Your self-worth is a function of how you value yourself. To build your self-worth you must first discover your values and then make up your own definition of success. Your values are nothing more than what you value in life.
You probably already know that society places excessive value on the outward appearance of success, such as money, material possessions, physical appearance, marital status, career, and so on. In contrast, little consideration is ever given to the loftier values of a person, such as love, integrity, kindness, emotional intelligence, forgiveness, and inner balance, when defining one’s success.
This means that we have a warped definition of success based largely on outward appearances, which really results in a warped sense of self-worth.
Discover How You Value Yourself:
You are likely to find those specific outward appearances automatically trigger a need within you to compare yourself to others, whether it is how much money someone else has or is making, how physically attractive they are, their relationship status,, or what material possessions they own,, and so on.
Dig a little deeper and you will find that you have unwittingly placed an undue value on these outward appearances and are using them to determine your own self-worth. In other words, how much money you have, how attractive you are, and so on, have become the determining function of your self-worth, and usually in isolation from all our other qualities and achievements.
Such specific comparisons leave you temporarily feeling either better or worse about yourself, depending on where you ranked yourself on society’s scale of success.
The Relative Nature of Outward Appearances:
Take a moment and make a list of all those outward appearances that you have inadvertently made the yardstick of your inner self-worth. See how all these things on your list actually require you to compare yourself to others or to seek outside approval in order to determine your self-value or “how well you are doing”.
In other words, you can never really gauge how much money you have if you do not compare it to someone else’s bank account, or how attractive you are if you do not compare yourself to someone else’s looks. The humor in Daniel Gilbert’s definition of happiness (Harvard psychology professor and the author of Stumbling on Happiness) says it all:
“Happiness is proportional to your salary divided by your brother-in-law’s salary.”
The Changeability of Outward Appearances:
Outward appearances are highly subject to change. A multi-millionaire can find himself bankrupt overnight and a beggar can find himself a millionaire. There are no absolutes in outward appearances.
The problem with this is, that if you are using such changeable things to define your self-worth, then you are left aiming at an always-moving target because there will always be someone richer, more attractive, and more materially successful than you. It can be no other way in the physical world of the relatives.
The Paradox of Valuing Outward Appearances:
How you value yourself is a reflection of how you value others. For instance, if you have placed an undue value on money as a symbol of success, then in your estimation, people with more money are to be admired more than those with less.
Ironically, the very people who you admire most are also the people you envy most when their bank balance outdoes yours. Therein lies the paradox – whatever you admire most, you must also envy. In other words, you can never really be happy for those you admire most when your own self-worth is based on outward appearances.
The Illusory Nature of Outward Appearances:
The undue value that society places on outward appearances is fuelled by the ignorance that everything we experience in the outward physical world has its origin in the inner mental world.
This means, that all outward appearances are just that – appearances – or illusions if you prefer.
This does not mean that they are not physically “real”. It simply means that the appearances that you cling to so dearly and that you use to judge your own worth relative to that of others, are really just products of the most powerful resource of all – your mind – and are hence subject to change through your mind’s activity i.e. your thoughts.
It is your thoughts that create your circumstances and hence your thoughts that can change them. Comparing yourself to others simply keeps your thoughts focused on the very circumstances that you most likely want to change and, by the Law of Attraction, you create more of the same.
What Do You Really Value?
It should be obvious to you by now that it is futile to base your self-worth on outward appearances that are relative in nature and simply the product of one’s mind. The question then is, what should you base it on instead? This exercise will enable you to see for yourself what you really value.
Make a list of all those human qualities that you value. Some examples may be personal integrity, self-love, the ability to show love, kindness, self-confidence, honesty, self-conviction, being true to oneself, a sense of humor, affection, gratitude, and so on.
Also, the ability to use and display any one emotion appropriately, at the right time, and to the appropriate degree.
Now compare this list of values to your original list of outward appearances that you have up until now inadvertently been using as your yardstick for self-worth.
Which list holds what you truly value? It is easy, the one that makes you feel an inner sense of calm and power that cannot be disturbed by outward forces or opinions. It is the list of human values. The more you associate yourself with the Real You which is your higher self, the more such human values will define you.
Now that you can see how misguided the stereotypical definition of success is (being based on outward appearances), you can write down a new definition of success based on those virtues and qualities on your second list. One of the most well-known definitions of success has to be that of Ralph Waldo Emerson.
This is what he had to say about success:
“To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty;
to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition;
to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”
Your Very Own Definition of Success:
Write down your own definition of success, including all those virtues you admire most, and use it as your new yardstick for success. Think big and go beyond even what Emerson had to say about success.
Make sure your definition of success is about you – not about others, how you compare to them or what they may think of you. Print it out and place it somewhere where you can see it every day. Read it every day and endeavor to make it your way of life. You will quickly find that your need to compare yourself to anyone else disappears.
As a once-off exercise, use your new definition of success to re-compare yourself to those people you used to compare yourself to based on society’s definition. You may find that they do not display any of the virtues that you have used to define real success, and so no matter how much money they have, or how high up they have climbed on the career ladder, or how attractive they are, or how happy they seem to be in their relationships; that you would never really want to be like them.
For example, would you still want someone else’s career position if you knew they had backstabbed their colleagues to get there? Hardly! Of course, when comparing yourself to random strangers, you can never really know their true virtues, so doing so is itself pointless based on your new definition of success.
Make Outer Appearances a Choice, Not Your Yardstick:
Your new definition of success does not mean that you throw out the old one. It simply means that those outer appearances by which society defines success, no longer define you. They no longer add to or subtract from your self-worth in any way. Your worth is independent of them.
Of course, you are still free to pursue a rewarding career, make as much money as you want, make yourself look your best, and acquire all those material things you may want. The difference lies in why you are doing so. And the answer is because you choose to, not because you have to in order to feel better about yourself compared to others.
Paradoxically, you will find that when those outer appearances that you once so desperately pursued no longer define you, they will flow freely toward you.
Others as a Source of Inspiration:
Interestingly, you will find that even if someone else displays more of a specific virtue that you admire than you do, it brings out a sense of greater love and admiration for that person, rather than a sense of jealousy and insecurity. While comparing yourself in any way is unnecessary, you can look to those people who display the qualities you admire most, as a source of inspiration to become a more successful person yourself based on your definition of success.
If You Must Compare, Compare the Whole Package:
We already know that we live in a society in which comparing ourselves to others is the norm and, if anything, it is encouraged from a very young age. If at first, you find it difficult to stop comparing yourself there is no need to become frustrated. Remember that it is just a bad habit that is on its way out.
In the meantime, if you must compare yourself, make sure to compare the whole package i.e. both the outward appearances and inner qualities of that person. When you compare the whole package, instead of isolated factors of outward success, you are likely to find that comparing really leaves your inner self undisturbed. Mentally wish whoever you compare yourself to the same success that you wish for yourself and let it go.
There is No Competition in Real Self worth:
There is seldom a prize or career promotion for the kindest person in the office or for the person with the greatest integrity. You will find that people do not compete to see who is the kindest, who is the most loving, or who is the most self-assured. This is because man’s loftiest virtues belong to his higher self.
Your higher self is above the opposites of the physical world and those outer appearances that society stereo-typically uses to define success. Your higher self is above the need to compare, not because it cannot compare but because it knows that doing so is futile. Man’s highest virtues are fundamental to the human spirit and can not be bought or sold for all the money in the world. Real self-worth is priceless.
In a nutshell:
Building your self-worth is fundamental to achieving real success in your life. Forget what society tells you about what it means to have succeeded, and endeavor to create your own definition of success based on those human qualities and virtues that you value most.
Make it your goal to become a successful human being by inwardly living and outwardly displaying those virtues you admire most and you will find no competition in your way. When you have built your self-worth based on your own definition of success, you will find that all those material things or outer appearances that once seemed out of reach no longer define you, and that they paradoxically now flow freely toward you.
This is what it means to have succeeded your way.
By Tania Kotsos