Whether you have a low sense of self-worth or you know someone in this situation, this next interview is thought-provoking. I highly encourage you to read this article until the end! I asked questions about self-worth to Jordan Gruenhage, counsellor at The Centre for Gay Counselling.
In this interview, you will hopefully have a better understanding of what could cause a low sense of self-worth, a few helpful and unhelpful ways to talk to someone in this case, and some methods to start growing your sense of self-worth.
Here is what Jordan wrote:
1. How would you define self-worth, and what brings a high self-worth in someone's life?
I believe that everyone has inherent worth, so when I talk to my clients about self-worth, we talk about their sense of their self-worth. I define a sense of self-worth as the degree to which you believe that you have value, and that you’re worthy of being treated with care, kindness, love and respect by other people, and yourself.
A high sense of self-worth comes from how you’re treated by other people from a young age–particularly by caregivers. When a caregiver is sensitive to your needs, your emotions, and accepts who you are, this provides you with a framework for understanding that you have value and are worthy. The same goes for the overt, and subtle, messages we receive from other people, religions, institutions, and more broadly, society.
2. Are there differences between self-worth, self-esteem, and self-value?
I view self-worth and self-value as interchangeable terms. However, I think there is a greater distinction between self-worth and self-esteem. I like the way that Dr. Christina Hibbert highlights this difference:
“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.”
3. What could cause low self-worth?
An early environment that doesn’t reflect your inherent worth back to you. Developing your sense of self-worth in an environment like this is like looking at a clouded and fractured mirror.
As children, we’re like sponges for the information in our environment. This sponge-like quality is excellent for learning new things quickly. It means that children have an incredible capacity to absorb helpful information. Unfortunately, it also means children can easily absorb beliefs about themselves that are harmful to their wellbeing.
4. What practical steps and/or exercises can people do to start growing their sense of self-worth?
The secret to growing your sense of self-worth lies in where your sense of self-worth originated: how you’ve been treated and the messages you’ve received in your past. This means changing the messages that you tell your adult and younger self. This can be accomplished through some of the following methods:
• Positive affirmations.
• Surrounding yourself with people, media, and writing that reflects your inherent worth back to you.
5. Are there right and wrong ways to communicate with someone with low self-worth?
Short answer: yes. However, I think this question deserves a more nuanced answer.
From a counselling perspective, if the goal is to help someone grow their sense of self-worth, then I think there are ways to communicate with someone that are more helpful and less helpful to reach this goal.
An unhelpful way to work on this goal would be to try and repeatedly convince someone that they’re worthy. When I’m working with someone who experiences a low sense of self-worth, I know that it may be difficult for them to receive a positive reflection of their self-worth back to them, especially at first.
A more helpful way to work with someone is to compassionately and empathically meet them where they’re at by validating their pain, understanding the history of their pain, and then getting some healing through this process. A greater sense of self-worth often spontaneously emerges through this type of communication because it also says to someone: “you’re worthy no matter how messy, in pain, or imperfectly you show up in this world.”
While the specific words you use when communicating with other people is important, I think even more critical are the underlying assumptions you have about other people and the communication that arises from these assumptions. If you can genuinely communicate from the belief that someone has inherent worth, and are worthy of care, kindness, love and respect, then your communication is likely to naturally come across this way.
6. What tools would you recommend for people who want to learn more about self-worth?
This training: Working With Core Beliefs of “Never Good Enough.”
This process: Counselling
As a counsellor at The Centre for Gay Counselling, Jordan excels at helping fellow gay men understand their emotions better, heal from past trauma, and grow their sense of self-worth so that they can enjoy living fully as themselves. He believes that gay men have inherent worth, and that they deserve to live fulfilling lives. Interested in working with Jordan? Click here to get started.
About the interviewer
My name is Jeff Monnery, a videographer and documentarian whose mission is to ensure people are given the choice to make positive changes toward self-empowerment. I am the founder of Spoken Out Stories, a video series about stories of people who lived a hard experience in their life, and found their way to move forward with courage, determination, and optimism.
You can connect with me through my social media pages:
Instagram — @jeffmonnery
Twitter — @jeffmonnery
Facebook — @JeffMonnery
LinkedIn — @jeffmonnery
About An Unlearning Initiative
An Unlearning Initiative is an interview series of people sharing the experience and expertise on various topics around mental health, self-empowerment, empathy, and love.
It is about giving others diverse perspectives from around the World to help unlearn misconceptions and enlighten people toward a better understanding of what is around them.
You can connect with An Unlearning Initiative through these social media pages:
Instagram — @anunlearninginitiative
Twitter — @AnUnlearning
Facebook — @anunlearninginitiative