Like water and sunlight to a flower, sincere words of commendation, praise, and validation helps us to thrive and grow emotionally and mentally. Sadly, not being acknowledged or valued often leads to mistrust and isolation, provoking feelings of low self-worth. Even individuals who otherwise enjoy healthy self-esteem may have to battle these feelings from time to time. It is natural and appropriate to expect some validation from others. However, due to our upbringing, experiences, and background, we may struggle with an unbalanced craving to receive positive affirmations from others. Furthermore, although external validation can help us to feel better, it is only temporary.
Such patterns of thought typically occur during our childhood. Whether consciously or subconsciously, adults, such as our parents, teach us about the world around us, relationships, etc., and thus impact the relationship we end up having with ourselves. For better or worse, they mold our self-worth and self-validation.
Take Control of Your Self-Worth
Suppose you grew up in an environment that placed great emphasis on eternal validation. If that is your case, you will likely become an adult who thrives (and perhaps even demands) validation from others. Similar “programming” occurs to those who have suffered emotional abuse as a child. Many traumas, big or small, can leave us feeling as if we weren’t good enough, loved enough, or worthy enough. The impacts of such feelings during childhood are tremendous and don’t go away on their own. These individuals develop learned patterns that need to “unlearned.” In a sense, we have to add our own voice to the conversation. We cannot let our happiness and self-worth be solely dependant on input from outside sources (past or present). We have to take back the remote control of our lives and emotions.
The good news is, we have the power to change learned patterns. We do not have to be slaves of our past. If we are insightful and self-aware, we are already on an excellent path to creating a new and healthy relationship with ourselves.
How to Trade Low Self-Worth for Self-validation?
First things first, it is essential to be aware that changes won’t occur overnight. Additionally, some steps might be more straightforward for some than for others – this is a process. The important thing is to stick to the plan and remain consistent.
1) Start An Internal Dialogue
It should all begin with having a deep conversation with yourself. Identify any emotional wounds from the past that are still present within. Were there people or situations that made you believe that you weren’t good enough? Did you ever feel as if you weren’t loved or accepted? Close your eyes and go back to that time. See yourself as the child you were and think about what you needed at that time but didn’t receive? Did you need a hug instead of a lecture? Did you need attention from a parent that was too busy or disinterested? What comes to your mind that you wish you would have had but didn’t get?
2) Replace Negative with Positive
Identifying those unmet needs is a BIG first step! Once you know what was missing, think about what you can do to fill that void right now. For example, you can speak kind words to yourself that you wish you would have heard back then. Find out what can fulfill your unmet needs and what you can do to “gift” them to yourselves now. You must repeat this process as often as necessary and prioritize providing yourself with such needs little by little, piece by piece, every day.
For example, at our clinic, we receive calls from people from all parts of the globe who realize that living a life of unhealthy habits has led to developing a chronic illness. This realization compels them to make drastic changes – before it’s too late. The same is true emotionally. Just as we need nutritious food to grow and maintain our health, we also require healthy emotional input from others, especially when we are young. If that never happened, then we have to take matters into our own hands. To find emotional balance, we must fill in those missing pieces ourselves – progressively.
3) Self Affirmations
Another significant step to trading self-worth for self-validation is changing how you speak to yourself. Are you kind to yourself? Or, are you guilty of regularly criticizing yourself? Do you find yourself saying things, such as “I am not good enough, “I don’t deserve it, “I am a failure,” and so on? Such thoughts are only examples of how you are undermining your self-worth. So, the following steps require an even more active approach to replacing negative thoughts with positive ones.
Firstly, write down all the negative chatter that’s been swirling in your mind. Then, think about a positive thought you can use to counteract each opposing viewpoint. Think about what you would say to someone who said the very same things to you about themselves. Would you confirm that yes, they are, in fact, a failure? Or, would you speak kindly to them, lift them, remind them of all the positive qualities they possess? This is what you need to do for yourself right now.
Speak reassuringly and kindly to yourself. Instead of saying “I am unproductive,” say things like “I always try to do my best” or “I have moments where I am very productive.” Acknowledge and celebrate the days where you achieved your goals.
4) Self-Worth Begins with Self-Acceptance
Acceptance is the key to maintaining a positive outlook. It was once said, “When it rains, look for rainbows. When it’s dark, look for stars.” Once you accept that you are who you are, you can begin to see the inner beauty you possess – despite the perceived flaws or limitations. Identify your good qualities and attributes. Work on and refine them. It might take practice and some time to get there, but it is possible, and it’s well worth it. Think about all your achievements, whether big or small. Remind yourself of the times where you were strong, kind, and anything else you accomplished that you value in others. If there are things about yourself that you’re unhappy with, think about what you can do to change them and improve.
Most importantly, we must realize that no one is perfect. But the reality is: no one needs to be. Once we accept and love ourselves for who we are, we can start to enjoy the enriching and lifelong journey of becoming the best version of ourselves. This journey is not about the destination but rather the joy of making little steps and marginal gains in the right direction. With this mindset, each day will provide itself with something to celebrate, giving us joy and a sense of fulfillment. And subsequently, we will replace low self-worth with healthy self-validation.