We all yearn to feel valued, respected, and worthy. But determining our self-worth can be a complex and sometimes confusing journey.
I’ve struggled with this myself, often trying to get a sense of being worthy, but feeling like it constantly eluded me.
Over time, I realized that I was trying to base self-worth on the wrong factors.
And as I delved deeper into understanding what truly shapes our self-worth, I discovered 8 factors that genuinely matter and 8 that don’t.
Let’s explore them together so that like me, you can cultivate a more authentic sense of worth, and step into your best and most confident self.
8 things that shape your self-worth
1) Your internal dialogue
One finding that really surprised me is how much your inner dialogue shapes your own perception of yourself — and how much that can impact your self-esteem.
There was a time when my internal voice was full of self-criticism and doubt. I thought it was for my own good because I was constantly pushing myself to do better.
But one day, I realized that I would never think to speak in the same way to a friend — and so it was far from kind. And this is literally the way I defined myself to myself.
So I made the conscious choice to speak to myself with compassion and love, and it wasn’t long until my self-worth improved dramatically.
2) Your relationships
Relationships are another powerful factor when it comes to your self-worth. But before you jump to any conclusions, I don’t mean your relationship status, or how many friends you have.
Rather, what matters is the quality of your relationships.
How do the people in your life treat you, and how do you treat them? Do you have relationships where you can be your authentic self, where you feel seen, heard, and valued?
When you’re around people who see your value and remind you of it, it’s easier to believe in your worth. On the other hand, relationships that belittle you, undermine your confidence, or make you feel inferior can have a detrimental impact on your self-worth.
3) Societal norms and expectations
I wish this wasn’t the case, but the pressure to conform to certain standards of beauty, success, or behavior also plays a role in how we see ourselves.
If people make it clear we are different, or we simply feel like an outcast, it will be hard to keep a sense of self-worth.
There’s an evolutionary reason for this — we are community-oriented creatures, and it was very important for our survival to be accepted as part of the group.
And because of that, many items that shouldn’t impact your self-worth can start to feel like they do.
But remember that this is all in your head, and true self-worth is something that you get from within. When you really understand this, you can be confident in who you are no matter if you’re on the same path as everyone else or blazing a new trail.
4) Your mental health
This is a big one. When you’re mentally healthy, you’re better equipped to see your own value and importance.
Conversely, struggling with issues like depression, anxiety, or something else can cloud your perception of your self-worth and make it challenging to recognize your value.
I’ve had moments in my life when I struggled with my mental health, and I know how it can cast a shadow over your self-esteem. But the good news is, you do have a lot of control over this.
Take the time to prioritize your mental well-being by practicing self-care, seeking support, and engaging in activities that bring you joy. If you’re really struggling, don’t be afraid to reach out for help.
5) Past experiences
Unfortunately, the past is another thing out of our control that shapes our self-worth.
As you may know from your own experience, painful events, failures, or negative feedback can leave deep marks.
But does that mean that if you had some bad experiences, your self-worth will be affected for life?
Thankfully, it doesn’t. There are many successful methodologies for overcoming trauma. If you’d like to learn more, Bessel van der Kolk wrote a fantastic book on the topic.
6) Your physical health
Your body is the vessel that carries you through life. When you’re physically healthy, you’re better equipped to face challenges, enjoy experiences, and engage fully in your relationships and activities.
And so, a strong, energetic body can significantly enhance your feeling of self-worth because it allows you to participate in life more fully.
Prioritize activities that make you feel good – whether it’s a daily walk, a dance class, or a sport you love.
And remember that everyone’s journey with physical health is unique. Your worth isn’t tied to societal standards of beauty or a number on a scale. It’s about feeling good in your skin, respecting your body, and giving it the care it deserves.
7) Your personal values and beliefs
Your core values and beliefs act as the compass guiding your decisions, actions, and how you view yourself in relation to the world around you.
When your actions align with your values, there’s a sense of authenticity and integrity that naturally boosts your self-worth. For instance, if honesty is a value you hold dear, every time you act truthfully, you reinforce your belief in your own worthiness.
However, life is complicated, and sometimes we’re faced with situations where we might act contrary to our values. This can create internal conflict, which can take a toll on our self-esteem.
That’s why it’s essential to continually reassess and reinforce your values and beliefs.
Spend time understanding what matters most to you, set boundaries that reflect that, and celebrate when your actions resonate with your core principles.
8) Your sense of purpose
Finally, your self-worth is intricately tied to your sense of purpose in life. This purpose isn’t necessarily a grand mission or a definitive life’s calling — it can be as simple as a daily intention or a role you cherish deeply.
Years ago, during a particularly challenging phase, I felt directionless, questioning my place in the grand scheme of things.
This period of introspection led me to a realization: the moments I felt most valued were the ones where I was helping people be their best self, whether it was mentoring someone, volunteering at a local shelter, or simply being there for a loved one.
When you’re connected to your purpose, you inherently understand your value, not because of external validations but because you feel a deep-seated alignment with what you’re doing.
Identifying your purpose can be a journey in itself. It might involve exploring passions, reevaluating priorities, or immersing yourself in new experiences. But once you find it, or even just begin the journey towards it, it becomes a beacon of self-worth.
8 things that don’t determine your self-worth
You’ve now learned 8 factors that help determine your self-worth.
But as self-worth is obviously tied to yourself, it can also be heavily influenced by what you believe impacts it.
For that reason, there are many other superficial and insignificant things that can start to feel very important and related to our self-worth — even if they shouldn’t.
But you can always begin to shift your mindset and come to realize that these things have nothing at all to do with how worthy you are.
And hopefully, after reading this list, you will.
These are things that can’t possibly define you and your worth, because they are completely external to you.
Some of them may be related to you, but are only temporary or are superficial. When you start to dig deep, and especially as you grow spiritually, you’ll come to realize that they are not part of your identity.
1) Material possessions
The car you drive, the house you live in, or the clothes you wear shouldn’t determine your self-worth. Material wealth is temporary and can’t replace genuine self-esteem.
2) Social media
The Nosedive episode of Black Mirror offers a scary vision of life when our worth depends on social media — but luckily that is not the case.
The number of likes, followers, or shares you get can be the result of someone’s mood, the algorithm, or even a person’s strategy to boost their own account.
Furthermore, social media can often be a curated highlight reel of people’s lives, not an accurate representation of them or their self-worth.
3) Other people’s opinions
Just because someone criticizes or disapproves of you doesn’t mean you are unworthy. Your self-worth should come from within, not be dependent on the validation of others.
4) Physical appearance
Beauty standards are constantly changing, and your self-worth shouldn’t be tied to how you look. Embrace your unique features and appreciate your body for what it allows you to do.
5) Academic or career success
While achieving goals in academics or your career can temporarily boost your self-esteem, they shouldn’t be the sole determinants of your self-worth.
Because you’re not worthy because of something you “do” — but rather because of the way you choose to “be”.
6) Relationship status
Being in a relationship or not doesn’t define your self-worth. It’s important to love and appreciate yourself, whether you are single, dating, or married.
7) Past mistakes
We all make mistakes, and they don’t define who you are. Your self-worth shouldn’t be determined by your past actions.
Instead, focus on learning from your mistakes and growing as a person.
8) Comparison with others
Comparing yourself to others is a common trap that can damage your self-worth.
Remember that everyone is on a unique journey with different circumstances, and comparing yourself to others is an unfair and unproductive practice.
Building a healthy sense of self-worth
Now you know 8 things that determine your self-worth, as well as 8 things that don’t.
I hope you can use this knowledge to help build your own healthy sense of self-worth, and be able to drop reliance on some things that are not so important.
Remember that self-worth is a journey — it takes time and effort, but it will be well worth it.