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What Determines Your Personal Value and Self-Worth?

your personal value

The way we perceive our own self-worth as a person has a profound influence on every aspect of our life. Today’s culture sends a lot of mixed signals that can easily distort our views about what makes us a worthwhile person.

Unless we develop a well grounded understanding of our true nature, self-worth and personal value, we will probably end up adopting one or more of these distorted views.

How Self-worth Affects confidence

Our confidence in our own abilities will ultimately be the deciding factor when it comes to taking action and producing results. A lack of self-confidence acts as a restraint, holding us back from pursuing the life we desire. A distorted view of self-worth leads us to believe that we don’t deserve a better life and undermines our efforts to create change.

Self-confidence, self-worth and self-esteem are all closely related and are based on a personal belief system. Beliefs are rarely about reality. They are an emotional conclusion based on our personal perception. This means that logic alone is not usually enough to alter limiting beliefs. But asking logical questions about the perceptions that lead to those beliefs can make them more susceptible to reason.

Common ideas that distort our perception

It’s important to realize that there are those who work really hard to influence our views and personal values. Advertisers try to anchor their product to our emotions in an effort to make us feel incomplete, or below par, if we don‘t buy what they are selling.

Many employers want us to think that their approval is a key factor in our self-worth and that our job is the most important thing in our life. There is also a social perception that exerts a strong influence to live up to certain expectations. And these are just a few of the forces working to mold our viewpoints about ourselves.

To counter some commonly accepted but misguided notions about self-worth, let’s take a closer look at the two sides of five different ideas that often lead to confusion.

5 Factors that influence self-worth

1. Someone else’s opinion or your perception. What this boils down to is whether we place greater importance on external or internal validation. I think that we all appreciate it when others approve of us, even if we have a strong sense of self-worth. It’s human nature to want the approval of others, but it should not be the standard by which we gauge our own worth.

We need to develop an empowering belief about our own self-worth as a person, and it should form the basis for our personal validation. External validation should be used to reinforce our beliefs, not as a basis for them.

Never allow someone else’s opinion of you to shape your view of yourself. You can build your sense of self-worth by giving sincere approval to yourself every single day.

2. What you’ve acquired or what you have given. How much stuff we own has absolutely nothing to do with our personal our self-worth. Your contributions are much more important than your acquisitions. Giving from the heart is a reflection of your inner self. It speaks of who you are, not how much you can afford.

Making personal value judgments based on material assets is for shallow thinkers only. Leave that thinking for the creditors. We don’t want to think that way, and we don’t need to be influenced by those who do.

3. IQ or practical thinking ability. On the journey of life, practical smarts are of far greater value than IQ scores. I am not saying that you can’t have both, because you can. But test results do not make one person more valuable than another. If you have common sense and the ability to make sound decisions then you are way ahead of the curve.

In certain academic circles test scores may elevate someone, but that is not the real world. My brother had the same IQ as Einstein, but lack of common sense cost him his life. Never allow test scores to make you feel more or less important than someone else. There will always be people whose test results are both higher and lower than yours. Those results have nothing to do with your self-worth or personal value.

4. Accomplishments or efforts. Accomplishment is a wonderful thing. We all feel great when we work at something and get the results we wanted. But here’s the thing; sometimes we succeed at producing our intended result, and sometimes we fail. That’s just a fact of life for everyone.

The problem is, the reward for success is usually tangible while the value of failure can be much harder to appreciate. Life is about learning what works and what doesn’t. In the learning process, success and failure have equal value as long as we learn from them. Never link your self-worth to the results you produce. Your are a person, not an accomplishment.

5. Flash or substance. This one seems obvious enough, and yet our culture often places greater value on flash. Never mistake looks, abilities, outrageous behavior or material wealth as a measure of self-worth. Substance is the name of the game. No matter how nicely wrapped a package is, the important thing is what’s inside.

The same is true of people, it’s what’s inside that counts. When we are true to our personal ethics, we have integrity. When we care about the welfare of others, we have compassion. When we give without expecting anything in return, we are generous.

Cultivate these qualities and you will be a person of substance. What a wonderful basis for a strong sense of self-worth and feelings of personal value.

What is your most valuable asset?

You have something of great worth and it is so rare that it’s not shared by anyone else on the planet. Do you know what that is? You are a one of a kind, totally unique individual. You are you, and that alone gives you personal value and self-worth.

Take some time to appreciate who you really are, aside from all the trappings and outside opinions. Make a list of things you like about yourself and then read it out loud so it can resonate in your consciousness. Think about all the ways you have contributed to the lives of those around you. Now, give yourself some well deserved approval. It’s time to celebrate you!

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24 Comments

  1. Stephen April 21, 2009 Reply

    Fantastic photo Jonathan.

    “It’s important to realize that there are those work really hard to influence our views and personal values.”

    Absolutely true. What scare me is that all this new scientific information about the brain is being used by marketers. We are understanding more and more about what influences people and they are using it to manipulate us to do what goes against our best interest. While knowing what they are doing helps, the best cure is to avoid all mass media.

    “It’s human nature to want the approval of others…”

    Yes and that includes somebody like me who always says he doesn’t care what other people think. I think the key factor is not in “not caring” but not letting that affect you. I care even when I know almost nobody approves, and yet I try not to ever let that stop me.

    “IQ or practical thinking ability?”

    I have an uncle who has an extremely high IQ and has several doctorate degrees. Trouble is he can’t take care of himself and has zero social skills. He is dying a lonely old man all by himself. There are plenty of people who have both, but you are right in so far as we need common sense more than you need academic IQ. What’s even more important is that you know how to use what you’ve got because your potential is greater than anyone’s actual.

    “Flash or substance?”

    Our modern worship of the famous for being famous (e.g. Paris Hilton) is a symptom of this sickness. There are great thinkers and individuals who have contributed massively in some way who barely get a mention when they die. Unless they are super famous they get no mention at all in the mass media. On the other hand, I think Paris Hilton’s going-to-jail caravan got as much coverage as the first gulf war.

    This is sad. I had a neighbor and friend who so badly wanted her daughter to be a cheerleader and be popular. I told her I hoped my daughter didn’t get popular. She couldn’t believe it. I said I didn’t want her to think that what other people thought was important, and in my experience those who are popular as children often have problems later in life when they become just another fish in the giant pond of the world.

    Thanks Jonathan for writing on a topic that I think is incredibly important. It is becoming even more important in the modern world of flash to teach our children and each other the value of self-respect. Seek respect first in yourself.

    • Jonathan February 19, 2011 Reply

      Hey Stephen, now that’s a comment. It’s really gratifying when someone connects with an article so completely. Thanks for all your wonderful insights Stephen.

  2. Rocket Bunny April 21, 2009 Reply

    Hello _
    I think what determines your personal value is what you give willingly. Unconditionally helping others in need and not judging people.
    People who are spoiled by material things and feel they have to wear the most expensive clothes and drive the sportiest car are missing a lot of life and that is who they really are and are perceived to be.
    Gratitude,respect and appreciation to your life and your fellow man/woman:) is what make you have personal value.

    • Jonathan February 19, 2011 Reply

      Bunny, some of the most famous people in history have been those who gave unselfishly of themselves in the service of others. Thanks for emphasizing that point Bunny.

  3. Daniel Brenton April 22, 2009 Reply

    Jonathan —

    Excellent article. Money being the thing that it is in our culture, it’s no surprise many of us do think like creditors as you noted, not that this is the way to be.

    I think how you’ve used the word “substance” here is pretty much equivalent to to the positive definition of “character.” It takes a little longer to discover if a person has character, but the investment in time can pay back immensely.

    (If I may embarrass you a bit, Jonathan, you have a great deal of character.)

    Sorry to hear about your brother and his misfortune. Happily, his experience may have yielded some benefit to you, and through you to others.

    • Jonathan February 19, 2011 Reply

      Greetings Daniel, thanks for connecting substance and character, that‘s a good observation. Your kindness is appreciated also.

  4. Alik Levin April 22, 2009 Reply

    Value is int he eye of beholder, right? ;)
    To me my value is playing to my strengths. I like your take of looking deep inside and making a list of things i like about me. I’d go for a list of my strengths and then picking top 5. My value is playing to my top 5 strengths.

    • Jonathan February 19, 2011 Reply

      Hey Alik, as I thought about your comment I couldn’t help but think that my strength is playing to my values. Nice one, works both ways.

  5. Leisa Watkins April 23, 2009 Reply

    I was surprised to find that I tied my personal worth to what I accomplished. My world came crashing down when my productivity plummeted after several car accidents, and an extended illness.

    It took a long to for me to learn to appreciate me just for being me.

    Anyway, thanks for the inspiration: I wrote down the question: “What are my most valuable assets?” and I’m going to contemplate it the next couple of days. The first thing that came to my mind was my belief system. Then I had an ah-ha moment. I realized that for some parts of my life that was not an asset, but rather a liability. It’s great to know that it is now! ~ Leisa

    • Jonathan March 11, 2011 Reply

      Hi Leisa, it’s amazing what we can learn about ourselves by asking the right questions. Once we realize things aren’t exactly the way we thought they were then we can make the needed adjustments. Growth is a beautiful thing.

  6. Amit April 2, 2010 Reply

    Very nicely written. you have covered the concept in a real nice manner. The picture is just amazing. I have always thought that personal value is your evaluation in your own eyes. your post has made me to think beyond limits……

    • Jonathan March 11, 2011 Reply

      There are lots of ways to measure personal value and approval plays a huge role in the process. Giving approval to ourselves is a great way to strengthen our sense of personal value.

  7. Galen Pearl November 30, 2011 Reply

    I led a women’s retreat and we did an exercise based on this same concept. I was struck by how difficult it was for the women there, especially the older women to think of themselves as intrinsically valuable. I wish all the women there could read this post!

    • Jonathan November 30, 2011 Reply

      Hi Galen, the problem is fairly common and that is so sad because everyone should sense their own unique value. Too many false evaluation criteria have clouded the way people asses their own worth. I hope this article can help nudge things in a more realistic and grounded direction.

  8. David Stevens November 30, 2011 Reply

    Hi Jonathan,
    You have covered some great points here. I am the only one capable of determining my own self worth therefore I set my own standard. People in general are easily distracted and will attach to all the external things going on thinking that this is “Life”. As you say “external validation” doesn’t determine our personal worth however many seek it as such. I believe that two of my most valuable assets are “listening” and “caring”. Thankyou.
    be good to yourself

    • Jonathan December 2, 2011 Reply

      Hi David, those are indeed valuable assets that I am sure your coaching clients appreciate very much. You probably find (as I do) that many who sign up for coaching struggle with their personal sense of self worth and that once they learn to give themselves the approval they deserve a whole new world opens up for them. Cheers!

  9. Jassie August 22, 2013 Reply

    Hi Jon, this is truly an amazing article..Thank you for the link!!!:))

  10. Stephen Anderson February 13, 2014 Reply

    I think the idea that called most to me was Flash or Substance. Is it real, substantive and of value. Or something to ignore as it flashes by at the speed of light. A life built on fast food is going to be one of flash, crash and burn. I life built on a healthy diet of good ideas and deep thinking is going to serve us well for a long time.

  11. Kathy February 14, 2014 Reply

    Hi Jonathan…thank you for these excellent suggestions for increasing our own sense of our self worth. While I agree with all of them, the first one has always been the most challenging. Thankfully I’m getting better as I go along and even wrote a blog post titled, “Are you an innie or an outie” that was a play on whether a person listened to one’s internal voice or that of the external world. Thanks for the reminder of these! ~Kathy

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