It can be hard to care about ourselves if we don't feel worthy. And it's hard to feel worthy about ourselves if we don't care about ourselves! It's a vicious cycle that's easy to fall into the trap of.
Feeling self worthy is a life long pursuit. We can see ourselves as worthy because of what we do, what society thinks of what we do, how we look or because of how we identify ourselves. For men and women alike this can be a constant and ongoing challenge but possibly with some differences as the equality for women debate continues to highlight.
As a women it's easy to define ourselves in terms of the roles we play in life rather than what matters to us. Daughter, sibling, partner or wife, mother, worker. Society places certain expectations on each of these roles and what should and shouldn't be done as part of carrying out these roles.These expectations can be subtle and non-spoken, like hidden rules you don't know about. At least until you break them.
As children, we are encouraged to be good, to care for others, to think about what others need and not to be selfish and just think about ourselves. This seems to be particularly the case for oldest children who can take on the role of carer for younger siblings. Beginning life with such strong messages means we can carry these through our life with us. They are important messages for us to learn to live in harmony with others and form healthy relationships.These messages also teach us to put other people's feelings first, to care about what they think and want ahead of our own thoughts and wants.
When we think about others before ourselves it can be difficult to think about our needs. It means we are thinking about ourselves always in the context of relationships with others. There are lots of benefits from this kind of social connection and living in relationships. However, we can lose focus on ourselves. We can also learn to judge ourselves based on the views of others. The way we see ourselves is mirrored in the ways others see us.
If we are constantly looking in that mirror we can lose sight of who we really are, of what we really want, of what will be right for us. Not what others think is right for us. It can be in this context that our self worth becomes damaged or even non-existent.
The good news is that discovering ourselves can happen throughout our lives. We can learn to find a balance between the needs of others and our own needs. We can see ourselves as worthy in our own right, regardless of what others think about us. We can define our own values and beliefs, determine what is most important to us, and live our lives on that basis. We can take delight in our relationships and see the strengths it takes to develop and maintain them. We can recognise the challenges along the way and appreciate our capacity to cope with them. In these ways we don't lose our relationships. Rather we grow and develop self worth through them.
Learning to challenge cultural stereotypes and messages can also be important to our self worth. Taking pride in who we are and how we live our lives regardless of what society says we should do is important. We can dress how we want, spend our time and money in ways that enrich our lives and give our lives meaning. We don't need to be caught up with the latest trends to feel good about ourselves. We can break free of the shackles of the past when women were judged on the way they looked and how they behaved. But we just might need to keep on challenging the systems that expect this.