Defining self-worth

Previous sessions have introduced the concepts of self-criticism and self-compassion, this session introduces a new ‘self-‘ concept, that is self-worth.

One way is to think of self-worth as like a $20 note.

A $20 note which is crisp and brand new is worth $20.

Over time, this note becomes crumpled, scuffed, and dirtied.

The edges become worn and the appearance of the note becomes tarnished, but the value of the note is still $20.

Despite that which has affected the note externally, its value remains the same. Its value cannot be changed by what happens to the note.  


Self-worth exists in much the same way.


Events, circumstance, and the judgement of others cannot detract from the value of your self-worth.


What does it mean to have self-worth? It is the ability to recognise your innate value; that you are person worthy of love, respect, and acceptance, and that this 'worthiness' exists irrespective of status, achievement, or external factors.

Self-worth is similar to self-judgement in so far as you decide what factors to pay attention to and which ones to ignore when thinking about your self-worth. Here are a few examples of the areas which may impact how you evaluate your self-worth.

Your values

The role you play in society

The role you play in other people's lives

Your achievements

Your interpersonal relationships

Your relationship with yourself

Your grades or qualifications

Your appearance

Your income

Your social media presence

This list includes a mixture of both healthy (beneficial) and unhealthy (problematic) areas which self-worth can be based on.

What makes certain areas unhealthy or problematic?

Self-worth is something innate, meaning it cannot be reduced or taken away. Job title, bank account balance, social status, appearance- these are all factors which have some element which is outside your control. These are all linked to some degree with achievement

Letting your internal sense of worth be governed by external elements leaves you vulnerable to your circumstances.


This will be especially true when perfectionism comes into play.

When someone is a perfectionist, over time the level of performance they demand of themselves becomes higher and higher. In addition, the domains in which they seek to achieve become narrower and often relate to whether standards are being met in one or two key areas of life.

For a perfectionist, self-worth can be summed up in a statement like this one:

"If I meet my standards then I am acceptable. If a do not meet my standards then I am not worth anything."

This effect of 'putting all your eggs in one basket' can cause problems not only to a person's sense of self-worth, it also narrows the focus of attention and can cause other areas of life to suffer.

Time, energy, and interests become limited and areas which are engaged in for pleasure or personal interest become neglected.