Self Worth

People are worthy, just by existing. We don’t need to prove our worth, our right to exist, or that we should be included by those with power. We just are, and as such, we are worthy. Yet often we have terrible Self Worth.

Thought experiment time. Consider meeting a new random person. You know nothing about them. Upon seeing them, you aren’t likely to say “Prove your worth to me!” either out loud or internally. You’ll just assume they are worthy – worthy of your time, worthy of having human rights, worthy of being someone that could be compatible with you, worthy of medical care, worthy of being loved by someone and so on.

This is the default way to see someone.

Imagine that this person does a thing (or things) that give you a serious pause on that ‘Worthy’ assumption. That action is going to have to be more than just a faux pa (social blunder), or an expression of ignorance, or failing to guess what you want them to say. They’ll _have to do *something*_ major to give you pause on the ‘Worthy’ assumption, rather than just “not compatible with me”. This major action will have you questioning their right to be treated kindly, treated with respect, have a right to medical care, or to some other consideration of basic human decency. They have ‘done something’ to *become unworthy*.

People don’t start from _unworthy_ and earn _worth_. People start with the assumptions of _worth_, and through a seriously bad action, they may _lose some worthiness_.

Take a moment to consider what those actions would have to be – what would someone seriously need to do for you to think that they have now stopped deserving basic human kindness? What kind of action would they need to do and in what kind of circumstances would they now have to do something to make amends and earn their worth once again in their epic redemption arc? What would that ‘bad action’ have to be to stop them from being worthy?

Take a moment and seriously think about it. Write a list of things down.

I’ll wait.

Hand writing a list, an exercise in determining self worthWrite a list of actions

Now cross off anything that is just ignorance (that is, they didn’t know something critical, or didn’t know better). Cross of anything that was due to not having the resources to do better at the time (time /money /equipment /relevant associates). Also cross off actions where they foolishly followed someone else’s lies (they were misinformed and trusted the wrong person). We are crossing these things off because they aren’t the individual’s fault.


Now compile a list of why you aren’t worthy. This is your opportunity to write down what you have actually “done” that has resulted in you being unworthy, that is, having nil or reduced worth.

“What is good for the Goose is good for the Gander”.

We have to play by the same fair rules. So cross off anything from your list of “bad actions” that was just ignorance at the time that you have since learned better than (beware the Hindsight Bias, judging past you for things you have since learned), things that you would have done better if past you had better resources at the time, and things that you did because you were taught poorly or misled.

We are crossing those items off the list because those actions aren’t your fault. If you have chosen to repeat these known “bad actions” (except when still without adequate resources) – that is, despite knowing better and having a reasonable option to not have to make a “bad choice”, you elected to do so anyway. To be clear, if even having learned better, and have the realistic option not to do the “bad action”, yet you elected to repeat the “bad action”, then you can keep that repeat thing on the list. 

Do be honest though, did you truly have a reasonable choice? Be careful about special pleading. If you have to go through convoluted effort to explain why you truly did have a choice there but knowing chose to do bad things, then you are likely special pleading to bias your list.

One more caveat on this, if this was the least harmful pathway that you could see, then you probably should take that item off the list. While you might lose some worth by making a choice to do a “bad action”, you get that redeemed again because _all_ of the other choices you could do at the time were worse. This may seem unfair as we didn’t get to cross-examine the hypothetical stranger above and find out if the “bad action” you judged them on was the “least bad” action available to them. You can redeem them too if you find out that they had no good choices before them at the time.

While we are at it, also cross of things that you’ve thought about doing, perhaps truly wanted to do, even had an urge to do – BUT didn’t. Either because you chose not to do them, or just because you didn’t get that opportunity.

If we were all judged on what we thought at times, by what we want to do in the darkness of our soul, then none of us would be worthy. If we were all judged on the crimes that we might have committed if we had the opportunity, then the justice system would be even more messed up than it is, and again none of us would be judged worthy. According to most country’s laws, you can only be fairly convicted based on “actions that you did”, not what “you would have done if given a chance to”.

When someone loses worth, they lose it because of what they choose to do when they had the knowledge, resources and ability to do otherwise – but didn’t. We do not dock them of “worthy points” for what they might have done, what they considered doing, or had no other options to do.

Now look at the list you have left of “bad actions” you did to lose the default “worth”. Compare your list of actions to the list you created for what it would take for the hypothetical random stranger to be deemed unworthy. Are they the same? Are they similar? Are they different?

Be mindful of False Equivalence here. While littering and murder are both crimes, they are not the same order of magnitude of crime. Looking at what you have “Done to Lose Worth” (if there is anything left on your list) and compared to the magnitude of what you have deemed is fair for another person to be deemed objectively unworthy – are they in the same order of magnitude? (FYI Using false equivalence is a form of special pleading.)

If your answer is yes, then what are you going to do about it? What is your redemption arc? How will you grow so as not to continue being that unworthy version?

You are part way through writing the book of your life. Realistically, you didn’t really write the first few chapters – your childhood. Since becoming an adult you have likely had an absent minded hand on the pen – perhaps you mostly just wrote down what other people dictated to you. In pointing this out, I am now giving you control of the main character. You may not get to choose the random encounters your character has, or some of the random fortunes and misfortunes that happen to your main character – but you do control what your character does in response to these encounters, fortunes and misfortunes. You get to write how your character is for the rest of the book. In the case where you have truly done some terrible actions, I highly recommend writing your redemption arc – how is your main character redeemed? Now… get to work. Go and redeem yourself – no one else can do it.

Another outcome to this test is that you have discovered that you have actually done no actions that you have deemed should have someone else condemned to loss of worth, and thus  been seen as unworthy… 

*looks at you intently

The same rules apply to you. If the actions you have done do not condemn another, then they don’t condemn you either.

Get rid of this notion that you aren’t worthy. It is a lie that you would do well not to perpetuate.

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