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How Can Self-worth Be Changed for the Better?

February 26, 2014 by Dr. Jon Warner in Self-Esteem

How Can Self-worth Be Changed for the Better?

A lack of self-esteem or worth can affect all areas of an individual’s life and prevail for many years. It can therefore be very difficult to operate in the world with a low opinion of one’s own self-worth, and life in general becomes much more of a challenge. Perhaps most significant in this difficulty is in the realm of interpersonal relationships, where many low self-esteem individuals can feel that they are inferior or even intimidated when dealing with apparently more confident and higher self-esteem people. Although there may appear to be few answers to changing the situation, in fact, there are a number of common issues and factors which apply to feelings about self-worth and in this brief article we’ll take a look at what these are and we’ll assume for our purposes here that this situation applies to the reader. 

The first issue we need to appreciate to start to affect your sense of self-worth is to fully understand that it is a self-generated perspective or a negative evaluation of ourselves that we have imposed. In other words, any feeling of a lack of worthiness can only prevail over time if we individually choose to sustain it (and then look for external information which reinforces our own view). In such circumstances, we tend to personalize everything that happens to us and often react in defensive and oversensitive ways to information, actions and events to which others are likely to react very differently. We may therefore have regular feelings of alarm, loss of self-control, feeling emotionally overwhelmed, experience self-defeat and even self-destructiveness as a result of perceived bad luck, unfairness and unkindness. However, this is over-exaggerated by our base mental model of not being worthy. As soon as we recognize this as a false perception, in theory at least, we can start the journey to better developing better overall self-worth.

Of course, external events, conditions or situations can have a real effect on feelings of self-worth. This might include, poor relationships with a boss or colleagues, workplace conflict of any kind, gratuitous rude or pointed remarks from people, marital difficulties or problems with children, siblings, parents, and their behavior (to name but a few). But once again, awareness of what is actually happening in each of these is the first step to a better ultimate outcome, which includes two broad conclusions in every situation. Firstly, these circumstances may partly exist because of your own negative contribution to them, even if it is only to be passive, lack assertiveness or regularly over-react. This means that an individual can choose to react differently. Secondly, many negative situations rely on the low self-esteem person for their continued existence. Put another way, just as an argument is difficult to sustain with only one party talking, many behaviors by others will change when the person who feels a victim to the circumstances walks away or does not react in the same way anymore, whether this is a change away from combative or from defeated behavior. 

Once we have thought-through these first two issues or factors described above, we can now start to develop strategies to more carefully evaluate our thoughts and beliefs in general. Because we now appreciate that we are choosing to be a negatively-minded player in any event and situation, the more that we can now listen to our internal dialogue and analyze it accurately. In this way we can mentally play with alternative interpretations of the situation before us, and even try new and different ways of thinking and responding. 

Although every one of the above may seem to represent only a small step towards having an impact on feelings of self-worth, evolving this greater level of consciousness about personal thought processes can have a profound affect and bring many new positive feelings into the mix. You can then begin to challenge any and every negative thought you have and question whether it is accurate and justified.

It may vary from one individual to the next but finally, an individual can not only analyze or evaluate personal thoughts and feelings that he or she is having in response to most situations, but now start to adjust thoughts, and even replace negative and inaccurate thoughts with more constructive ones. This can lead to a much more positive attitude in general and one in which you are no longer a “puppet” to circumstances but capable of making informed choices and be much more in control.

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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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