With bipolar’s depression and anxiety, I struggled to be confident. After growing tired of feeling hurt by every slight, I discovered two effective ways to combat negative emotions.
Reacting & Feeling Unworthy
I used to find it very difficult to interact well with others. I was often hurt, and I reacted with anger—directed at others by being stubborn and directed at myself with self-deprecation. Underneath it all was the root problem of feeling unworthy and allowing others’ opinions and behaviors to affect my sense of self-worth or personal value.
When we are managing depression, we’re often very sensitive. And in that state of mind, it’s so easy to take things personally, which undermines our self-worth. When we do this, I’ve found, we end up feeling bad about ourselves; we feel unworthy, not good enough, undeserving, or that we don’t matter.
We have cultivated reactionary behaviors around this dynamic that ends with us feeling bad, invalidated, and devalued. The good news? I’ve also found that this is something we can change.
What Is Self-Worth & How Does It Influence Us?
What I learned is that when people treat you poorly, behave in ugly ways, or mistreat you, it is actually a reflection of their own self-worth, which ties to their behaviors, not yours.
Self-worth is very important to our self-value or self-esteem, especially with bipolar, anxiety, and depression. When we feel bad about ourselves, it inevitably undermines our self-esteem (our image of ourselves) and self-worth (our sense of personal value or inherent goodness). And when people treat us poorly, it triggers within us negative feelings that invalidate our self-value and self-worth. It becomes a cycle—unless we interrupt it.
So this is what we have to stop, the reactionary behavior of taking any mistreatment personally, feeling bad about ourselves, and allowing it to lower our self-value and self-worth—a chain reaction of invalidation which ends us up in low self-esteem.
Building Self-Worth without Having to Focus on It
We all have self-worth, of course. It comes with existence. Believe it or not, our self-worth is not tied to anything but being human and both accepting and respecting that all humans are equal.
That’s right, our worth is not tied to fancy cars, career success, accomplishments, relationships, money, race, sexual orientation, gender, other people’s approval, outside validation, and so on. And our possession (or lack) of any of the above does not make us superior or inferior to anyone else.
said above, how others treat us is an indication of their perception of their
own self-worth. But it goes the other way, too. I find that our self-worth is
reflected in how we treat people. Therefore, if we treat people well, respectfully,
with acceptance, and in ways that maintain a positive coexistence and
validation of them as fellow human beings, it directly ties into and is a
reflection of our own self-worth.
Strategies for Increasing Self-Esteem & Self-Worth
Without getting too deep into learning about self-worth, I want to cut to the chase and share with you two ways I found to get results in building self-esteem and self-worth.
my reactionary responses that undermined my self-esteem was a hard-to-tackle habit,
but it was well worth the effort.
Handling human interactions was extremely difficult, living with depression, anxiety, and bipolar. It was pretty much nonstop cycles of being triggered by uncertainty and unpredictability, then becoming reactionary, and oscillating through negative emotions. In seeking out ways to feel better about myself, I found that I could also better handle human interactions. This placed emphasis on what I could control, which was myself—not how others behaved and treated me.
#1 Taking the Bull by the Horns in How I Treat
I worked hard to find ways to handle situations that helped me to feel good about how I acted, no matter what the situation was. That became my goal, and I was willing to change how I was handling my interactions with people and whatever situation I found myself in—especially where I was making matters worse for myself, like with anger or sarcasm.
It helped to work toward being fully present, mindful, and respectful. And the more I started treating people equally and with respect, validating them, I found that this became a way of validating myself and my own worth.
I also put emphasis more so on the type of person I aspired to be and worked to align myself with this standard (rather than comparing myself to others) because it helped me to control my reactionary impulses.
What I discovered is that there were behaviors I would follow that just made me feel worse about myself—like with my anger and poor social skills. By changing those habits and mindsets, I felt better about myself in time. And that gave a boost to my self-acceptance and self-worth.
#2 Realizing Others’ Behavior Reflects Their Self-Worth, Not Mine
I used to take every slight so personally that I felt wounded when anyone was really hurtful toward me. I believed that they were treating me poorly because of something that was wrong within me—as if I were worthy of mistreatment and unworthy of respect or acceptance.
Well, thankfully, I realized that thought process had to go. It helps me to protect my feelings and any dig at my self-worth when I recognize that people who don’t know their own self-worth will treat others as if they are unworthy.
It is sad to say that I have been treated as if I were utterly worthless—unbelievably so. But I no longer allow anyone’s actions to become even a dent in my self-worth. Again, because their actions are a reflection of a lack of self-worth in themselves.
I cannot control the way people treat me; and, yes, people can be hurtful—even if you are already struggling with mental illness. People can be wrong. In my mind, I used to assume they were right, and I would invalidate myself. Now, to help maintain my sense of self, I learned to invalidate their hurtful actions or criticisms (when they are wrong), and this helps to protect my self-worth.
Self-Worth as Way of Being
is a way of being. It is necessary to maintain our sense of personal value in
order to direct our thoughts, actions, and confidence, too.
self-worth is between you and yourself. No outside influence or validation.
Debbie Jacobs is an advocate, writer, and healing specialist living in Alexandria, Virginia. She lived most of her adult life with a diagnosis of depression and anxiety, and then was diagnosed with bipolar. She speaks out on how self-improvement is life improvement and believes we all can live happy lives by making positive changes to ourselves. Her influences are Louise Hay, Napoleon Hill, Les Brown, and Tony Robbins. She does positivity life coaching and is in the process of writing her first book on her healing process of accomplishing positive thinking, positive effective coping skills, and healthy self-esteem—what she calls “freedom and happiness.” She shares her work to motivate, inspire, and help others make positive changes to themselves for their freedom and happiness, too.
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