I have to pause (again) my current 4-part series, Games of Unknowledging, for this one very important thermometer on life; a happy, thriving, giving life that most doctors, therapists, and altruists would also consider a most important check-up. I promise my next post will be the conclusion. Promise!

∼ ∼ ∼ § ∼ ∼ ∼

How we define our worth often hinges on what others around us say and do, or don’t say and don’t do, correct? Afterall, how can our own self-perception be accurate, honest, and objective if we have nothing to compare by? What constitutes worth and what exactly are those litmus tests that define it? Are they accurate? How much attention and energy should we give to our worth, its creation and its perpetuation? Peter Gabriel had something to say, or rather sing about self-worth in his 1986 hit “Big Time,” remember?

No matter how we choose to measure our own worth, there are fluctuating degrees of external feedback we seek, consciously or subconsciously, and this can be healthy and/or unhealthy.

Thoreau quote

In our modern age of booming technology, something seemingly new every month, sporting frantic paces, competition, and only 24-hours in a day to get it, manage it and finish it, sometimes at the expense of restful sleep, the insatiable beast of technological-consumerism demands ever-growing absorption. I’m not sure how aggressive it is in other countries, but in the U.S. it’s not just fierce, it has reached the intrusive levels of addiction. Tristan Harris with web-portal Big Think:

So… how do you define your self-worth? One way? Two, three or four different ways? Share your thoughts about how to define self-worth, I’d like to know them.

(paragraph break)

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55 thoughts on “Self-Worth

  1. Of the ways I define my self-worth social media factors in exactly zero. Then again, I’m not terribly active on social media.

    In terms of self-worth I define my worth by the impact I have on the lives of others, by my personal integrity, my work ethic, and by the way my friends (both online and off) and family view me.

    Liked by 7 people

    • Ruth! Great to see you again!!! Thank you for coming around! 😀

      I don’t blame you at all for not being active on social-media, e.g. Facebook. Nothing lost at all in my opinion.

      Your thermometers used to define self-worth are diverse enough to get a good picture. Do you ever worry that those closest to you, those who value your interactions, presence, etc, always give their honest assessment? I wonder sometime about certain individuals around me, for example, those who I know to be overly sweet and polite.

      Liked by 3 people

      • “Do you ever worry that those closest to you, those who value your interactions, presence, etc, always give their honest assessment?”

        Of course there are those who wouldn’t be perfectly honest, but I have a sister and a close friend with whom there is an agreement. If you don’t want an honest opinion you’d better not ask. The three of us keep it pretty real.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. It’s a balancing act between self-assuredness and internalizing the perceptions of us by others. Healthy people exist somewhere in the middle between narcissism and neuroticism. For me, the key is a well-developed and consistently-applied sense of morality – a philosophical trait that seems to be falling out of favor these days particularly among those prone to nihilistic beliefs. Living one’s life in accordance to sound ethical principles (not the arbitrary externalizations of morality prescribed by religion, for example) provide the emotional stability and piece peace of mind necessary for good self-esteem. In other words, it enables us to be confident that we are living well by doing right even when others disagree.

    This great song by Boston expresses my sentiments:

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I try to never let one aspect of who I am define me. Of course, that’s quite easier said than done. I have many criteria for measuring my worth, but the weight that each carries changes at different periods of my life.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I don’t think we really get to choose how we quantify self-worth. It’s based on the socio-cultural messages we absorb. My joke to Ruth wasn’t entirely a joke. Men in most societies are judged based on status, and status is broken down into access to prised resources.
    Social media value, for the vast majority of people, doesn’t translate to real-life value assessments.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Pink, this is a provocative POV. Thank you, and one that is brutally realistic in my opinion. Social and religious constructs have certainly played a significant role in measuring self-worth.

      Social media value, for the vast majority of people, doesn’t translate to real-life value assessments.

      Not even for financial gains/profits or potential exposure for such?

      Liked by 1 person

        • I am not familiar with it, no. I’ll need to read up on it.

          Regarding “execution” I think (prematurely?) I’d have to agree with you/Pareto — the game is often rigged or favors certain specific players with applicable resourcefulness or specialized education, yes? Now to go read up on the Pareto Principle. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

        • P.A. Merveilleux,

          I read up on the Pareto Principle (thank you btw) and I think I understand what you are alluding to, but I want to bounce this off of you. Inadequate or unbalanced distribution (input-output) with any number of inclusive related variables, right? Life, people, social constructs, Nature/Earth, will never be 50/50, or perceived that way by all. Someone loses, someone wins. Some break even.

          To my initial response, rigged games, if say the 80% do NOT play strictly by all the rules of the 20% — for example, just recognizing that no one of the 80% have to play at all, i.e. preserving their own worth/dignity — would not that ploy/execution and organization(?) at least offer the moving seesaw SOME moments or time-periods in equality, until one side or the other compensate… over-compensate? In other words, depending on organizational dynamics, does not 100% of players have at minimum a role in the operation and at most to lead and reform the imbalance? And regarding social-media’s ‘potential,‘ how might the 2010 Arab Spring correlate with organized protests and reforms/balancing?

          Liked by 3 people

          • That’s an interesting angle.
            It really depends what you’re laying out as the standards/parameters.
            My mention on Pareto Principle was in relation to people being presented with models that are either imperfect on their face or imperfect when all variables aren’t identical to the original model.
            Take for example how a university education used to be presented as a straightforward formula for success. Spain and Portugal now have the most educated population they’ve had in all history, but unemployment levels are through the roof.
            The social media example is a similar case where the model works very effectively when conditions are ideal, e.g. Kardashians, but even small deviations and people can fall out of the 20% who benefit and into the 80% who are unsuccessful.

            Liked by 2 people

  5. Hello Professor. The question of self worth is one I have struggled with all my life. I do think it is related to peace of mind but they are not dependant on each other.
    Self worth is ingrained into us early in life. In childhood it is hard to recognize one’s worth based on internal markers, and so we are dependant on the reaction of others to what we do or not do. That feedback becomes our measure. We all seek attention and favor as children so if a caregiver shows positive feedback a child sense of themselves as having worth goes up. IF the caregiver is negative the child has a negative image of himself and what they do.
    I have often noticed I can not see myself as others do. I have trouble acknowledging accomplishments. I fail too often to credit my own abilities. I find I am over joyed when others notice positive things about me that I don’t credit myself for. While scoring high on tests and having accomplished many things in my life, I tend to personally feel others have achieved more than I and are smarter than I am. I am not talking self pity or in a woe is me, I just value education and reason among other traits and I admire people I see these traits in. I prefer the company of people who I can learn from. So yes I tend to take great joy in having those I look up to credit me for something. Now I don’t know if this is a normal situation or a development from my abusive childhood.

    I find peace of mind to be something self made. I chose to be the person I am , not the person others tried to make me. I refused to be what those who raised me wanted to make me. I refused to accept being pushed into a mold that some wish to fit me into. My peace of mind is generated when I am true to the person I want myself to be. I take satisfaction from how I relate to other people, how I handle daily life, how I deal with failure or setback. I do not depend on others to set my mood. I feel that is a defeat in being who I want to be. I am responsible for being happy, letting my self be sad when appropriate, and to treat others as I feel I want to treat them, not as they are pushing me to treat them. In other words, if someone is a jerk trying to make me angry, I can give them that power or deny it to them. I won’t blame someone else by saying you made me do this. So maybe for me peace of mind is to be responsible for what I do and say? I never thought about it like that before. Thanks for letting me rant on. Hugs for all.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Scottie, what a GREAT comment! Ranting from you is allowed! I can only imagine what your life, childhood-to-teenage years (young adult too?), have been like. And look how well you’ve turned out! You certainly deserve lots of credit and those who have helped along the way. 🙂 ❤

      Self-worth and peace of mind do go hand-in-hand, don't they? You probably have not read my April 2011 blog-post "Sexual & Gender Ambiguity” where myself, my Mom, and my addict-sister were helped WAY BEYOND what we are ever capable of giving in return to this remarkable woman! She was, by ignorant foolish societal-norms, an “atypical woman” that honestly this world needs a lot more like her! I can never be grateful enough for what she did for my Mom and sister. If you get a chance, read that post. 🙂

      So Scottie, I wish we had thousands-millions more like you in this world!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Hi Professor. Thank you. I read the post you linked to. Very interesting. I am glad you and your family had such a person in your life. She / he gave far more than he took in life it seems. It is grand to be comfortable in one’s self. It is hell to be forced into a mold one doesn’t fit. I wonder with all we are learning and know there are things we have yet to understand in the sex, gender, emotional needs areas…could these things be more fluid and less fixed than we thought? Hugs

        Liked by 1 person

        • Susan was utterly invaluable to my Mom’s support and my sister’s treatment via genuine empathy and love! So sad that it took so much, over so many years for Susan to finally get to the point of helping and giving to other “normal” (HAH!) people in need. I think about how much MORE she could’ve done had society not treated her so horribly. 😦

          Yes indeed, fluid. “Fixed” is only a coping mechanism we humans utilize. It doesn’t necessarily define reality though.

          Liked by 2 people

  6. Not much to add here. I read a paper in a psychology journal that basically said our individuality is an illusion. The only way we can conceptualize ourselves is through the understanding of others. Those first others are normal our families and this process begins when we are born and then at around 6 months do we only realize that we are distinct individuals and not still part of our mothers. This continues our whole life. I don’t really think we can understand ourselves if we don’t have context based on the behavior of others. I agree with Pink’s assessment completely. It’s why no man or woman can progress too far beyond their time. Lincoln was still a racist… Gandhi was still a misogynist… Newton was still a religious nut. You can better the odds through education but there is only so far you can go. Personally I try to measure myself as Ruth describes… Ultimately we do have a self worth bias and will generally judge ourselves higher than we actually are.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I have to agree with you (to some degree?) Swarn about only being able to go so far in their time/era. If I may, I want to throw in the Overcrowded Lifeboat Dilemma in relation to this post, some of the comments, and perhaps gain some broader perspective outside of self. Who might be more worthy than another, or ourself? Given obvious TIME restrictions, how can worth/value be accurately assessed? Would YOU volunteer to leave the lifeboat? Why or why not? 🙂

      Ultimately we do have a self worth bias and will generally judge ourselves higher than we actually are.

      This is a very interesting point I think is generally true with a very small confined context, e.g. living most of your life in a small remote village with a population of 60 and having never gone outside that context/village. How would such a person handle the Overcrowded Lifeboat Dilemma? How would others in the lifeboat handle that person given the time restrictions?

      Liked by 2 people

      • I think we can often be more honest with our self-assessment when we know the people around us really well, but the self-worth bias tends to play out more when we consider ourselves in the larger context of a society in which we don’t know everyone. For example thinking you are one of the better professors at your university or thinking that you are in the upper 75th percentile of drivers.

        I think humans have shown to be self-sacrificing when people they care about are in danger and you know you are less needed than someone who is a doctor, or someone who is a survivalist or whatever. In a desperate situation I think we can think in terms of what’s best for group survival and realize our self-worth accordingly.

        Liked by 2 people

        • There was a university study done in the U.K. recently that showed self-worth bias exactly along the lines you are speaking of Swarn. I tried to find it but was unsuccessful — I thought it was done with the assistance of neurologist Dr. David Eagleman — but when asking young adults what they thought their IQ level/score might be within a group of strangers (perhaps based on homeless attire), all of them expressed a higher IQ comparison than what their actual score indicated. Several of the pretend-homeless strangers had very high IQ scores. Wish I could remember exactly what the study was entitled. :/

          In a desperate situation I think we can think in terms of what’s best for group survival and realize our self-worth accordingly.

          I don’t really argue against this Swarn, but I am aware that given severe time-constraints — only seconds to decide/react — it makes that choice extremely more difficult and with a higher chance of deciding wrong, especially if one saves themselves first while another dies. In those (rare?) situations, HOW can one decide within seconds whether your life is of more worth than a strangers? I’m somewhat just thinking out loud and in general Swarn. 😉

          Liked by 2 people

  7. “How do you define your self-worth?”

    But I haven’t got a self . . . Actions have worth, though, and in themselves carry a moral agency. In my opinion, harmlessness is the highest good, rather like John is saying but expressed in the passive sense of reducing suffering — that is to say, not causing any.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Well there you go again H, with your to-and-fro swaying of contentedness and contemplations with mental culture for our ghosts, scaring ordinary folk like me with stuff like that!!! 😉 😛

      I swear, I’d take some “ACTION” on you if I could slap your shoulder with that untouchable comment! ❤

      P.S. That was actually a perfect comment Sir.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Apologies Professor, you caught me in Awkward Sod mode, suffering, as I currently am, by a dentist-inflicted wound to my gum line of quite massive, almost unbearable scale. I don’t blame him at all of course — oh, no — just his bastard actions, and for which I paid handsomely. 😥

        And remember, when you, as an imagined Professor-shaped self, appear to be suffering due to The Gunners languishing a dozen points beneath Spurs after 18 games, it’s all an illusion! [Apart from the 18 points, that is.]

        H ❤

        Liked by 1 person

        • No apologies necessary silly man. And damn that dentist! Were you flirting too heavily and she responded in kind? 😉 😛

          Seriously, do get well. Can you still smile, genuinely, or is it just too unbearable? Now as far as other apologies, you should absolutely feel some sort of remorse for that last paragraph, no matter HOW true it might be. That shot straight to the heart, much more the upper-90 corner of my goal!!! Hahaha! Geezzz, was it really 18-points!? 😨

          Liked by 1 person

        • Sadly, the delightful Lenka, my former voluminous dentist, has returned to her native Slovakia, to be replaced by a less alluring Greek chap with an over-fondness for raw garlic, so it would seem. 😐 Yes, I can still smile. When I forget about the bill.

          Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you for getting the cerebral-juices flowing here! I struggle with self-worth more than I ever should. It’s based ofcourse on how others perceive me… that feedback from loved ones and friends… from my kids…from coworkers and employees… it all does matter. The people who surround us, make us who we are in many ways… sometimes for the better sometimes for the worse. You know? Like that saying “Show me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are”.. there’s so much accuracy to this! So I often question when people (myself included) say things like “I DON’T CARE WHAT PEOPLE THINK OF ME” because the truth is… we kinda do whether we like to admit it or not! I feel like… ultimately though- we improve and better ourselves and shape ourselves and our lives based on a mental accumulation of “feedback”. Hmm. I’m not sure if I made sense hahaha

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hahaha! Ely, you made perfect sense! See… see how I reaffirmed your concern to help you with your self-worth? I’m good at that ya know! 😉

      Seriously though, I do feel it is important to do a self checkup with feedback from dear, brutally honest friends or family. In our crazy face-paced society here in the States, it’d be real easy to get lost in all the marketing hub-bub, hype, absorption if we don’t do regular checkups, right?

      Thank you so much for stopping by Ely and commenting. Please feel free to do some more! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Fox:

      “kinda” … I like that. For myself I continue to state that the only opinion of me that really matters in this world is my own.

      Sure, I respect the opinion of The Spouse but I won’t let her opinion change me in any way.

      Who do we envy, then—the guy with the whole world fawning at his feet (but despises himself—he alone knows the truth), or the cat who can look at a king? Please put me down for cat …

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Recently I have realized that your self-worth (which is a direct reflection of self-love) should not be connected to anything, People’s perceptions, things you possess, money, Life events you run into, work you do or for that matter your actions. I know this sounds like deferring from taking responsibility but stay with me.

    If we reduce our self-worth with every mistake, monetary loss, Lost client or lost love we will soon become an empty shell…We will lose all faith in ourselves and will not be able to experience much joy or growth (most of us have felt like that at a point in our life).

    Our self-worth (self-love) has to be as unconditional as… let’s say the loved one has for one’s child. One punishes their children, corrects their actions, gives them knowledge and wisdom and expects them to grow but at any point of time even when one is not happy with them, one does not stop valuing of loving them. (typically)

    The one person you should always have with you in life is yourself. You need to love and value yourself no matter what and not in a selfish or pompous way but with an awareness that we are all neither better or worse than someone, we are all doing our best with what we have and who we are.

    Liked by 1 person

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