While navigating through a sea of research about the human brain, I learned an important fact that altered the trajectory of my life. Having lived with self-doubt for decades, I was determined to change. What I discovered was revelatory: No human being is born with high or low self-worth.
To quote Lady Gaga, I’d believed that “I was born this way!” But I learned that no infant is born with negative thoughts. I also learned that at any age or stage of life, one can heal and develop an inner core of strength, stamina, and equanimity by harnessing their brain and igniting their passion.
The Evolution of our Self-worth: Who Am I?
Our lifelong training has been to focus on what we can see. Since birth, our parents or guardians, educational institutions, and coaches taught us to focus outwardly. We were praised for our grades, athleticism, creativity, musical talent, and other accomplishments. Our perceived value and identity hinged on our performance, not how we felt about ourselves.
Focusing on what we do, however, ignores our inner core health.
The Distinction between Self-Worth and Self-Esteem Matters
Self-worth impacts every aspect of our lives. Without it, we are just existing, going through the motions, without the enjoyment of engaging our whole beings in living our best lives.
You might be unaware of the significant difference between self-esteem and self-worth. Although often used interchangeably, these terms are actually opposite of one another. Self-esteem is one’s confidence in their competence. You might be an award-winning chef, plumber, politician, musician, or top athlete, yet still suffer from low self-worth. I refer to self-esteem as the “outside” you, what you do and how well you do it.
Conversely, self-worth is how you feel about yourself internally, the “inside” you. Your self-worth is your spiritual center, your soul, the authentic being living inside of you, without facades or defense mechanisms. It is the real you. No external accomplishment is ever enough to fill the void of low self-worth.
The true formula for holistic health and wellbeing is to focus inwardly. Every facet of who you are and how you live your life is filtered through your internal sense of self—how worthy and lovable you believe you are—the value you place on yourself. Every relationship and interaction, your energy, attitude, focus, productivity, immune system, sleep, resilience, and sexuality are affected by your internal sense of self.
Our Brain Craves Change
The brain is a miraculous muscle that needs constant training for optimum performance. Fortunately, we know now that our brain is changeable through neuroplasticity, or brain plasticity. When our brain consciously engages in new ways of thinking, it forms new neural pathways and connections. This means that even for those of us who have suffered from low self-worth throughout our lives, we have the ability to replace negative thoughts with positive ones; and, with time and repetition, these new patterns become habit.
Practices to Heal and Renew
Investing in your internal health by developing practices that will help you release negative thoughts and cultivate positive self-worth is fundamental to living a holistically healthy life.
Unless you know what you are thinking, how can you change? Pay close attention to your thoughts and emotions and how they affect you. Do not suppress them. Observe them without judgment. Permit thoughts to flow seamlessly through you, unfiltered and unrestrained. Always treat yourself with gentleness and compassion.
One of my favorite quotes is by John Dewey, American philosopher, who said, We do not learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on experience. Self-reflection is a process of consciously evaluating your thoughts, beliefs, and experiences as a means of learning about yourself. It offers you the opportunity to pause and detach from your busy life, thus permitting you to consider new interpretations of what you’ve experienced.
Check in With Yourself
Make it a habit to gauge your mood throughout the day to assess your thoughts and adjust as needed. Changing your brain is a conscious and conscientious process.
Be Flexible and Adaptable
Learning to be flexible and adapt to changing circumstances is vital to your wellbeing. When you learn to be nimble in your thinking, you’re able to manage the highs and lows of life without falling apart. And, with resilience, you’re able to recover and renew.
Be Mindful of Negative Triggers
A trigger is a stimulus that evokes a particular thought or emotion from your past. A trigger can derail the best of intentions. It could be a specific word, song, location, person, season, any cue in the environment that induces a specific feeling within you. Understanding your triggers is essential to tuning into your core self.
This is a powerful tool to flip the script in your brain from negative to positive. All athletes and performers use positive self-talk as a force of inspiration and motivation.
One of the most effective and powerful ways to observe and learn about yourself is to write about your thoughts. This practice helps you identify recurring issues that cause you discomfort and allows you to recognize subtle changes in your attitude and behavior.
Adopt the 3P’s:
Passion, Patience & Perseverance.
Personal transformation stems from passion, not force. Changing neural pathways in your brain takes time, patience, and repetition; and, perseverance yields sustainable change.
Self-worth is life changing. Live your healthiest, most meaningful life by learning how to love, honor, and care for yourself, by creating inner peace that will flow out to others, and by committing to practices that will lead to transformative change.
Anne Ockene Boudreau is an inspirational author, coach, and executive who is devoted to helping others develop healthy self-worth. In her new book, A Human Mosaic: Heal, Renew & Develop Self-Worth, she reveals how self-worth is a critical element for sustainable personal change. Learn more at AnneOBoudreau.com.