Discovering Your Self-worth Outside of Your Weight
by: Megan Perez, dietitian at Nourishing Minds Nutrition
Looking back now, I see that I spent a majority of my life equating my worth to body size and weight. Although it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what caused this mindset and why, I do know that it happened at such a young age, that these thoughts- turned-beliefs were subconsciously ingrained in me. Most people I speak with about this topic share common stories. Maybe not to the extent that I experienced (or maybe worse), but a large number of people have felt the effects of diet culture on their beliefs and have let it affect how they see themselves. But, instead of criticizing diet culture in this post, I will turn my focus towards how we can put an end to this belief and discover your own self-worth.
Self-worth is defined as “the sense of one’s own value or worth as a person; self-esteem; self-respect.”
First and foremost, this should tell you that your self-worth is based on your own beliefs about yourself, and yours alone. Your self-worth is not based off your family’s or friends’ or strangers’ thoughts. This was vital in healing my relationship with myself, because I definitely let other people’s opinions of me determine how I thought about myself for a long time. This also leads me to ask, is there a specific criteria that determines one’s self-worth? How do we measure our worthiness? It is important to remember that self-worth is subjective in that each person can have a different idea of what makes them “worthy.” Which brings me to my last question. “Worthy” of what? Worthy of living? Worthy of love? Of happiness? Shouldn’t everyone be worthy of these despite their appearance?
Let’s re-visit the definition of self-worth from above. It is defined as the sense of one’s own value as a person. What is it that you value in other people? It helped me to think of someone I view as a “good” person. Again, this is subjective, and that’s okay! The person I envisioned is kind, non-judgmental, trustworthy, optimistic, and genuinely wants happiness for others. You may find that you value someone who does volunteer work, who is supportive, who is funny, or who is driven. Do you see any of these traits in yourself? Are these traits that you could value in yourself? Or are there other traits you have that you believe make you a good person? Write these down!
Now that you understand what self-worth means and have identified what you value in yourself and others, it is important to also identify triggers that lead to self-doubt and feelings of unworthiness. A trigger for me has always been seeing models and women in the media who are praised for their beauty and thin bodies. Although diet culture currently idealizes thin bodies, it hasn’t always been this way. What is “trendy” and “fashionable” and “in” is constantly changing. Did you know that up until the early 1900’s, women in larger bodies were highly valued? A woman in a larger body was seen as a symbol of status, of wealth, and of beauty. The standards for “healthy bodies” are constantly changing, as well. A healthy body for a woman once meant that she could bear many children and was strong enough to complete all the household chores.
What other triggers can you think of that lead to feelings of unworthiness? I want you to write these down, as well. Because the criteria for self-worth varies from person to person, and because the idealized body type is constantly changing, it is very unhelpful to try to link these two moving targets. Putting all of our value in something that is out of our control is not only impractical, but it will surely lead us to failure and feelings of inadequacy.
So what do we do instead? I know from experience that it is not as simple as just kicking our insecurities to the curb. It takes times and practice to reframe our thoughts and beliefs. What we can do is to start challenging our current beliefs that are no longer serving us (these are those triggers you identified above). Whenever you notice these triggers come up for you, pause for a moment. Is this thought based on fact? Is it based on your knowledge of yourself or is it coming from diet culture? Is this thought kind? Or helpful? Or something you need to know? If the answer to these questions are no, then push it out of your mind! Challenge these thoughts that make their way in. Remind yourself that no matter what, you are worthy and valuable. Keep your list of valuable traits close by. Read them aloud to yourself every day. When we value the traits and characteristics that make us unique and worthy, we will begin to create new thoughts and beliefs. We will begin to love the perfectly imperfect people we are inside.
Enjoyed today’s blog post? Here are some more resources just for you!
How to Finally Give Up Dieting for Good (another amazing blog post by Megan)
Intuitive Eating Sounds Great…But What if I Still Want to Lose Weight? (blog post by dietitian Kelsey Pukala at Nourishing Minds Nutrition)