving overall mental health.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a crisis and needs immediate help, please call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Clinically Reviewed by Christine Carville, LCSW-R.

Christine Carville, LCSW-R, is the co-founder and Chief Clinical Officer of Resilience Lab. Christine developed the Resilience Methodology, a trans-theoretical training model for therapists to provide individualized, flexible, trauma-informed care. She has also been teaching at the Columbia School of Social Work since 2016 and continues to maintain her own private psychotherapy practice.

Get started with therapy today.

Our team can help you find the right therapist.