A Negative Self-Worth Can Get in the Way of Your Success

woman eating ice creamAnna’s Story

Anna always dreamed of being a teacher and a great mother to her children, like her mother. She had always been a little on the chubby side, but her mother gave her lots of love and support and encouragement. Anna was encouraged to eat healthy and exercise. Mother always told her that as she grew her weight would even out.

But then her mother passed away from a sudden illness, leaving Anna to fend for herself. Dad, lost in his own grief, could not be supportive. Anna fell into comfort eating to ease her pain and loss.

Dad started dating and remarried a few months after his wife’s death. Anna was devastated to find someone she barely knew in her mother’s place.

Anna’s step-mother didn’t extend the love and support and understanding as her own mother. Her comfort eating increased as did her weight. Now, instead of encouragement and support, she faced ridicule, sarcasm, and derogatory comments that cut to the bone. As a result, she ate even more.

While in college, she joined a fitness program that helped her slim down with a fitness regimen. After college, she continued with the program participating in numerous marathons. She continued increasing her fitness program until her work-outs often consumed two hours of her day.

Anna went on to be a teacher who showed the same love, support, and encouragement that she received from her mother to her Special-Ed students.

One day a mother of one of her students saw her in the gym and said to her, “I see you in here a lot. You look so good. How long do you work-out every day?”

Anna’s response stunned the mother, “I’m fat and ugly. If I don’t work out so hard I’ll be so fat I can’t move. If I’m not careful I’ll be useless and stupid.”

Anna’s description of herself couldn’t have been further from the way the mother and others saw her. The mother evaluated the person standing in front of her, a woman who was definitely not fat and ugly. And, far from useless and stupid, she was articulate, intelligent, and one of the best teachers in her child’s school.

Like many people with a poor self-image and self-worth, Anna was more than fair and reasonable when it came to other people, but reserved a special corner of mental hell for herself.

She heard and internalized her step-mothers derogatory comments until they became the words she repeated over and over to herself. Anna felt like she was criticizing herself, but actually, she had adopted her step-mother’s condemnation at such a deep level that she couldn’t tell the difference.

Negative Self-Worth, Negative Self-Image

I’m not attractive enough. I’ll never be good enough. “I feel like I’m no good. Like I’m just damaged goods. It’s just like I feel… unworthy.”

This person believes that to be attractive they need to resemble thin and beautiful men and women who are in the magazines. This person also believes that he or she is not good enough to fulfill their lifelong dream – they are damaged goods. This person believes he or she is inadequate in any and all ways.

Goal: Self-Acceptance, Accurate self-image or self-concept, Self-Love

Affirmation: Renewing Our Mind

“If there is anything I desire to change about myself, I’ll do that because I want to, not because I feel I have to. Trying to attain “perfect” looks is unrealistic and I know that unrealistic goals will only leave me disappointed. I recognize that the media portrays beauty unrealistically. I also realize that makeup, camera angles and airbrushing all contribute to a model’s perceived perfection.”

Romans 12:2 “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Steps to Self-Worth

Too many times we compare ourselves to others who seem to have it all together. Living our lives by continuously comparing ourselves to others around us, causes pain, bitterness, and will make us extremely miserable if we allow it.

Loving yourself gives you the opportunity to stop comparing yourself to others. That’s often hard to do.

You need to learn that it’s okay to:

  • Appreciate yourself
  • Desire things for yourself
  • Be yourself
  • Make mistakes
  • Express yourself

Yes, it’s risky to love and appreciate yourself. But, it will move you closer to the success you have only dreamed about.

What happened to Anna?

The next morning at school Marie, the mother she had seen at the gym, brought her daughter into the classroom, instead of dropping her off outside the school as usual. Marie, waited until Anna finished getting the students started on the first project of the day.

Anna turned to see Marie sitting in a chair by the door. As Anna walked toward Marie anxiety rose inside, she wondered what she had done or said wrong the night before. Why was Marie still in the classroom?

Marie walked toward Anna. Anna wanted to run and hide, but that wasn’t an option.

“I’d like to invite you to coffee after school this afternoon,” Marie said. “Can we meet at the snack bar at the gym? I’ll take my daughter home and meet you there. Is that okay? I want to show you something that I think you’ll be very interested in.”

Anna’s face showed the anxiety she felt on the inside. Marie reached out to lay a hand on her arm. “It’s good. Trust me. You’ll like it.”

Anna took a deep breath and nodded, “Okay. I’ll see you there.”

Anna’s eyes began to tear up. She turned to see the student looking her way. She turned and wiped the tears from her eyes. Nobody had done anything nice for her since her mother’s passing.

After parking her car and sitting for several minutes she took a deep breath, grabbed her gym bag, and head for the gym. Marie sat in the corner with something spread out on the table in front of her. As Anna got closer she could tell they were photos. As she got closer she could see they were pictures of runners crossing the finish line – marathons.

Marie motioned for her to sit in the chair next to her. Marie started arranging the photos. Some poster-sized.

Anna looked at her with a question in her eyes, but couldn’t manage to say anything. The photos of her in the marathons.

Marathon Runner“I’m the photographer for most of the marathons in the state. I wanted to show you these. I’ve been following your races for years. You are so photogenic and so natural when you are running. You exude the confidence of an accomplished runner. You have won more races than anyone else in the state. Look at these photos. They are awesome. You are awesome,” she said as she shuffled through the photos showing them to Anna. “You are so beautiful when you are out running. You’re happy. Look at the expression on your face. That’s why you are my favorite subject in the races.”

Anna picked up one photo than another looking at her image. Tears began running down her cheeks. “I am beautiful,” she said as she slowly looked at Marie.

“I don’t know where you got those negative ideas about yourself, but they aren’t true. You are beautiful, an accomplished runner, and an awesome teacher. My daughter wouldn’t even be able to read if it wasn’t for you,” Marie said as she reached out encircling Anna in her arms. “I just wanted to say thank you for being you.”