Going through the hell that is narcissistic abuse does a real number to your ability to see your own self-worth. And while “self-worth” might not seem like a very important thing in theory, it can affect literally every single aspect of your life – and this does include your physical health, not to mention your mental health and ability to succeed in life.
Here’s a difficult truth: If you’re finding yourself feeling STUCK, or suffering from a lack of motivation, or feelings of depression or stagnation in your life, it could be due to a lack of self-worth.
“Self-worth” is a phrase we see thrown around a lot, and for survivors of narcissistic abuse, it can certainly be awkward to address.
What IS self-worth, anyway?
Think of it as a step above self-respect. Having self-respect means that you understand that you are valuable as a person, while self-worth means that you feel valuable among people – that you feel that you bring something special to the table; that you are valuable.
Maybe you feel a low sense of self-worth because you may feel like you haven’t learned or accomplished as much as those around you. Or, maybe you’ve just entered a new space in which you feel less qualified than those around you, or you recently tried something that didn’t work out and it damaged your sense of self-worth. Whatever your situation is, there’s nothing wrong with the feeling that you need to earn a sense of self-worth provided that you know where to start.
Or, like many narcissistic abuse survivors, perhaps you are or were in a toxic relationship with an abusive narcissist who destroyed your self-image and your self-worth. Maybe you don’t even know who you are anymore.
So what are you supposed to do? How do you rediscover (or discover for the first time) your self-worth? How can you recognize your value as a person?
First: Change Your Perspective
Your perspective is the way you see things, and the first and most important thing you can do to improve your self worth is to change your perspective.
Interesting fact: after being emotionally and mentally abused, we tend to become people-pleasers. This leads us to attempt to improve our self-worth by trying to prove ourselves to other people.
This almost never works, at least not for long. Validation from outside ourselves is fleeting and dependent on other people. We have to learn to self-validate – this is the only way to truly own our sense of self and self-worth.
Start by looking at how far you’ve come in your journey rather than comparing yourself to other people. And remember: everyone is different, and none of us was born with all of the knowledge, experience, and skills that make us valuable. Other people aren’t better than you because they got there first.
Learn Something New or Start a Project
I always find that a good project can be just what I need to get out of a slump. Maybe the project IS learning something new, or maybe it’s a creative venture. Either way, there’s a certain sense of accomplishment in creating, and in knowing that you know something. It gives you something to focus on, something to talk about and think about – something positive instead of negative. Learning something new that you are passionate about can help you to “grow forward” in some pretty significant ways. Join a club devoted to your passion, or just try to find some time on your own to do some reading and then find people that you can share your interest with. It’s a beautiful thing, my friend.
Maybe you can use your new-found skill as a volunteer. Not only could it help to improve your opinion of yourself, but it can also be the perfect outlet for your creative energy. Plus: volunteering is great for self-worth for a couple of reasons.
- Sense of accomplishment and purpose – By volunteering, no matter what you do, you are giving your time and energy in order to help those who are less fortunate than you. Maybe you didn’t graduate at the top of your class or that last project at work didn’t go the way that you hoped, but every volunteer should feel that they are doing meaningful work and that their efforts are appreciated.
- Using your talents in a supportive and unique environment – Learning new skills or learning how to use your skills in new ways can both be great ways to discover or increase your potential in an environment that is likely to be more supportive and less judgmental than a school or work environment.
Take Care of Yourself
Self-care is SO important in understanding our self-worth. It might seem obvious, but taking even a few minutes a day to just take care of YOU can change your whole world – and it can most definitely build self-worth.