Self-worth can get bogged down by your self criticisms, binge eating, negative body image and destructive behaviors. Unhappiness about your weight and shape adds to your low self-esteem. You may be confusing your authentic identity with your compulsive behaviors and merciless attacks on yourself. The result is you don’t believe you have much self-worth.

Instead of sinking into depression because your self-worth and self-esteem are low, explore these 15 questions. Find out if what you are telling yourself is true.

Personal Detective Work

Do you believe the genuine you fuels your problematic behaviors?
Or do you have an inner knowing that what fuels these behaviors is not the real you?

Have you considered looking at the difference between the genuine you and your negative self-talk? Perhaps your low self-worth is a symptom of your inability to be secure in your own identity.

It’s time to be your own detective. You might begin by looking at your unwanted behaviors, like bingeing or criticizing your body or moving into any topic that sets you on a self demeaning tangent. Your challenge is to learn how to look at your behaviors without the negative self-talk that lowers your sense of self-worth.

As a detective your task is to separate your behavior from your identity. How can you discover the difference between a false sense of self-worth and the self-worth you have when you live  as the real you? Detectives do research and look for clues.

Symptoms versus Authenticity

If you suffer from continual negative thinking about yourself you most likely do not know the difference between your symptoms and who you authentically are.  Yet knowing the difference is vital as well as delightful for your healthy emergence from your self-criticism pattern trap.

A powerful and profound aspect of  recovery occurs when a person catches a glimpse of herself as  a valuable human being. Perhaps she receives acknowledgement from someone she respects that surprises her, yet she knows what they are saying is true.

Perhaps only for a moment, her self-worth rises. She discovers she has untapped riches that are blocked, not by her character or basic nature, but by symptoms of an illness or distorted thought pattern.

Our self-worth is based on how we see our value as a person. A treasure underground is worth the same as that treasure when it’s brought to light. Just because we can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s valueless. We need to uncover our hidden treasures before we can appreciate their and our value.

When you get even a hint of knowing you have untapped riches, you feel a glimmer and then a surge of hope. Your self-worth increases with that hope. You develop a renewed dedication to living a healthy life, free and whole. You are aiming for a life that includes eating, drinking, sleeping, talking, laughing communicating, and creating without irresistible cravings  and without pulling yourself back into the morass of low self-worth..

Can you imagine your relief and freedom if your negative self talk vanished and you alone, in your authentic state, remained?  Your self-worth continues to increase. Negative self-talk stops. You’ve been carrying a burden whose power you only really appreciate when it’s gone.

Discovering your genuine self-worth

In countless situations with patients over the course of my career as a psychotherapist I see that a focus on the strengths and values of the authentic person undermines the power of low self-worth and a kind of emotional paralysis. The more self-worth you have the more freedom of thought, feeling and positive action you have for your life.

This is not wishful thinking, nor is it easy.  Your self-worth is based on your strengths and authentic values.  When you fall into a pattern of putting yourself down your strengths and true values and abilities  are buried under compulsive behaviors. Your internal negativity and sense of helplessness undermines your identity. That identity and your self-worth gets weaker over the years.  Your negative beliefs about yourself gain more power and influence in your life. But you can turn the tables on this system and have your authentic identity and self-worth undermine become the dominant feature of your inner dialogue.

Beginning the hunt for the authentic you.

As a detective you have suspicions and an open mind. Your suspicions can be incorrect or correct, but they may be clues. You use them as a beginning place to start your investigation. Often a person  with low self-worth  believes her low self-esteem and feelings of low self-worth are a practical and honest appraisal of herself.

Still, an investigation might show her a different truth. You begin with questions.

With courage and trust you ask yourself the following 15 questions. They can open closed doors within you and give you more clues about your genuine nature. If you keep an open mind and answer honestly eventually your authentic self will answer.

15 Questions that lead to the real you

1.  Who am I really?­­­­

2.  What do I care about?

3.  Who do I care about?

4.  What do I want?

5.  What is my life’s work?

6.  What do I need to learn to be effective in a world I want to live in?

7.  Who are the people I want in my life? How can I meet them? How do I equip myself to be qualified to enter new circles of people I want to know?

8.  What might be consequences if I take action based on who I am and what I want and believe in?

9.  How do I cope with those consequences? Do I need to prepare? If so, how?

10. What risks are involved in taking authentic action?

11.  Are these risks proportionate to my gains or am I frightening myself into non action?

12.  What would I do if I were just a little tiny bit braver than I am?

13.   What do I want out of my life?

14.   What do I want in my life?

15.    During a normal day or week or month or year, how do I want to use my time and energy?

The Hunt for Your Real Value: Challenge and Reward

With determination and courage, you can ask yourself these questions despite your symptoms.

How close can you get to responding to these questions without your patern of self-criticism getting in the way?

As you ask yourself these questions, pay attention to your answers and nourish your authentic response. As you honor the questions and the directions they give you, your authentic self will grow stronger.  That growth diminishes power of your negative behaviors and demeaning self-talk. Your self-worth rises.

Giving yourself the attention you need to get through your negativity and into your genuine interests and values will give you many hints about what could be next for you if you step into what you care about. Your true person-hood will emerge, perhaps to your surprise, because your genuine personhood is a grand presence.

Joanna is a psychotherapist in private practice serving California, Arizona, Florida, Utah and Oregon.

Author of Healing Your Hungry Heart: recovering from your eating disorder. 

To schedule a free telephone consultation write: [email protected]

*pix KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FLA. – At NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, a bald eagle soars into the sky. A common sight around KSC, there are at least a dozen active bald eagle nests in the Merritt Island Wildlife Nature Refuge that surrounds KSC. The refuge is a habitat for more than 310 species of birds, 25 mammals, 117 fishes and 65 amphibians and reptiles. In addition, the Refuge supports 19 endangered or threatened wildlife species on Federal or State lists, more than any other single refuge in the U.S.


PHOTO CREDIT: NASA or National Aeronautics and Space Administration, photo taken by Gary Rothstein

This file is in the public domain in the United States because it was solely created by NASA.

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About the Author: Joanna Poppink, LMFT
Joanna Poppink is a psychotherapist, LMFT, licensed in five states; CA, UT, FL, AZ, OR. She specializes in eating disorder recovery, PTSD, narcissistic abuse, self-esteem, anxiety, and healthy relationship development. Her practice is virtual, and she sees adults 24 and up. Seniors most welcome. Joanna offers a free telephone consultation before acceptance into her practice.

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