Worth is the overall sense of value that a person feels about themselves. It is the way we view ourselves, and what we believe about ourselves, and ultimately it dictates what we think, feel, and do. But where does this come from? And how do you build a sense of worth if you have never had this general feeling of or belief in yourself?
Albert Bandura, a psychologist and researcher, developed a theory known as self-efficacy, which he defined as “people’s beliefs in their capabilities to exercise control over their functioning and over the events that affect their lives. One’s sense of self-efficacy can provide the foundation for motivation, well-being, and personal accomplishment.” (Lopez-Garrido, 2020).
So, what does this mean for us, how does this relate to building your worth? Bandura discovered that there are four fundamental ways to build this self-efficacy or sense of worth and belief in oneself. This article will dive into those four, and how we can make practical, day-to-day uses of these tools to help us feel better, do better, and live better.
The first, and least impactful is known as physiological feedback; it refers to the way our body feels at a given time and the meanings we interpret from those body sensations. If we notice our heart racing, palms sweating, and butterflies in our stomachs, we may interpret that to mean fear, anxiety, or panic. Another interpretation could be excitement, eagerness, and a feeling of being ready. The way our bodies feel contributes to our sense of confidence and self-worth when we learn how to control our physiological state and use it to work for us, rather than against us through the interpretations we create, and the way we get our bodies to feel through movement. We feel confident and worthy when we stand tall, with an open somatic expression, and breathe deeply.
One way we might be able to use this to our advantage is by learning more helpful breathing exercises. Engaging in box breathing, for example, settles down our nervous system and lets us feel much more grounded, centered, and able to handle the challenge ahead. Another example could be jumping up and down or standing in the Wonder Woman or Superman pose. These physiological exercises will change the way we feel in our body, and when that feeling is empowering, we are more likely to engage in courageous or difficult challenges.
Next is verbal persuasion. This refers to the encouragement given by others, or even the encouragement and positive self-talk that we may give to ourselves. One very common source of verbal persuasion that many people, including me, use is listening to motivational tapes, videos, speeches, or other forms of audio and videos. This type of motivational pump-up can help put you into a positive, peak-performing mental state to help trigger you into action and help you engage in challenging activities. This guidance, internally or externally, can be incredibly helpful for building worth, belief, and confidence.
Remember when you were a kid, you were learning to ride a bike and whoever was there teaching you kept encouraging you, telling you that you were doing great, that you had it, that they knew it was hard but you’d get it, and to keep going? Remember how good it felt, because you really believed them and it made you want to keep trying. That is verbal persuasion. It’s a very powerful tool when used in the right ways.
Then comes the second most influential and effective method of building self-worth: vicarious experience. This, in essence, is modeling. You watch someone who has what you want, who has done what you want to do or has achieved an accomplishment that you dream of, and you replicate their behaviors. A form of vicarious experience involves working directly with a coach, mentor, or someone who has achieved the level of success you want to achieve. By working with this individual, you are given direct access to the knowledge, tools, and skills that they have possessed, and are able to replicate and fine-tune their guidance in a way that fits you best. It’s the absolute cheat code for success, and for having the things you want in life.
Countless people in this world have what you want, who did what you want to do, and who overcame challenges that you’re currently facing. Why go through all of that pain when there are people so capable and eager to guide you through it? A good, or even great coach, therapist, mentor, or guide will save you years of heartache and will help you get to where you want to go much faster, and smoother. Think, who’s someone who has what you want? Are you willing to reach out and ask them how they did it? Or if they would be willing to give you some tips?
If they aren’t easily accessible, do they have content on social media or other platforms where they talk about their journey and what they did? Are there courses, programs, podcasts, or other content that outlines how to do that thing you want?
Lastly, there is performance accomplishment or mastery outcomes. Ultimately, this means taking action. Doing. This is the most impactful and truly the only way to build real, long-lasting belief, self-worth, confidence, and self-efficacy. The other three tools are important, but they are stepping stones to be combined with the final element, which is taking the necessary steps and acting on the thing you are trying to do, learn, or accomplish.
Taking action is not always easy, it can be hard when our limiting beliefs and fears get in the way and sabotage us, but that’s where the other three tools can be helpful. The right guide who can give you the encouragement you need, and help you feel ready in your body, will allow you to do things you never believed possible. You got this!