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Self-esteem is something that many people will struggle with during their lifetime. Many people struggle with their self-worth because they confuse self-worth with success. Modern society frames success in unhealthy ways, which causes individuals to be misguided in their ideas surrounding success. When it comes to acknowledging your own self-worth, it is important to acknowledge that success should not the framework for your identity. 

What Is Self-Worth?

Our self-worth is composed of what we think, feel, and believe about our personal selves. Positive self-worth means recognizing that you are worthy and deserving of love and belonging from yourself and others. When it comes to understanding self-worth, many people confuse it with self-esteem. Whereas self-esteem relies on our own experiences of success and achievement, self-worth is something that should not change over time. Although it is important that we understand our own areas of weakness in order to know where to grow, we deserve to feel good about who we are even when we make mistakes.

Self-worth and Addiction Recovery

In mental health and addiction recovery, knowing and believing in your own self-worth makes all the difference in achieving long-lasting sobriety. Many people first enter treatment because they are experiencing issues with their self-worth. Typically, low self-worth contributes to substance use and the development of mental health conditions. Having low self-worth leads to increased self-criticism and judgment, and undoing these negative thought patterns requires intense treatment in order to achieve recovery. 

Low self-worth may surface in many ways, such as:

  • poor confidence
  • negative social comparison
  • negative self-talk
  • fear of failure
  • extreme worry
  • persistent self-doubt
  • people-pleasing
  • avoidance of self-expression
  • lacking knowledge of personal identity

In contrast, it may help to also understand what high, or healthy, self-worth may show up as. High self-worth may look like:

  • acknowledging and expressing needs
  • general confidence 
  • being confident in one’s ability to make decisions
  • recognizing personal strengths and weaknesses
  • maintaining supportive and healthy relationships
  • exhibiting realistic goals and expectations of themself
  • avoiding dwelling on the past
  • acknowledging and rejecting manipulative attempts from others

How to Redefine Success

While we are acknowledging and defining self-worth, it is also important to know how to define healthy success. Self-esteem is likely to form from personal experiences with success, but self-worth should remain constant in spite of challenging experiences and mistakes. If you are in recovery and believe that your self-worth is determined by your ability to stay sober, it is time to rethink how you define both self-worth and success. 

The school system sets up children and teenagers to believe that they must complete high school education and college education in order to acquire a successful career. This is not only a flaw in how society defines success, but also causes personal misunderstandings on how we define success and self-worth in our own lives. In mental health and addiction recovery, many believe that success is found when substance use and abuse are discontinued. Although this can help contribute to a successful recovery, success cannot be found until treatment and recovery targets unhealthy habits, triggers, and cravings that caused the addiction to develop in the first place.

When Times Get Tough

Relapse is something that may play a factor in your or your loved one’s recovery journey. Relapse is a great example that success should not define self-worth. In an experience of relapse, a person should not feel any less deserving or worthy of experiencing a sober life. They may experience feelings of guilt and shame tied to their self-esteem, but those feelings are temporary. What matters is their understanding of their self-worth, as no matter if or when relapse happens, they will always be deserving of experiencing long-lasting recovery from substance use and the distress associated with it. 

How to Separate Experiences of Success and Self-Worth 

In recovery, it is a skill to be able to consciously separate experiences of success and self-worth. During the times you feel like you are lacking success, look for proactive actions you can take to increase your feelings of success. If you feel like you are lacking success in your career, for example, reach out to your supervisor about obtaining new job roles that can help foster increased feelings of self-esteem. 

During the times you are struggling with self-worth, surround yourself with things and people that make your life feel worthwhile. Learn to love yourself in recovery by fostering personal forgiveness and by being kind to your mind. Learn how to balance self-care and social connection to get a better understanding of your personal needs. More important than anything, do not be afraid to seek help from a loved one or professional guidance from a therapist. You are worthy of a life worth living, and that worth should remain constant.

Self-worth is often confused with and defined by success. This causes issues not only for those in recovery, but for all who struggle with understanding their self-worth. It is important to know the definition of these terms separately so that they are not used interchangeably. While self-worth should remain constant, self-esteem is affected by personal achievements and external success. Especially for those in treatment and recovery, knowing how to achieve self-worth is crucial for securing long-lasting sobriety. West Coast Recovery Centers uses a combination of treatment modalities for those struggling with mental health and addiction. We believe that comprehensive services, alongside collaborative care, are essential for your treatment experience. We offer individualized treatment services to help you acknowledge and understand your own self-worth. Our treatment experience will motivate you to recognize your strengths and weaknesses, allowing you to honor and differentiate self-worth from self-esteem. For more information, call us today at (760) 492-6509.

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