20 truths about low self-worth I wish I had known 20 years ago - The Self-Worth Experiment

20 truths about low self-worth I wish I had known 20 years ago

By Dr Berni Sewell | Heal your self-worth

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Apr 07
20 truths about low self-worth I wish I had known 20 years ago

Twenty years ago, I lived in a constant state of “not good enough”.

I felt inferior to everyone I met, which caused social anxiety and forced me to avoid social gatherings and meeting other people.

I never believed in myself or my abilities. Low confidence and self-doubt shot me down whenever I attempted something new and worthwhile. Which kept me stuck in an inescapable state of mediocrity.

And made me beat myself up for my failure to become more than the pathetic disappointment I was.

I lay awake at night, worrying about the awful things other people may say or think about me. Overanalysing every interaction that day, to gauge where I had made a fool of myself, and how long it would be until I would be rejected. And anxious about the terrifying tasks of the next day that always seemed overwhelming and too big to handle. 

In relationships, I was a pushover and people pleaser because I felt unacceptable and unlovable. And hoped I could buy some love if I pleased and served non-stop. As a consequence, people often took advantage of me, my relationships were mostly one-sided, and I was unhappy.

And I was so used to hiding my true Self that I didn’t even know who I was anymore, what I wanted from life. I just tried to get through each day without humiliating myself, being criticised or having a panic attack.

And it took all the strength I had not to hate my worthless butt.

I had dreams, hopes and goals. But they seemed unreachable, ridiculous pipe dreams of a chronic loser who would never amount to anything.

In one word, my life was suffering.

All because I didn’t know 20 things about low self-worth I know today.

 

The 20 truths about low self-worth that will spare you years of suffering

You see, when it comes to low self-worth, hindsight really is 20/20. 

Because if I had known these 20 truths 20 years ago, it would have saved me tons of struggles, anxiety and self-condemnation.

Low self-worth isn’t a disease or something that is inherently wrong with you. It is a logical, and almost unavoidable consequence of your upbringing and our society’s core beliefs.

Which are based on lies, false beliefs and misunderstandings. And I hope that by knowing the truth, you will be able to overcome your low self-worth much faster than I eliminated mine.

Because you will have the head start I wish I had when I first started to tackle my own low self-worth all those years ago:

 

TRUTH #1: It’s not your fault that you suffer from low self-worth

For most of my life, I believed that something was seriously wrong with me because I suffered from low self-worth. And I was desperate to prove to myself and the world that it wasn’t my fault. 

That maybe something terrible had happened to me in my past that convinced me that I was worthless. Something that explained why I felt so inferior and damaged.

For a long time I blamed the bullying in school. But to be fair, my self-worth was low before that happened.

And no matter how long and deep I searched I could not find that one defining moment in my past that was the root of all my struggles.

Which only left me with one soul-crushing option. That it was my fault. That something was inherently and irredeemably wrong with me. And that low self-worth was my destiny.

It took me many years to realise that low self-worth wasn’t my fault. Like it isn’t yours either.

We both just grew up in a society that believes in the inherent worthlessness of all of its members. And it will reinforce and perpetuate this worthlessness for its own benefit.

Which takes us to truth #2.

 

TRUTH #2: Your worth does not depend on random worth criteria

You see, our society evolved around the belief that we are all inherently without worth. We are empty vessels, devoid of value. But we crave to feel worthy. And we are convinced that we need to have worth before we can deserve the good things in life.

Which is quite the dilemma if you think of it. We have no worth, but we need worth to buy us happiness, love and abundance. So, how can we earn the required worth?

Well, society has the answer to that too! What a relief, right?

Because if we fulfil society’s worth criteria, we can gain worth. And these criteria include beauty, success, qualifications, wealth, status and popularity. And the closer we can nudge to the benchmarks that indicate perfection in any category, the more worth we will have.

The only problem is that the criteria focus solely on externalities. They are arbitrary, man-made nonsense. And the benchmarks are so unobtainable that it is impossible for us to ever succeed. Which is why we never feel good enough.

When, in reality…

 

TRUTH #3: Your “shortcomings” are based on a lie 

We even call it shortcomings! Because we fall short of society’s expectations of what we need to achieve to earn enough worth to even have the right to exist. Let alone deserve some kind of a happy life.

We believe we are not attractive enough, not fit enough. Not successful and rich enough. We are not important or special enough. 

And we never stop to ask: Compared to what? We never wonder who decided what perfection means in each category. And why we feel we need to achieve it. 

Because the belief in our inherent worthlessness and the worth criteria is so pervasive in our society that it has become normal. It has become our reality and our truth. And it causes endless suffering. When it is all based on a massive lie.

 

TRUTH #4: You cannot be worthless

Because the truth is that you can never be worthless. It’s impossible. Because you ARE worth. Personified.

Worth is the essence of who you are, part of your true Self. And it’s currently buried under all the things society dictates you should be. And drowned out by the constant worries of the mind of how you can increase and prove your worth.

Your relentless pursuit to meet society’s worth criteria, so you can deserve the good life, destroys your opportunities to become aware of your true, inner worth. That was always there. And always will be.

As such…

 

TRUTH #5: You can never earn, gain or have worth

Whether you know it or not, truth remains that you can never lose your worth. You were never worthless. Nor will you ever be. No matter what you do or fail to do.

Your worth is as much part of your Being as the atoms that form your physical body. You can’t see either, but they are both there. They are both part of who you are.

Which takes us to a whole string of truths that can change your life if you let them.

 

TRUTH #6: You don’t need to be perfect or special to have worth

Society suggests that you have to become as close to perfect as you can in as many worth criteria as possible to earn the worth you need to buy yourself your dreams and goals.

And it provides us with goalposts, with ideals we must strive for if we want to be perfect.

We are expected to be as stunning as a supermodel, as clever as an astrophysics professor, as wealthy and successful as a millionaire and as popular as a TikTok star. And we need to be exceptional in some kind. We must stand out, be extraordinary, have a special and important purpose.

Become the best version of ourselves in every way.

But can you see how impossible this mission is? Nobody can ever achieve all of this. Yet, we expect it from ourselves. Because we believe we should be able to. And we have to.

Because once we can achieve all of this, we will deserve what we crave in life. We will finally qualify for happiness, love and abundance.

 

TRUTH #7: Failure to fulfil the worth criteria won’t obliterate your worth

Unless, of course, we lose vital worth points on the way. Which, to be fair, is awfully easy.

Because, as a society, we believe that every failure will obliterate our worth that we worked so desperately to scrape together in the first place. 

Which is why we are so terrified of failure. Because failure is the executioner of our life’s dreams.

It decapitates our worth and kills every prospect we ever had to meet the worth criteria and become worthy of what we desire.

But the thing is, that you ARE worth. And failure can never change anything about your worth at all. Like it wouldn’t change the arrangement of the atoms in your body.

Failure cannot slay your worth.

 

TRUTH #8: Mistakes cannot diminish your worth

And the same applies to mistakes. 

We are mortified if we make mistakes. They humiliate us, demonstrate to the world that we aren’t perfect, that we can’t do it all and don’t know it all.

And we beat ourselves up for days, weeks or our entire life for the mistakes we made.

Because we believe that every failure will diminish our worth. Will strike off worth points that we so desperately need to purchase happiness, at some point when we have enough worth together.

When, in reality, mistakes, just like failure will not affect our worth in the slightest. Because our unchangeable true worth is immune to screw-ups.

Just like…

 

TRUTH #9: Criticism does not evaporate your worth

Our fear of losing worth also explains why most of us react so strongly to criticism. We become defensive, attack the person who criticised us, blame other people and the circumstances so we can push the worth loss onto someone else.

Or we cry our eyes out over the worth loss we suffered as a consequence of the criticism and vow to work even harder, become even better, sacrifice even more so we can make up for the worth we threw away when we were found wanting.

And again, we punish ourselves for our inadequacies, feel like embarrassing losers. And try to make peace with the fact that we will never succeed in accumulating enough worth to deserve the life we truly want.

When our worth was never in danger at all. Because criticism cannot change it.

But there is more…

 

TRUTH #10: Being different doesn’t make you worth less

You see, not only do we believe that what we do, or fail to do, can reduce our worth. We are also convinced that who we are can automatically condemn us to lower worth.

I was always different. And, especially as a teenager I suffered a lot because of it.

I wasn’t interested in make-up, looking pretty or attracting boys. I didn’t care for going out and parties. And refused to risk my health, smoking and drinking, to fit in. 

I was most content at home with an exciting new book. People called me boring.

And I often wondered what was wrong with me. I hated myself for not being able to just like what all the others enjoyed. So, I could be like them. And didn’t have to lose worth points for being such an oddbod.

I really wish I could go back to my 15-year-old self right now and tell her that she is ok. That she is allowed to express her unique self in any way she wants. Because she doesn’t need to conform to have worth.

She IS worth.

It would have saved me a lot of tears that I wept in my pillow each night back then.

 

TRUTH #11: Anxiety doesn’t make you worth less

Similarly, I always believed that my anxiety reduced my worth as an individual. It made me weaker than others, in some way more damaged, more sensitive and less resilient.

It seemed to be a sign that I failed at life itself. Which, to me, appeared to be the greatest failure of them all.

As such, I was convinced that my anxiety was a complete worth killer and a death sentence to my hopes, dreams and desires.

When in fact, anxiety is a normal and healthy reaction to excessively high pressure in our energy system. It’s an alarm system designed to alert us to internal danger. The only problem is that we don’t know what the anxiety is trying to tell us any longer. We ignore the alarm. We do not tackle the issues it warns us about and it becomes louder and louder in the hope we will hear it eventually.

But anxiety is never going to obliterate our worth. Nothing ever can.

And, the same by the way, applies to depression or any emotional, mental or physical dis-ease. They are imbalances in our energy body that manifest themselves on different levels of our existence.

But they cannot affect our worth. Which is absolute.

 

TRUTH #12: You don’t need other people’s approval

We tend to believe that we require other people’s approval to have worth. 

Which stems from our early evolution as a society, where we needed to be accepted by the tribe to survive. Because, you know, the lone wolf dies but the pack survives.

So, we had to fit in, we had to gain the other tribe member’s approval. Because being cast out would result in our untimely demise.

And our mind, as sophisticated as it has become, still carries the core programming from prehistoric times that is designed to guarantee our survival.

So, striving for other people’s approval is a basic survival mechanism.

However, nowadays, we no longer face death if we are rejected. But we believe that we will lose worth. That a rejection means that we are worthless to others. They simply cannot see enough worth in us to keep us around. 

Which really hurts of course. 

But just like rejection will no longer cost us our life, it will most certainly not affect our worth. Because, guess what? You ARE worth.

And as such…

 

TRUTH #13: You can be disliked and still be worth

Since you ARE worth and your worth does not change no matter whether other people like you or not, it’s ok if you are disliked.

Nobody can ever be loved by all. It’s impossible. It will never happen. Some people will always dislike you, no matter how hard you may try.

Now, that’s not an excuse to be a jerk.

But I want you to know that it’s ok to have your own opinions, even if some others disagree. It’s ok to be yourself, even if that’s not everybody’s cup of tea. And you don’t need to hide who you are to a point where you forget it yourself just so nobody dislikes you.

Because first of all it often backfires. And secondly, other people’s dislike of you will not eradicate your inherent worth.

Which also means that…

 

TRUTH #14: What other people say or think about you has no impact on your worth

Oh, how many nights I was awake wondering what people thought and said about me. I so wished I could possess a crystal ball that would let me listen in on other people’s conversations about me and grant me access to their thoughts.

So, I could know exactly what their opinions were about me. And based upon that information gauge how much worth I had.

But the thing is that other people’s opinions about us, what they say and think do not impact on our worth. Nothing ever will.

And a lot of the time, what we believe other people think about us is based on assumptions that we generate from our own self-judgements. It’s fictional creations circling endlessly in our mind until we are convinced they are true.

When in reality…

 

TRUTH #15: Your mind’s worries are not facts

We tend to mistake the thoughts in our mind as facts. And believe that what the mind thinks about us is the truth.

Because we have lost the ability to distinguish between our own thoughts and those of our mind. And most of the time, the mind is in charge of our life, not us.

Yet, the mind is a mere survival tool, unqualified to lead our life. And its relentless worries and anxieties are mere projections based on data the mind stores. Those data include society’s worth criteria, what other people said about us in the past, our past experiences and traumata, our anxieties and fears and what we think and believe about ourselves.

It’s the mind’s best guess of what may be going on. 

But it’s not the truth.

And most of the time, what the mind predicts other people may think about us, is completely inaccurate.

But what about if other people tell you to your face that you are worthless?

 

TRUTH #16: Just because other people make you feel inferior doesn’t mean you are worth less

Yes, there are people out there who will delight in making you feel worthless. Who will try to convince you at every opportunity that you are inferior to them. 

They will point out your flaws, bully you, make you feel small and insignificant. And you will know exactly what they think about you. And it ain’t much.

And it’s easy to believe that you are worthless because somebody else tells you to your face.

But the truth is that these people’s attacks on your worth don’t actually have anything to do with you. You are just an unfortunate means to an end.

Because their main objective is to compensate for their own feelings of worthlessness by making others feel worth less than they are. Narcissists will use this strategy quite often.

Because somehow, as a society, we also believe that if other people are worth less than we are, it means we are worth more. And consequently, cannot be entirely worthless.

I know! It makes no sense, right? But think about. Why else would we constantly compare ourselves to other people? 

We do it because we want to gauge our worth levels by comparing how well we fulfil the worth criteria in relation to others. And if they do better, we feel worth less. If they do worse, we feel more positively about ourselves.

That’s a lot of effort, struggle and heartache right there. When none of this will ever affect our worth in any way, shape or form.

Because the truth remains that…

 

TRUTH #17: Nobody is worth more (or less) than you

We can compare as much as we like. Play each other at the worth game as long as we want.

We can judge, be judged, reject and be rejected.

We can sacrifice our health, our sanity and happiness in the obsessive pursuit of ever more worth. Put others down, so we rise up in worth.

We can discriminate, condemn, label different people and groups within society as worth less, so we can feel better about ourselves.

But fact remains that we ARE worth. Every single one of us IS 100% worth. As such, nobody will ever be worth more, or less, than you are. No matter where they are in life or what they do. No matter how important they may be to society, how popular, adored or special.

They ARE still worth the same as you. You are still worth the same as them.

No exceptions. No matter what you may currently think about yourself, you are not the only worthless person on the planet. Because you ARE 100% worth. Just like everybody else.

You don’t need to be more, do more, achieve more. Because…

 

TRUTH #18: You are doing your best and that’s enough

As long as we live by the worth criteria and believe in our inherent worthlessness, we will always feel “not good enough”. 

Because no matter how hard we try, we will never reach the level of achievement and perfection required to have worth. It’s not just you who can’t do it. Nobody can.

And it doesn’t matter anyway. Because your worth doesn’t depend on it.

So, as long as you do your best, it will be enough. It has to be. Because it’s all you got. And you ARE worth.

But I know what you are thinking: “If my best is enough, how come that my life is such a mess? I am always trying my best. Yet, I am broke, I make mistakes at work, I have no social life, I am alone. You say that I AM worth. But my miserable life circumstances point to a very different truth.”

And that’s a fair point of course.

But the thing is that…

 

TRUTH #19: Your miserable circumstances are not proof of your worthlessness

You see, we tend to believe that if we experience hardship, it happens as a direct consequence of our worthlessness. It’s the punishment for our failure to scrape together enough worth to deserve anything more than suffering.

Couldn’t meet the worth criteria, gotta suffer. Life is hard but at least it’s unfair, right?

But this train of thoughts is the wrong way round.

Because it’s not our experiences that define our level of worth. It’s the belief in our alleged worthlessness that shapes our experiences.

It’s our thoughts, our mind’s worries and anxieties that create our actions and reactions. And these actions will ultimately result in how we experience life.

So, the fact that your life isn’t what you want it to be right now is not a testimony or your worthlessness. But a result of your belief in your worthlessness.

Eradicate that belief and your experiences will transform.

Because…

 

TRUTH #20: You deserve love, abundance and happiness now

As a society, we believe that our inherent worthlessness makes us undeserving of love, abundance and happiness. That we have to earn enough worth before we can experience these good things in life.

And we try. So hard.

But because the benchmarks for fulfilling the worth criteria are so unattainable, deep down we know we will never make it. 

So, we only have 2 choices:

  • Give up and make our peace with the suffering because that’s all we’ll ever get.
  • Keep struggling forward, sacrificing ourselves in the battle for worth that we know we cannot win.

And both options make us unhappy.

When the truth is that you deserve love, abundance and happiness. Right here and now.

Because you ARE worth. 

It’s not your worthlessness that stops you from being happy because you don’t fulfil the criteria. It’s the unrelenting, obsessive (and unnecessary) pursuit of worth that prevents you from being happy.

Happiness is not a destination. It’s a state of mind, it’s a decision you make.

You don’t need to deserve it or earn it or tick all the boxes to qualify for it. You just need to allow it into your life. 

So, ignore the worth criteria. Forget your worthlessness. Forgo the struggle. It’s all a lie.

Instead, embrace your inherent, unchangeable worth. Deep down you know it’s true. You sense there is more to life than chasing after random externalities. 

Low self-worth is not a life sentence. And I hope these 20 truths that I had to piece together over many years will help you to overcome your struggles much faster than I did mine.

You have never been worthless, nor will you ever be. Because you ARE worth.

And that’s the only truth that matters.


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  • Kahuna says:

    Dear Berni, Thank you so much for sharing your hard-earned pearl of wisdom and giving us, the strugglers, hope to be healed – one day. You are truly helping so many people struggling to accept, love and live life as we truly are. I have been trying to repeat and internalize “I am worth” but my dark side appears to block my efforts and treats it as a lie, bringing me back to where I have been – always scared, feeling compelled to please others, not being able to say what I think or want, and not being true to myself. My dark side then tries hard to convince me that I cannot change. You mention that your healing journey took 8 years. How did you keep your motivation and hope? What were the signs that you felt you were going in the right direction? I want to be my true self. I want to free myself from my self-created prison. I want to live as me, not an illusion of what I think others/society want me to be. I have been living in my own prison of fear for as long as I remember (I am 50 now) but I want to change. You give me a ray of hope. Thank you very much Berni.

    • Hello Kahuna, thank you so much for your comment and the kind words. I think my superpower is extreme stubbornness and I just refused to give up on myself. 🙂 The dark side you talk about is your mind. Because the thing is the mind is not us. It’s a survival tool tasked to keep us safe. But, at some point, as a species, we started to identify with it. We believe that it is us, or at least part of who we are. And, as a consequence we believe what it says. When, in fact, the mind, sophisticated as it may be at solving problems and keeping us safe, has very limited programming. It cannot be positive because this would risk our survival. It cannot accept change because change means a step into the unknown and it cannot predict the risk. And its goal is not to make us happy or fulfilled or love ourselves. Its goal is solely to guarantee our survival. Everything else is not important to the mind. So, the best way to connect with your true self (that is currently overpowered and drowned out by the mind) is to sit down somewhere, take a deep breath, try to relax and ask yourself: “What is my next thought going to be?” And then just wait for the next thought. You will find that the mind is stunned into silence for a little while and you will feel a sense of calm and wellbeing which is your true self coming up. Do this a lot and you will get to know your true self and become able to realise that your mind’s dark side thoughts are not your own. It just wants to stop you from changing anything about your life, because it could be risky (it’s not of course, but the mind doesn’t know that). And then start to talk to your mind, your dark side, argue with it, reassure it that it’s safe to believe that you ARE worth. And go from there. It’s a process. Be patient, celebrate every win. And don’t worry about the setbacks. That’s just the mind doing its job. And never give up on yourself just because the mind tells you to. Because it has no idea what it is talking about and it is not qualified to lead your life. All the best, Berni

      • Kahuna says:

        Dear Berni,

        Thank you so much for your kindly taking time and sharing your thoughts – Greatly appreciated.

        As you had toilet anxiety, I have ‘meeting anxiety’ where I feel overwhelmed and experience panic attacks just at the thought of attending a meeting or a call at work. I have a problem expressing myself and my brain freezes and goes blank when I am asked of my opinions. I am a typical introvert who needs a lot of time to process information and come up with my thoughts. Also I have a perfectionist tendency so that unless I have something meaningful to say in a perfect manner, I hold myself back for the fear of embarrassment and ‘revealing’ my true self from others. I always blame and beat myself up for not being able to say something, or anything of value in a meeting by not opening my mouth at all. I feel so ashamed every time, which reinforces my fear of meetings. I have been practicing the “I am worth” mantra for a while (thanks to you) but my anxiety does not seem to subside. I feel disappointed and hopeless sometimes as I do not see any progress. But reading your posts and your recovery gives me hope to get better one day. Thank you again for being the light in my search for the exist from my current suppressed, fear-filled life. You are my inspiration.

        • Thank you so much for your comment, Kahuna! I can totally empathise with your situation. The thing is though that meeting anxiety, such as toilet anxiety, is not actually an anxiety per se (even if we tend to throw it all in the same pot nowadays), but a phobia. It’s fear triggered by a situation that is not actually dangerous (although your mind will consider it dangerous because it feels that your worth is threatened). And there are 2 main steps to overcoming this phobia:

          1. Accept it. The main bulk of your suffering now comes from you beating yourself up and trying desperately to hide your “weakness” from others and feeling ashamed if you can’t. Keep affirming “I love and accept myself” and accept the phobia as part of your life (t least for now) that will not diminish your worth. It takes the pressure out of the situation. Perfection is a myth and if you wait for something perfect to say, you will never be able to say anything (because nothing is ever perfect). And you do not need to be perfect to be worth. It just causes pressure and fear and anxiety.

          2. Delete it. You can actually delete a phobia. Fears, like other suppressed emotions, form energy bubbles that are stored in our energy system and cause havoc. When you feel the fear, focus on the pressure it causes somewhere in your body (your stomach or chest or wherever it is), take a deep breath, imagine the fear as a soap bubble and visualise bursting it. Do this whenever you feel the fear and after a while it will markedly subside.

          All the best,
          Berni

          • Kahuna says:

            Dear Berni,

            Thank you so much once again for your kindness to share your valuable thoughts and advice. Your kindness is helping so many people like myself who is trying desperately to reach where you are now – to live authentically by wholly accepting your unconditional worth. I have begun to practice some of your advice and hopefully I am making a tiny step towards my long-term goal of aligning my mind, words and action, loving myself, and not feeling the need to prove anything to anyone. Thank you again Berni and may a lot of blessings, good health and happiness continue to come on to you.

          • Thank you so much, Kahuna for your comment and well-wishes! I am so happy to hear that you are finding my blog posts helpful and are starting to work towards accepting yourself and recognising your true worth. All the best, Berni

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