Week Five / Day Five – Self-worth versus self-esteem. Why our moods fluctuate


Click here for the audio version of the lesson

Sometimes it may feel as if you are floating on cloud nine one day, feeling good about yourself, but then the next day it all seems to come crashing down on you in a heap and suddenly you feel like the most useless, incompetent person on the planet.  

Even when you can logically understand the concept of your worth always being 100% and know that regardless of how your life is unfolding you are always worthwhile, you can still have days where you feel bad about yourself or feel bad about what is going on in your life.  

The reason this happens, is not because of a drop in your self-worth.  It is because of your self-esteem.  It is common to use these two terms interchangeably, however they are both two very different words.  

Self-worth is what I am worth, which is 100%.  

Self-esteem is my rating of my worth.  This rating of what I am worth is learnt. It is learnt primarily through your experiences as a child and reinforced throughout your life by how you view your experiences. 

We are constantly rating our lives and ourselves based on the beliefs we hold.  We rate how our life is travelling, whether it is meeting our goals, if we are being a good mother, if we are being a bad mother, if we are happy, if we are unhappy, what we are doing, what others are doing and also when we are worthy and when we are not.  

When you are feeling bad it is because you have rated yourself as worth-less based on your perceptions of the situation (which comes from your beliefs), not because you are actually worth-less.  

Even now that you now know what truly defines self-worth and can logically grasp this concept, you will still have days where you experience highs and lows in how you feel about yourself and the situations that are happening in your life.  This is because you will constantly be rating your life in accordance with your beliefs.  Since there are millions of beliefs inside your mind that we aren’t even aware of, and they only arise as situations present themselves to us, we will always find limiting or incorrect beliefs about life that cause us to rate our life or ourselves as worth-less and consequently feel bad sometimes.

You won’t all of a sudden learn the reality of true self-worth and feel 100% worthy every second of your life, because you still have habitual beliefs rolling around in your mind that will come up and cause you to rate your experiences accordingly.  

This is why we need to keep applying this method over and over again, so that you do start to measure your worth in alignment with these new more accurate beliefs about self-worth that you have been learning.  While you will get better at doing this as you repeat this new line of thinking and it becomes more of a habit, there will still be times where you feel bad about something that has happened.  Know that this is not because you are worth any less, only because of how you rate what has happened. Continue to work on upgrading your thinking about this situation to change how you feel.

Here is a great quote that I heard from Kenny Rogers on the Oprah show the other day.  He said:  

“There are three versions of you. The one that others think you are. The one that you think you are and the real you.
The closer these versions are the happier you will be.”

Getting the version that you think you are and the version of the real you in alignment with each other as much as possible, is what we are trying to get you to do with this program, because essentially your self-esteem, meaning your rating of your self-worth is clouding you from understanding and feeling your true self-worth – which is always 100%.  

Incidentally when you get those two close together, you will also teach others to treat you differently too. But that’s for another lesson.

For now, here is another way to help you to understand the difference between self-worth versus self-esteem.  

Le’t say we pick someone in society that you may hold in high regard.  This could be someone that you have a lot of respect for.  In this example, we will use Mother Teresa.  

What did we like about mother Teresa that held her in high regard?  

We might say that she’s kind, generous, giving, is calm, self-less, helps people and is a beautiful person.  

Okay, how did she come to hold all these wonderful traits?  

As a child, she was heavily influenced by the church and a religious upbringing.  It is reported that she used to listen to stories about missionary life and service.  Apparently she could always pinpoint on a map where these missions were and what services were taking place there.  By the age of twelve she had already decided that she wanted to be a missionary and ‘spread the love of Christ’.  

By looking at her childhood you could easily determine that her childhood experiences influenced her view of life to the point where they ultimately caused her to seek out this path and do the things that she did.  

What was her intention for being the self-less, kind person that she was (the self-worth agenda)?  

There is always a personal payoff for everything that we do – an agenda that serves our best interests 100% of the time.  This agenda always has its roots in what it means about ourselves to behave this way.  Her behaviour had a self-worth aspect to it too.  I’m assuming (for the purposes of this example) that Mother Teresa believed that what she was doing was the way god wanted us to behave, which would make her worthy in God’s eyes (making her feel worthy because she rates him in high regard).   Being a messenger of god, made her a good, helpful citizen.

How do you know that living this way should be rated in high regard and that those qualities are what make up a ‘good person’?  

Because of your beliefs on how you were taught was the right way to live.  You rate her as worth more because of your beliefs. It’s easy to see how positively she contributes to society, so we believe that she should be held in high regard. 

However, it was not because she was worth more or worth less, it was merely because she had certain beliefs that dictated her behaviour and made her into the person she was, going about her business living life according to how she rated life based on her beliefs (formed primarily from childhood).  She did good things for others because she was taught in her childhood that this was what was beneficial to others and what would make a good (valuable) life to live. 

Furthermore, her agenda, was to live up to her rating of what constituted a worthy person in her eyes.  What made you rate her in high regard was due to your rating of what constitutes a worthy person.

With any action that is taken by ourselves or others there will always be a self-worth component to it.  If you are doing something kind for someone there will always be an agenda of yours that is all about self-esteem (your rating of worth).  You are doing it to feel good because you rate yourself as being worth more when you are doing those things.  

Similarly if you are doing something unkind, then the agenda will be about protecting or defending your self-worth, because you have rated the situation as being less than what it should be, or rated you as being worth-less and this is your attempt to make yourself feel worth more.  

Let’s explore this further by using the same example we used with Mother Teresa, only this time using someone that me might hold in low regard.  Let’s choose a bank robber for example:  

What might we dislike about this bank robber that holds this person in low regard?  

You may describe this person as selfish, disrespectful of other people’s property, a bad person, scumbag or low life.  

Okay, how did this person become this way?  

Well as a child, this person had experiences that taught him/her how to view life and what to believe about his/her self worth (that is to rate life and hold a certain level of self-esteem).  They learnt what they deserve to have in life, how to behave, who to respect and how to think about themselves and the world around them.  

Perhaps they had a tough upbringing surrounded by people who taught him/her to take what you can get no matter who it is from and who you hurt.  Keep in mind at this point, that I am not condoning this kind of behaviour, I am simply helping you to understand this kind of behaviour, so please bare with me as we continue.

What is this person’s intention for being this ‘selfish, disrespectful, bad person’?  (where is the self-worth aspect?)

What if I told you that this person robbed that bank so that they could feed their starving children because they were desparate and felt like this was the only way they could feed their children?  You may still rate that person as making a stupid decision, but the intensity of feeling towards this person may lessen and it may become easier to understand this person’s behaviour and for you to see the self-worth aspect to it.  Feeding your children is a top priority and if someone was desparate enough, then it could lead them down this path, so we can kind of understand their motives.

However, consider that perhaps this person robbed the bank to buy things that made themself feel better about life.  Buying TVs or having a nice car or house etc.  We may not be so understanding now would we?  What is happening here though, is still behaviour based on beliefs.  This person feels worth-less about themselves and in order to feel worth-more, this is what they believe is the best way to protect their worth.

Is it right?  No, not by moral standards, it’s not.  Should they do it?  No, I don’t believe that they should, however the reality is that it does happen and the reason why it happens is because of incorrect beliefs about self-worth and incorrect beliefs about life that are held in the first place.  If we can correct the beliefs, then we can correct the behaviour.

Again, there is always a personal payoff for everything that we do – an agenda that serves our best interests 100% of the time.  Under every bad behaviour, there is an issue with self-worth and an agenda to feel good (seek pleasure).  Whenever someone feels badly (rates themselves as worth-less) for long enough, they will naturally start to seek ways to correct that to feeling worth-more again.  Even though logically this person may know that robbing banks is not a moral thing to do, their rating of life and their view of life has somehow determined that this is the best way to behave in order to feel good about themselves again (feel worth more).  The priority belief to handle things in this way overrides the logic that robbing banks is against the law and causes them to do what they do, just like we eat chocolate overriding the logic to eat healthy in order to lose weight.  

Now most of us have the moral education from our own upbringings that keep morals and respect for the law top priorities over robbing banks, however not everyone has the knowledge and information that we do, so will behave differently.  It doesn’t make this behaviour okay, but it does illustrate that if you looked at the mindset behind the behaviour, it would make sense as to why people do the things that they do.

Finally, How do you know that living this way should be rated in low regard and that those characteristics are what make up a bad person?  

Because of what you believe about life and what makes for a good or bad person. You rate this person based on your beliefs about life.  As mentioned, you have views ingrained from your childhood about living in accordance with morals, respect for others and abiding by the law that cause you to rate this behaviour as being attributed to someone being worth-less.

You easily rate Mother Teresa as being worth more because you can see that she is abiding by the values (beliefs) that you hold and therefore align with the right way to live.  However you rate the bank robber as worth less because this person is not matching your beliefs on the right way to live.  This is what we are doing all the time, rating ourselves, other people and situations based on whether it matches or doesn’t match our ideals.

However, this bank robber is neither worth more or worth less, because everyone is 100% worthy.  This person is still contributing to society and still learning about life, it’s just a little more difficult to see how this person is still contributing to life because they are not aligning with your ‘right’ way to live.  However we have been learning throughout this whole program that all experiences hold some value and where there is bad, there is also good. 

This robber teaches us what not to do, and the consequences for behaving that way, which we see when they are caught.  We use people like that to teach our children a moral way to live, using this person as an example.  If we have been the victim in the robbery at the time, then this would have a significant effect on our own lives that could change what we do in our lives as a result and the subsequent experiences that one has after that event.  It changes the security of the bank and the measures they put in place to protect their staff in the future.  The ripple effect of this robber has its contribution to society too.

Once again, I am not condoning this behaviour.  Of course we would like to eliminate all criminal acts and live in a harmonious world.  The point I am illustrating is that this person behaves this way because of their low self-esteem, not because of their lack of worth.  They rate themselves as worth-less, but they are still 100% worthy.

This person was a baby once, just like Mother Teresa was.  Just like you and I were too. Something happened.  Something happened between then and now that moulded them to be the person they are today.  They were born 100% worthy because of their existence.  They still are 100% worthy because of their existence.  What changed is that they learnt to view the world in an incorrect way that causes them to behave the way that they do. 

When you can separate the human from the behaviour, regardless of whether we rate the behaviour as good or bad, you will see that we are all just behaving through the lenses of our beliefs and how we are all rating our lives and our self-worth.

This will continue to differ according to what beliefs about self-worth were set up in the first place.

Change the beliefs, and the person changes.  So does their behaviour.

Now put yourself into these same questions I asked of high regard low regard?  

What do you like about yourself that holds you in high regard, both as a person and as a mother?  

There will be times where you like yourself, or have liked yourself because of something that you have done.  What are they?  What qualities do you have (or did you have) that held you in high regard?   

Okay, now how did you come to hold these good traits?  

How did you come to be this person?  What has happened in your past that has caused you to learn to hold these traits and make them priority ways to behave?  What beliefs are behind these behaviours and who influenced those beliefs? Or what did you observe that taught you to hold these qualities? 

What is your intention for being this person/mother? (What is the self-worth aspect?)
Underlying these qualities will be your beliefs about how this will make you a good, moral, respectful, quality  person (essentially – rating yourself as worth more).  You will rate yourself in higher regard because of your beliefs and this behaviour will be serving your best interests 100% of the time.

How do you know that living this way should be rated in high regard and that those characteristics you mentioned are what make up a good person/mother?  

Where did you learn to rate these traits in high regard?  How do you know this to be true?  Again, the answer will be because of your beliefs.  

Now swap it over and answer those questions describing yourself in low regard:  

a)       What do you dislike about yourself that holds you in low regard, both as a person and as a mother?  

b)       How did you become like this?  
How did you come to be this person?  What has happened in your past that has caused you to learn to hold these traits and make them priority ways to behave?  What beliefs are behind these behaviours and who influenced those beliefs? Or what did you observe that taught you to hold these qualities? 

c)       What is your intention for being this person/mother? (What is the self-worth component?) 
What is causing you to behave this way?  How do you believe this behaviour protects your self-worth?  Identify the beliefs that cause you to behave this way.  What is your agenda for doing these things?

e)       How do you know that living this way should be rated in low regard and that those characteristics are what make up a bad person/mother?  
Where did you learn to rate these traits in low regard?  How do you know this to be true? 

When you complete this exercise putting yourself, or any other person into this exercise, you will see that it all comes down to how you rate life based on your beliefs, not because you are worth more or worth less.

Your worth hasn’t changed.  All that’s changed is how you have rated your life (or others) based on your self-esteem.  You have always been learning about life and contributing a part of yourself to the world in millions of different ways that most of the time you had no comprehension of.  However over the years you have learnt to believe that only when life is going right, can you be valuable, and it’s simply not true.  

We will always go through life rating our situations and ourselves based on our beliefs.  All we can do is be aware of those times when you are feeling bad about yourself (that is, rating yourself as worth-less) and look at what beliefs you hold that are causing you to feel this way.  How am I rating myself in this moment and how have I come to believe that this rating is even true?  What is my real self-worth (the upgrade)?  What am I learning in this moment and how am I contributing to life unfolding right now, because that is what defines your worth, not your beliefs that have been learnt from the minds of others that didn’t know any different.  

As human beings we are always on the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain. If we have incorrect beliefs about our self-worth (which is essentially poor self-esteem – a rating of self) to begin with then we will continue to rate ourselves as being worth-less and feel pain or hurt.  

Consequently as a result of feeling that pain, we will put certain measures in place that will help us to feel worth-more.  We may seek approval to feel better about ourselves.  We may judge others, so that we feel worth more than them.  We may stop setting goals, so that we can avoid the pain of feeling like a failure (depression).  We may set lots of goals and try to control all aspects of our life so that it doesn’t go wrong and cause us pain (anxiety).  We may do good things for other people which makes us feel good about ourselves.  We will sometimes do things that logically we know we shouldn’t do, with the underlying intention of making us feel better and avoiding the pain of feeling worth-less.  

Under every human behaviour there is an incorrect perception of self-worth to be found which comes from our self-esteem (our rating of ourselves due to beliefs).

Your moods fluctuate because of how you are currently rating the situation and what you have rated this situation to mean about you.  It all comes down to beliefs.  This is why there is so much conflict in the world today.  Everybody has different beliefs that cause them to rate things as being either good or bad.  This is reality, however we continue to fight over this reality in order to be right (worth more) and make the other person wrong (worth less than me).

If we could learn to search for the incorrect self-worth beliefs behind human behaviour and work more on helping people to correct them to be more in alignment with the reality of true self-worth, then there would be more compassion and education, rather than hatred and judgement.  If we could just see that everything has value and understand that we are all inherently valuable to one another because we all have something to learn off one another and no one is better or worse than another, than the world would be a much kinder, happier place.

Reminding yourself of how you are contributing, and what you are learning from the events in your life will remind you that you are always 100% worthy, and so is everyone around you because we are always giving each other life experiences that create each of our unique stories of life.