What Is Self-Worth?

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If you’ve heard the term “self-worth,” you’re probably wondering what exactly it means and why it’s important.

What Is Self-Worth?

Self-Worth

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), your self-worth is your evaluation of yourself as a capable and valuable human being deserving of consideration and respect. It is an internal sense of being worthy of love.

We often think about terms like “respect,” “love,” and “consideration” with regard to our relationships with others, such as our friends, family members, colleagues, and neighbors. However, the term “self-worth” is a gauge of how much we respect, love, and value ourselves. 

People with positive self-worth tend to have greater self-confidence and self-esteem. Having low self-worth, on the other hand, means judging oneself harshly, having a low opinion of oneself, and tending to focus on one's mistakes and shortcomings, rather than one's abilities and strengths.

Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD

It’s important to have self-worth because it impacts everything you do from your relationships, to how you work, how you feel about yourself, and how others view you.

— Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD

This article explores the importance of self-worth and suggests some strategies to help you improve your self-worth. 

Factors That Influence Self-Worth

Self-worth is a subjective concept that can fluctuate based on many variables, says Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD, a clinical psychologist, and professor at Yeshiva University. 

According to Dr. Romanoff, these are some of the factors that may influence self-worth:

  • Core beliefs and values
  • Thoughts and feelings
  • Emotions and mental well-being
  • Experiences and interactions with others
  • Relationships, both past and present
  • Health and physical fitness 
  • Career and profession 
  • Activities and hobbies
  • Community and social status 
  • Financial position
  • Physical appearance
  • Childhood experiences

Gauging Your Self-Worth

If you’re trying to gauge your self-worth, Dr. Romanoff says it may be helpful to ask yourself the following questions:

  • How much do you like, respect, and value yourself?
  • Which words would you use to describe yourself to a stranger?
  • When you self-reflect and think about yourself, are your thoughts generally positive, negative, or somewhere in between?
  • Do you believe you are worthy of others’ love, respect, and consideration?

Asking yourself these questions can help you introspect and get a sense of your own self-worth. 

As you explore these thoughts, it can also be helpful to think about where your thoughts and beliefs around your self-worth originated from.

Importance of Self-Worth

Below, Dr. Romanoff explains the benefits of having a healthy sense of self-worth and the potential pitfalls of having low self-worth.

Benefits of Positive Self-Worth

Folks with high self-worth carry with them a sense of confidence that they will be all right and manage whatever comes their way. While they are aware of areas in which they can improve, they don’t let their shortcomings define their identity. They are not afraid to pursue opportunities and have reasonable faith in their ability to deliver.

Self-worth also plays an important role in relationship dynamics. For example, if someone is treated poorly, their self-worth will likely have a large impact on their interpretation of the event—someone with low self-worth may blame themselves, whereas a person with healthy self-worth may not consider themselves deserving of mistreatment.

Therefore, having positive self-worth can help people set boundaries around how they are treated by others. Though it sounds counterintuitive, respecting themselves can help them gain the respect of others.

According to a 2017 study, positive self-worth is associated with a greater sense of well-being and life satisfaction.

Potential Pitfalls of Low Self-Worth

Low self-worth is characterized by a negative view of oneself and a lack of trust in one’s abilities. As a result, there is a perpetual fear of failure, difficulty accepting positive comments, and a disproportionate focus on weaknesses.

Because there is a strong tendency to devalue oneself, there is also a tendency to elevate others, in an effort to compensate. Someone with low self-worth may therefore minimize their needs, allow their boundaries to be infringed, go out of their way to please others, and be unable to stand up for themselves.

Low self-worth is highly correlated with depression and anxiety. As a result, people may experience symptoms like low mood, irritability, anxiety, fatigue, changes in weight, sleep difficulties, and inability to concentrate.

Strategies to Improve Your Self-Worth

Below, Dr. Romanoff shares some strategies that can help you boost your sense of self-worth:

  • Do things you enjoy and are good at: Getting good at something—and enjoying it—can provide positive reinforcement and feelings of proficiency and capability. Having regular reminders of your talents, strengths, and abilities can help make you more confident in other areas of your life as well.
  • Exercise and challenge yourself: Research shows us that physical activity is linked to a greater sense of self-worth. Inducing moderate strain on your body and striving towards increasingly advanced goals each time gives you tangible proof that you are capable of more than you thought. Exercise also recalibrates your mindset and offers both physical and mental benefits.
  • Challenge negative thoughts: Remember that thoughts are not facts. In fact, most of the time, they are distortions caused by internalized critics, stress, and situational demands. Next time you have a negative self-thought, think of an alternative positive thought to replace it.
  • Seek support: You could also see a therapist for self-worth, if you notice that it’s constricting the quality of your functioning in your relationships, work, or emotional well-being. Having low self-worth can be like living life through restricted blinders. Sometimes complacency with this restriction grows, and people believe they are not worthy of more. In these instances, the perspective of a neutral, trained professional can be very effective.
  • Build self-worth in your children: The origins of low self-worth can often be traced back to the behaviors of well-meaning adults in childhood. If you have children, it’s important to actively work toward building their self-esteem. Rather than rewarding them for external factors such as appearance or winning sports games or prizes, recognize and praise internal factors such as effort and determination. Focus on what your child can control because if their self-esteem is solely based on external factors, it is hollow and only as strong as the next accomplishment.

A Word From Verywell

Having a healthy sense of self-worth is important and can contribute to better relationships, work, health, and overall mental and emotional well-being. If you think you might have low self-esteem, there are steps you can take to improve it and have a more positive view of yourself. Loving, respecting, and valuing yourself can be the first step toward gaining the love, respect, and consideration of others.

6 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Psychological Association. Self-worth. APA Dictionary of Psychology.

  2. University of North Carolina Wilmington. Self-worth.

  3. Du H, King RB, Chi P. Self-esteem and subjective well-being revisited: The roles of personal, relational, and collective self-esteem. PLoS One. 2017;12(8):e0183958. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0183958

  4. Sowislo JF, Orth U. Does low self-esteem predict depression and anxiety? A meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. Psychol Bull. 2013;139(1):213-240. doi:10.1037/a0028931

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mental health conditions: Depression and anxiety.

  6. Reddon H, Meyre D, Cairney J. Physical activity and global self-worth in a longitudinal study. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2017;49(8):1606-1613. doi:10.1249/MSS.0000000000001275

By Sanjana Gupta
Sanjana is a health writer and editor. Her work spans various health-related topics, including mental health, fitness, nutrition, and wellness.