How to Gain Perspective on Your Self-Worth

If you were to make a list of all the things that make you feel down on yourself, you may be surprised by how many items you don’t actually have the power to change. Whether it’s the size of your forehead, the family you were born into, or past experiences you’ve had, you can’t change these things any sooner than you can change how the sun rises, the speed of time, or how long it takes Starbucks to make your double latte.

One of the most courageous decisions you’ll ever make is to finally let go of what is hurting your heart and soul.Brigitte Nicole

Recognize what you can change

By recognizing what you can change (and making peace with what you can’t), you regain your power to take charge of your life and your self-esteem.[1,2] For example, you might not be able to demand your Starbucks order faster, but you can arrive earlier to beat the crowds, make your own latte at home, or choose a different beverage altogether. Similarly, you may not be able to change the family you were born into, but you can choose what friends you confide in, the boundaries you set with your family, and the type of family member you want to be in your own family.

Getting perspective

Take a look at the image below.[3] What do you see? A rabbit? A duck?

If you saw a rabbit, you’d be right. If you saw a duck, you’d also be right. If you saw the Instagram logo, it might be time to put the phone down and take a walk outside.

Occasionally you may get stuck seeing yourself as only the rabbit or the duck (or sometimes even the Instagram logo), but there is often another way to see things. You only see your big forehead but someone else only sees your beautiful eyes. You may see yourself as unlovable, but someone else may only see your courage and your contagious laugh. The checkout clerk may have looked angry with you, but she may have been struggling with something of her own that day.

Questions to ask yourself

When you encounter negative feelings about yourself or a situation, consider asking yourself the following questions:

Is there a different way I can see this?
Do I know for certain that ______?
Do my weaknesses look different if I see them in a compassionate way?[4]
Are there others who share in suffering with me?[5]
What can I be grateful for in this situation?[6]
Does _______ really mean ______?
Could the opposite be true?

On your journey to developing a healthy self-esteem, it’s important to remember that some changes take time, but you don’t have to wait to start loving yourself. You can choose today, this moment, to begin working on the most important relationship you could ever develop: the relationship you have with yourself.

  1. Glass, D. C., Singer, J. E., Leonard, H. S., Krantz, D., Cohen, S., & Cummings, H. (1973). Perceived control of aversive stimulation and the reduction of stress responses. Journal of Personality, 41(4), 577–595. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-6494.1973.tb00112.x
  2. Crocker, J., & Knight, K. M. (2005). Contingencies of self-worth. Current directions in psychological science, 14(4), 200-203.
  3. Rabbit–duck illusion. (2018, June 05). Retrieved June 7, 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabbit–duck_illusion
  4. Germer, C. K., & Neff, K. D. (2015). Cultivating self-compassion in trauma survivors. Mindfulness-oriented interventions for trauma, 43-58.
  5. Germer, C. K., & Neff, K. D. (2015). Cultivating self-compassion in trauma survivors. Mindfulness-oriented interventions for trauma, 43-58.
  6. Wood, A. M., Froh, J. J., & Geraghty, A. W. (2010). Gratitude and well-being: A review and theoretical integration. Clinical psychology review, 30(7), 890-905.