Welcome to Day 21 of the “No Limits” Challenge. //

Ever since I started this week’s focus—self worth and what you feel you deserve—I’ve been wrestling with writing this post.

I’ve done tons of reserach, and to be quite frank with you, I feel I have discovered why I (and likely you, too) have been so confused regarding this topic.

Most of us have been taught that our value comes from extrinsic factors—what we do and how we look. We’ve been measured against our peers from the time we started school. We come to believe that the amount of money we make, the car we drive, the clothes we wear, and the title we’ve earned define who we are.

As children it was rare for someone to recognize, honor, and embrace our natural gifts and abilities. Instead of being praised for our creativity or being seen for our tenderness and caring toward others, most adults in our lives were concerned about us getting the right career or job. They were concerned that our tenderness and caring made us weak.

We were taught that the adults knew best. They wanted us to be able to take care of ourselves, but for many of us, we started to think less about what truly made our heart sing and more about what made other people happy.

Without doubt, this is one of the biggest dysfunctions in our society. It’s a wildly unhealthy distortion to think that our worth comes from extrinsic conditions and outcomes, and you will find one of the greatest gifts of your life when you begin valuing yourself and others for just being who you are.

On a recent plane ride to Denver I decided to list intrinsic vs. extrinsic values. I found it easy to identify extrinsic values (because this was the measuring stick I’d used on myself for years). I wrote a long list, but I truly struggled to write down any intrinsic values.

Extrinsic Values List:

  • Money
  • Looks
  • Car
  • House
  • Mate/Partner/Spouse
  • Job/Career/Business
  • Titles
  • Degrees
  • Awards Received
  • Friends/Network
  • Travel
  • Numbers (Sales, Clients, etc.)
  • Power
  • Prestige
  • etc.

I’m actually embarrassed to share the scant list of intrinsic values I made, and since I couldn’t figure this out on my own, I went to Mr. Google for help. Do you think my Google search was helpful? No! Very few people were writing about the topic—What is intrinsic self worth?

Experiencing this made me realize why I couldn’t make a list on my own. How could I when there was hardly anyone defining what the intrinsic value of a person is? Or sharing how we can start to truly value ourself for being who we truly are?

Note To Reader: I confess I did find articles that glossed over this topic, but they neither defined what an intrinsic or inherent value was nor did they list even a single intrinsic value. They were fluffy, feel-good articles with no substance.

So I went back to the first person who ever introduced me to this subject, Dr. Margaret Paul in her Passionate Purpose eCourse. Image used with permission.

I also asked my Guidance for help. Then I happened to come across a YouTube video that listed a few intrinsic qualities of self worth (only watch 15:15 to 16:09), and I also dug online until I found a beautiful dialogue between a therapist and his patient entitled, Do You Feel You Have Intrinsic Value as a Person?

With these resources I’ve started to piece together a list of intrinsic forms of self worth, and I think this list will help us re-define how we see our own value, as well as, the how we measure true value of others.

Intrinsic Values List:

  • Our inherent goodness—honesty, compassion, empathy, tenderness, caring, empathy, sensitivity, acceptance, friendliness, openness, curiosity, etc.)
  • Our core essence qualities (our God-given gifts and talents)**—analytical, creative, musical abilities, drawing, intuitive, healer, making people feel better, being gifted with animals, being good with computers, mechanical, etc.
  • Trust in our self and trust in God (or in a Higher Power, the Universe, Spirit, etc.)
  • Full and authentic self-expression
  • Love
  • Creativity
  • Art
  • Music
  • Peace, joy, appreciation, compassion, gratitude, etc.
  • Connection with self
  • Connection with Spirit
  • Connection with others

Dr. Margaret Paul teaches that when we begin to define our worth by our core essence (our intrinsic qualities) we develop natural competence and personal power. I can’t help but feel this is what people really desire when they use money, power, sex, fame, etc. All of us deeply desire to feel competent and powerful, but we are often confused. We use external determinants instead of tapping into a source that is generated from within.

The reason I feel this is such an important topic is because defining our worth by external or extrinsic values is both precarious and short-lived. It makes us dependent on how other people see and define us. It means we have a lot of value when we have a high-paying job with a prestigious title, but if we lose that job, then we lose our value along with the job. It means we have a lot of value when we are young, healthy, and beautiful, but we lose our value and worth as we grow old and our bodies change shape and form.

I think most of us know this at a surface level, but I believe if we truly are going to live a life without limits, we have to begin the process of re-defining our value by intrinsic, unchanging values.

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Today’s Challenge:

Step One: Explore and bring conscious awareness to how you define self worth.

Solely based on what you’ve read from today’s post, do you think you value yourself more for your intrinsic or extrinsic qualities? What about what you value in others (your kids, your spouse, your co-workers, etc.) Do you value your kids for their intrinsic qualities—who they are— but value yourself for what you accomplish or how you look? Or have you seen yourself even begin to judge your children for what they do.

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do not judge yourself. Judging and criticizing yourself only makes things worse. This truly is an exercise to bring awareness to how you are treating yourself and others—not a stick to beat yourself with.

Step Two: Explore why you define yourself the way you do.

Explore what has happened to make you define your worth the way you do. What messaging did you get (or buy into)?

An example from my own life—It’s been brought to my attention that I judge myself and others based on what I (they) do. I have to accomplish and perform all the time to have value. So my sense of value goes up and down drastically based on how good I think I’m doing. If I valued myself for my intrinsic qualities of creativity, my depth of caring, my tender heart, my sensitivity (especially to animals), and my desire to share love, then my value would never change. My value would be consistent and invariable as these qualities are inherent to who I am as a being.

Step Three: Begin to explore how you can start defining yourself by your intrinsic qualities.

You could opt to take the Passionate Purpose online course (only offered once a year). Or more simply, sit and journal for a few minutes about the qualities that make you unique. Begin to identify your inherent goodness—the qualities that describe your beautiful essence, and start to look for the intrinsic value in others.

Step Four (optional): Turn Your Judgments Into Opportunity

I also love an idea that my friend, Sean Clarke, tried a few years back. Every time you notice that you judge yourself or another person, actively choose to name one intrinsic quality about that person. This simple practice brings mindful awareness to our judgements and develops our ability to identify the deeper, unshakable qualities in everyone you meet—including ourselves.

What practice could be more beautiful?

Alright, sweet one. Today’s post was long, but it may very well be the most important lesson of this series. I do hope you’re able to give it the loving attention it needs to take root in your own life.

Much love,

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Today’s Feature Image: “love_girl_carpet” by Peter Pham on Flickr

**Please note that every person has their own list of inherent qualities that make them who they are. Discovering and lovingly embracing these core qualities, irrespective of what “society” values, is key to living a life of inner peace and joy.

2 comments on “How Do You Define Your Value and Self Worth?”

  1. Wonderfully composed and researched! There are thousands of books written about how to write and present a speech, but very few written about how to listen and look for the value of what is being said rather than the credentials of the speaker or how it is presented. Sort of like your research about extrinsic versus intrinsic values. Look for the value in others after finding them in yourself.

    • Oooh. I hadn’t considered how to use intrinsic vs extrinsic qualities in various areas. What a great example. I have felt that before when I applied to be a speaker at a conference. The questions I had to answer were all about how much money I made, my credentials, and what I did for a living. There was only one question about my content, and zero questions about my motivation for applying. I remember feeling really bad when I applied—thinking something was off. You’ve hit the nail on the head for me. I do understand leaders are looking for qualified presenters, but I think the content, desire to help/serve the audience, etc. is more important than titles, dollars earned, and experience. Love it!

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