Value is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “usefulness or importance.” So, valuing yourself is the act of acknowledging and understanding your usefulness and importance.
Though finding a way to value yourself is not a “one-size-fits-all” situation, Paula Brochu, an assistant professor of psychology who specializes in stigmas related to health and well-being, had some suggestions on how college students can effectively appreciate and value themselves.
“Self-worth and self-esteem are the basis between how we navigate everything and our interactions with others, our drive to reach certain goals or how we feel about ourselves. Feelings of confidence and competence can go a long way for yourself, but others pick up on that, too, which can influence how they perceive you,” Brochu said.
There are many theories as to why college students seem to have low self-esteem. One is comparison. Comparison happens subconsciously, like when you meet someone new from a big city who’s accomplished a bunch of amazing things by age 18 or when you’re scrolling through Instagram and see someone’s seemingly perfect life. Instead of comparing your life to someone else’s highlight reel, try looking at all of the things you love about yourself. Professor Brochu said words of affirmation help remind you of how great you truly are.
“I really like to think of self-worth as self-affirmation: this is really about a person thinking about and reflecting on the values that are important to them,” she said. “Oftentimes for people that is reflecting on personal relationships, like family and friends. It could be other things, like whatever you value most. For someone artsy it could be creativity.”
Brochu said that this can help people build self-worth as they focus on things that are important, which serves as a buffer from things that bring them down and can also bring them back up.
So what about those times when it’s harder to see your worth? Those times when you think you’ve failed or you believe that you haven’t done enough? In this case, Professor Brochu said not to obsess over the problem or failure, but to think about what you could do differently next time and then take a broader view. She said students should try to buffer out the negativity and see the bigger picture. In five years, will the problem really matter? The answer is most likely no, but what will matter is how you handle the situation and how you use the experience as motivation to improve yourself.
Another huge part of valuing yourself is exercising self-compassion. Self-compassion is often overlooked. Sometimes you may spend so much time focusing on the negatives with your body and your abilities when in reality you are allowed to have flaws and allowed to be human. The “perfect body” and the “perfect life” definitely do not exist, so there is no use in beating yourself up over it. Professor Brochu suggests that rather than beating yourself up over your “flaws,” try to change your lens of beauty. Realizing that you are in fact beautiful and that beauty is not one size fits all can help build your self-compassion. Being compassionate, gentle and kind with yourself is vital.
Professor Brochu said that we should find both the beauty and humor in our bodies. One way to really appreciate your body is to keep a gratitude journal. Professor Brochu suggests keeping these journals simple, like writing, “I really liked the way my eyes looked today,” or, “I really appreciate that my legs could get me from point A to point B,” or, “I felt exceptionally strong today.”
“Self-affirmations, like pictures or words on mirrors help as well. Our internal mind says all these nasty things to ourselves that we wouldn’t even say to other people. If we replace this with positive things, it can make a big difference,” Professor Brochu said.
Professor Brochu said that she really loved the body positivity movement that says, “Everybody is positive, every body is positive,” because she loves the message behind it as well as the play on words.
“People will put off doing things until they achieve [a physical] goal,” she said. “They might not go out on dates or avoid going to the beach or whatever the case. I would really encourage people to put themselves out there and don’t delay the stuff that you want to do until you are a specific size. You can do both at the same time; you can try to make changes and do things you want to do.”
Professor Brochu also said she wants to encourage others to live fearlessly.
So, although valuing yourself is a very subjective idea, and everyone’s idea of it can look different, the overall theme is the same. Accepting yourself and taking care of yourself is important, and realizing your worth is vital.