“I’m not smart enough/successful enough/pretty enough”
“I’m not the kind of person who’d do well in school/college/a job”
“I can’t do this because of that/him/her/them”
“I’m always treated badly, and nobody respects me”
“I shouldn’t ask for what I want because I always get rejected”
“Life is meaningless and is always going to be like this”
“I am/will never be enough”
If you have ever had these thoughts or said these things out loud, then please read on.
There are 3 themes I would like to draw upon that can help as a tool to navigate some of these thoughts: self-love, self-worth and self-confidence (and you guessed right- it starts with the self).
Right now, you are the seed in this beautiful illustration above, and as many of you reading will already know- a seed can only begin to grow if it’s placed in good soil. The soil here, and the foundation of this trio, is in fact self-love. So the question then becomes, how do you nurture this soil of self-love? Well, my friends, I truly believe it starts with self-awareness. That is, a true recognition of both our strengths and weaknesses.
An awareness of your strengths and limitations also means an awareness of your character- meaning you are more likely to leverage your strengths to overcome challenging situations, but more importantly- celebrate them.
When we identify, acknowledge and celebrate our strengths, that is when we begin to internalise and recognise our worth. I. Am. Worthy. I am worthy of this place, this degree, this job...because you have taken that first step to be self-aware.
Practical takeaway: If you are reading this, and you struggle to identify your strengths, simply journal your day, for 7 consecutive days as a start. At the end of each day, reflect back to the highs and lows of the day, because behind those moments tells a story of who you are. What made that moment/situation a high or a low for you? Was it because you were using a particular strength of yours that energised you? Or was it a lack of?
To build on this, I will also recommend taking the VIA Character survey to explore some of those key traits.
Now, this brings us to the branch of self-worth. This seed planted in the soil of self-love starts to grow, and what that starts to look like is an internalisation of our worth.
We all know what self-worth is, but I would like to take a minute of your reading time to talk about the real challenge and the foundation of low self-worth. Often, this stems from the belief that the discomfort, mistakes, disappointments in our lives, signal something about our worth. That belief that the unpleasant things in our lives are all we deserve, and it’s so important we begin to unlearn that.
So how do we do that?
The first hack here is possibly the most important one- ‘Where we go for our validations’. An important question to ask yourself from time to time is where is my validation coming from? Because the truth is the only validation that matters, is that inner validation.
I am originally Nigerian, and there is a Nigerian proverb my nan used to say to me growing up “the bird will never discover its' true abilities if it keeps trying to be like the monkey. Climb trees or hang on monkey bars when it can fly over them”.
Friends, you can only really start to walk in authority when you understand your identity, when you understand your character- and that’s why self-love has to be the foundation before you get to a place of knowing your worth.
The second blocker that hinders our self-worth a lot of the time is when we are stuck in the ‘if’. “If only I had these opportunities”, “If only I got this job”, “If only I had this partner”, if only, if only, if only.
What happens here is that we start living in the prison of our own making. Likewise, if we spend our time in the future, saying, “I won’t be happy until I graduate...” or I won’t be happy until I get this job...”. The only place where we can exercise true freedom of choice is in the present.
And when we start to live in the present, that’s where we start taking responsibility for our own lives. This means that we start to recognise aspects of our lives that are in our control and the aspects that are beyond our control.
Practical takeaway: The next time you feel that feeling of low self-worth come over you, or any form of anxiety, ask yourself this all-important question: what aspect of this situation is within my control, and what aspects are outside of my control? Identify them, name them out loud and then focus your energy and attention on that which is within your control, with the all-important question: what is my next step from here? Set some goals.
I place self-confidence as the last thing because before we get here, we need to have done that internal work. Having said that, we all know that we could have done that work with our internal validation, and yet life and all the things it brings with it can sometimes shake our self-confidence.
So this is where your tribe comes in. Friends, who you call ‘friend’, ‘partner’ or ‘family’ matters.
A seed grows to the fruit/plant it was destined to be when it’s in the right soil, has sufficient water, sunlight and it’s in the right environment, and there is so much emphasis here on the right environment.
Who you surround yourself with matters, people that challenge you, that add value, and you can do the same for them, that is your type of environment.
There is a strong need for a combination of an awareness of your character, your strengths, weaknesses, and the right support network around you- to really grow to the full person you have been called to be. So when those negative affirmations come back to your thought processes, you and others around you can remind yourself that you. Are. In fact. Enough!
If you enjoyed reading this blog, make sure to check out my podcast and Youtube 'Tea with Tols', where you will find open conversations on wellbeing issues and practical tips.
Toluwa Oyeleye is a TEDx speaker and Wellbeing Coach, enabling individuals with practical wellbeing tips and techniques to fully flourish and show up as the best version of themselves in the world.