When would I ever be good enough?
Was I not worth it?
These were some of the thoughts my mind replayed over and over as I went through a breakup some years ago. Having my heart broken was a painful experience and with it came a flood of debilitating feelings — shock, sadness, regret and even anger.
But underneath this raging mix of emotions, something was shifting in my psyche. Deep inside, I could not reconcile the fact that I was loved by God to the fact that I felt so unloved and unworthy of love. After all, there had to be something wrong with me since the relationship didn’t work out, right? Because of this, my sense of self-worth was shaken.
What is Self-Worth?
Defined as “the sense of one’s own value or worth as a person,” self-worth does not hinge on achievements or possessions. Rather, it’s an inner conviction that you have a purpose here on earth, that you have value to offer and that you are worthwhile.
Self-worth should not be confused with self-esteem. The latter focuses on doing, while the former focuses on being. For example, improving our appearance, dressing style and our lifestyle choices can boost self-esteem. Self-worth, however, runs a lot deeper than that. In essence, it’s about how you perceive and value yourself. Low self-worth, as such, may lead to mental health issues like depression, anxiety or eating disorders.
Studies in Canada show that women are one of the most vulnerable groups to develop mental illnesses. A 2017 report by the Canadian research company Ipsos revealed that women reportedly suffer from depression and anxiety disorders more than men and also face the added risk of postpartum depression after childbirth.
Likewise, according to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, women have higher rates of mood and anxiety disorders than men and attempt suicide three to four times more often than men. Women in the workplace are more likely to develop mental health issues. A 2015 study done by the Conference Board of Canada indicated over 53 per cent of all employed Canadians with mental illnesses were women.
What Affects Our Self-Worth?
Relationship breakdowns aren’t the only kinds of situations that may affect our sense of self-worth. Others may include body image and identity issues or facing unexpected setbacks like getting retrenched or fired.
Vancouver-based Bolivian musician Yare Vargas battled anorexia and bulimia a few years ago after she realized she was gaining weight. “When eating disorders start affecting your life, I compare it to an addiction, because you live and breathe by them,” she says.
Beyond the surface, there were larger issues at play. “I didn’t have a lot of confidence when doing things, because I felt like I might not be good enough and people might criticize me. I was very hard on myself,” she shares.
Looking back on those dark times, Vargas recognizes that she wouldn’t be where she is today without God. “God was patient with me and helped me through and continues to support me every day. It could easily have gotten worse.”
What the Bible Says About Self-Worth
The Bible is filled with verses that declare we are valuable and worthy in God’s eyes. Even when we find it difficult to believe so, or when our circumstances seem to prove otherwise, what the Word of God says about who we are holds true and remains the same. Ephesians 2:10 says we are God’s handiwork. Galatians 3:26 calls us all children of God through faith. And in Psalm 139:13-16, the Psalmist writes:
“You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
What do these verses mean for the believer suffering from mental health issues? There is hope. There is freedom when you call upon the name of Jesus. There is a God who knows who you are inside out and loves you just the same.
How to Improve Your Sense of Self-Worth
1. Declare the Bible’s Truths Over your Life Daily
Meditating upon the Word and choosing to let God’s truths fill your mind help to interrupt the cycle of negative thoughts and emotions. While I was trying to find myself again post-breakup, going to God, pouring out my sorrows and finding comfort in the Bible helped me to heal and to recognize that I was still loved and worth loving.
2. Forgive Yourself
One of the biggest stumbling blocks to a healthy sense of self-worth is an inability to forgive yourself for your failures, wrongdoing or mistakes. When you keep beating yourself up or constantly reinforce negative emotions, it will inevitably erode your sense of self-worth. You might think you don’t deserve salvation or love because of what you have done – but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Jeremiah 31:34 says that God remembers our sins no more. 1 John 1:9 states that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from unrighteousness. Once you recognize the depth and breadth of God’s love for you, forgiving yourself will become easier.
3. Seek Professional Help
There is nothing wrong or shameful about seeing a counsellor or speaking to a therapist. Instead, these sessions might help you uncover deep-seated issues within yourself that might help in understanding how your self-worth has been affected and how to progress from there.
Vargas points out it’s important to recognize you actually do need help. “Unless you accept that you have a problem, nothing you do or anyone else does will truly help,” she explains. “Find something you wouldn’t be able to lose. Think of death and the reality of it and hang on to what gives you hope. God still loves you, even in the midst of pain and silence.”
4. Find a Strong Support Network
Being with people who love, value and care for you will be helpful in giving your sense of self-worth a boost. When my sense of self-worth was threatened — in times I found it difficult to find a job or was dealing with a breakup — I had friends who encouraged me and prayed for me. While it was tempting to isolate myself and wallow in dejection, I recognized that being in community, and having people I trust to share my inner fears and anxieties with, was good for my spirit and soul.
5. Volunteer for a Cause
Research shows that helping others helps us feel good about ourselves. When you realize you can contribute to something, and are making a positive impact in others’ lives, your sense of self-worth will increase. Whether it is serving in a church or using your gifts and talents to benefit and bless others, volunteering helps you to get out of your own head and realize that you have something of significance to give.
Photo: it’s me neosiam from Pexels
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