Self-worth 1. Do you think people are bad at valuing themselves and drawing a line under the sorts of behaviour or conditions they will accept? Many of us as children have experienced a judgemental and critical environment, whether it was from parents, teachers or extended family. While it is possible to grow up mostly unaffected by this, for others the criticism can cause feelings of self- hatred and the belief that we are ‘less than’. With this critical background, it is not unusual to see the difficulty people have with self- worth, where they believe they deserve nothing good. They hold back, don’t trust their own judgement, feel they won’t succeed and have a deep fear of failure. This continues the stifling and stunting of personal growth that was experienced in childhood. How can a person progress, grow, learn and make meaning in their life if they are told they are worthless. Often a child will not hear this explicitly, but the message is implied in personal interactions within the family. The thought of telling our parents or siblings that we are hurt and angry at their behaviour can be extremely worrying as for many the fear of rejection is powerful. The consequences of not doing so leaves one in the ‘stuck’ position where nothing changes outwardly, but perhaps inwardly the pain and hurt increase. 2. Do you have any advice for sticking to boundaries, standing up for yourself in a non-confrontational way in 1. Work relationships and 2. personal relationships and 3. Friendships. Learning to be more focused on our own emotional needs may require us to stop serving the demands of others all the time. This is a major boundary issue for many and re-learning to put ourselves on the to do list is important. How can we live our life in our own best interests if we put another’s demands first?. This does not imply we forget everyone around us, but rather that we learn to include ourselves. At work: if there are problems, can we find the language to express dissatisfaction? Whether we use email or have a face to face conversation, speaking up in a non-confrontational way will inform the other person of our struggle and reduce the burden we carry. Statements such as ‘when you do X it makes me feel Y’ (anxious, disrespected for example) will open the dialogue for the other party to respond. The way in which they respond is their responsibility, not ours. This applies to close intimate relationships and friendships. Interestingly when issues like this arise, we may find ourselves assessing the importance of this person and this relationship in our lives and also identify a part of ourselves that may have difficulty with self -esteem and expressing our needs clearly. With personal and intimate relationships using this type of open and honest communication is really helpful, providing your partner can tolerate hearing your truth. 3. Does all the above simply come back to our sense of self-worth? If we are feeling disrespected or disregarded in our relationships, do we ever ask ourselves “is this good for me”? When deciding to meet up with someone, help someone or put our time and love at their disposal, are we giving away all of our energy in the hopes of getting love and attention back? Many people do this unconsciously, it just ‘seems to happen’, yet there is rarely a good outcome with this and one can be left feeling empty and used. Looking at how we react to the demands of others can give us insight into how we have internalised the behaviours and attitudes of our families. Some families required or demanded certain responses that didn’t allow for individuality or freedom of speech. With extremely controlling parents a person can get to adulthood with the source of their self-esteem and self-worth existing outside themselves. In this way they look to others for approval, love and acceptance instead of finding it within and having access to it to share with others. 4. How can someone boost theirs? Self-reflection is a useful habit to adopt, where we can observe and identify patterns of behaviour that are no longer serving us well and are causing discomfort. A good friend who is trusted and who can bear to witness our distress can help here. Everyone deserves a good life and the way we respond to events and experiences will have have an effect on this. We need to be reminded that no one can live our life for us and we cannot live someone else’s. Asking the questions of ourselves – do I like myself? Am I deserving of this good experience, relationship or event? How do I honour my own humanity? – offers us the opportunities to witness our underlying conditioning in how we relate. Talking to a psychotherapist can be extremely helpful in exploring the internalised beliefs and looking at them in a non-judgemental environment can facilitate understanding of ourselves which can then give the option to change if it is required.