• Reasons for low self-worth can be varied and complex, often starting in childhood

  • Nurturing a stronger sense of self-worth will help you reach your potential and protect your mental health

  • We have therapists and counsellors available to support you here

How many people go through life knowing that they have so much more potential than is ever realised? Probably all of us…  We all have the capability to achieve more and yet, we often give up on a goal or an ambition or on ideas thinking we’re not good enough or, perhaps, decide that it is just too difficult to keep on going.  

So, how do you start to tackle the issue of underestimating yourself? From my work and studies, I have identified the following ideas:

1) Know your own worth

This is the most important idea to work on. How we see ourselves, and work through difficulties in our lives, sets up the pattern for what we do in the world. 

We forget that others are unaware of our internal world and the thoughts that circle round our heads. We are judged solely on our external behaviour. Therefore, if we choose to limit what we do this will be picked up by others and interpreted. We might be seen, perhaps, as someone who is not capable or ambitious and so less is expected of us and this can lead to feeling underestimated.

2) Keep a record/journal of your achievements

This does not have to be a complex activity, and much can be gained from simply reinforcing the things that you are most proud of achieving or where you have made a difference. It is not necessary to be in paid work to act on this idea; valuable contributions to our family, home or community all deserve to be captured. 

Our memories are not perfect for holding this sort of information, and if it is lost we also lose an opportunity to record our worth. It is also an opportunity to reflect on what we have done and what we hope to do in the future to retain our vitality.  

Don’t forget that some of our greatest achievements may take a very long time before coming to fruition.

3) Working outside your comfort zone

Learning should be a stretch and a challenge and so, if we are learning (which we all need to do in a fast-changing world), then we face the discomfort that often comes with not knowing. This, working through feelings of being uncomfortable, also applies to situations in which we might be underestimated or overlooked. 

4) Keep learning

This theme has already been alluded to in the earlier ideas, but deserves specific mention here. Life-long learning is a pre-requisite in helping us to adapt in an ever-changing and digitally-connected world. Technology is an enabler for us all and understanding how to use it to your advantage is a must for us all.

Increasingly, the world of work values those with knowledge and skills and so to keep our skill-set sharp, we need to invest in staying up-to-date and relevant. Knowing how to sift out news and information will also keep us well-informed and better able to know when we are being manipulated through fake-news. 

5) Develop a strong support system around you

Although, ultimately, we are alone in the world, our need to connect and belong is strong driver. No-one goes through life without disappointment and upset, and to have people in your life who support and reinforce you during these times is essential.  

It is worth considering whether formal support arrangements might also be helpful like mentoring, coaching or counselling.

6) Give back value

We are all part of a social system and one way to nurture that sense of being connected is to give back. Volunteer to do something that will bring you joy and improve the happiness levels of others. Small acts of kindness really do ‘make the world go round’ and are often remembered by those at the receiving end. 

The strong support system mentioned above, is further strengthened through mutual acts of support and kindness towards each other. Some of our greatest achievements come from work or an activity that is unpaid.

7) Go for balance in your life

With the fast pace of the world and so much more to consider as our self-awareness grows, we need to ensure we have moments of joy, where we recharge. This is not being selfish, to function well in the world and to remind ourselves that we have one life, we need to build in periods of joy and renewal. Most importantly, giving yourself time and space to think and to reflect is always paid back. 

Remember that everyone feels downhearted at times, just one of the emotions of being human, and these ideas will help you to know and experience your worth in the world.

Further reading

6 tips for a well-stocked mental health toolkit

Feel like an imposter? How to soothe your inner critic

Why journalling is such a powerful act of self-care

6 habits to thrive in life and work

Compare and despair: How to deal with feelings of inadequacy