Prior to working as a Women’s Empowerment and Leadership Coach, I was a therapist/director for hospital-based programs focusing on eating disorders, non-suicidal self-injury, suicide risk/assessment/prevention, and trauma. The clients I worked with were ages 11-77 and were 90% female. Underlying the therapy, program development, and coping skills I helped clients implement was self-worth.
The focus of self-worth is also prevalent in my work as a Coach. Self-worth is about who we are, our own worth, and our perceived value. Self-worth is our foundation. When our self-worth is strong, it shows in how we interact with others, our work and our relationships. When our self-worth is lacking it is difficult to use our voice, get our needs met, and advocate for ourselves. Historically, girls and women have not necessarily been taught or encouraged to have a strong sense of self-worth – until now.
Here are six steps to take to improve your self-worth.
Step 1: Make the Decision
The first step to improving self-worth is to make the decision to do so. It sounds simple, but anytime we do something new and step out of our comfort zone, we can have doubts. Making the decision and setting the intention are essential.
In our world of instant gratification, know that the process of improving our self-worth will take time and doesn’t happen overnight. It’s important to discuss our fears, limiting beliefs, and doubts throughout our work, either with a coach or therapist. These discussions can help us limit self-sabotage and increase motivation to keep moving forward.
Step 2: Identify & Challenge Negative Thoughts
The second step is to identify our negative thoughts. Are you aware of the negative messages you tell yourself each day? Did you know that these negative thoughts impair your sense of value and impede your progress? Take some time and write down the negative and not-so-pleasant thoughts you tell yourself, no matter how big or small. As you think of new thoughts, add them to the list.
Once we have identified our negative thoughts, we then want to challenge them. This may seem foreign at first. It can be helpful to remember that there was a time when we didn’t believe the negative thoughts. Over time, as we heard them from others, or said them to ourselves, we began to believe them until they became part of us. It is possible to undo this thinking process. However, it does take time.
To aide in this process, I like to have my clients take a piece of paper and fold it in half length-wise. On the left side of the fold, write down all the negatives in one color. On the right side, in a different color, challenge each of those negative thoughts.
I AM DISORGANIZED → I AM ORGANIZED – I JUST HAVE A LOT I NEED TO TRACK RIGHT NOW
I CAN’T DO ANYTHING RIGHT → I DO A LOT RIGHT, IT TAKES TIME & SELF-COMPASSION TO LEARN SOMETHING NEW
Step 3: Take a Relationship Inventory
The third step is to take an inventory of your relationships. What are your relationships like? Are your relationships with others supportive, or are they critical? It is difficult to feel good about ourselves if the people we spend time with are degrading us, cutting us down, or undermining us. I’m not suggesting ending your relationships, but to have an awareness of the dynamics and how supportive they are of you. If you are looking for support, reaching out to the family member or friend that reminds you of your limitations will not be helpful.
Understanding the working dynamics of our relationships can allow us to work on setting boundaries. It also helps us identify who we can reach out to, who to spend less time with, and who to work to build more positive relationships with.
Step 4: Create Positive Affirmations
I am all about positive affirmations! The negative ones come so easily, but many struggle with the positives. Make it a goal to write down 50 positive things about yourself. I know 50 can seem like a lot, but I also know you can get there. Just take it one at a time, and breathe!
I encourage you to do the list by yourself. If you ask someone else to help you, it’s almost inevitable at some point that you’ll have a disagreement with that person and then you might discount those positives. If you write the list of affirmations yourself, they are always true no matter your mood or the situation.
Keep your list nearby and read it frequently. Do not discount the affirmations as you read them! The more you read them, the more you will believe them.
Step 5: Respond Positively to Compliments
When someone gives you a compliment, what do you do? Many women dismiss the compliment or discount it. Spend some time observing women receiving compliments. How many times have you heard a woman tell another woman they like their skirt and the response is, “This old thing? I got it on a huge sale.” Instead, next time you receive a compliment, say “thank you” and then stop – do not let your internal voice discount it. It may be uncomfortable at first, but you can do it! A compliment is a gift. When we receive a gift, we say “thank you”.
Step 6: Take Good Care of Yourself
When we take care of ourselves, we tend to feel better about ourselves. Whether it’s yoga, exercise, reading a book, relaxation, meditation, a bubble bath, alone time, eating right, or something else you enjoy, incorporating self-care into each day can help you feel better about yourself. When you’re super busy, it may seem like you don’t have the time, so start with 2 – 5 minutes a day and work your way up. You’ll feel better about yourself. When we aren’t feeling tired and depleted, we are able to function much better.
Reviewing each of these steps at the beginning of our sessions has been beneficial for my clients. The review gives my clients opportunity to discuss any struggles that are occurring as well as acknowledging growth in how they view themselves. Find someone you can review your progress with, and remember to celebrate your successes.