Personal Development and Self-Worth (Part Four)


By Ken Keis

This is the fourth of a seven-part series. Start with Part One and watch for Part Five in

Does it really matter if your sense of personal value is high or low?

The answer is yes, absolutely!

Self-worth is a basic human need, essential to normal, healthy development. High self-worth helps provide flexibility, strength, and a capacity to regenerate.

It relates to increased levels of mental health, life success, and happiness.

Research has shown that individuals with lower self-worth have a diminished ability to contribute than those with higher self-worth. Low self-worth undermines all areas of human interaction and diminishes resilience in the face of life’s problems. Low self-worth can stunt psychological and emotional growth.

Our level of self-worth is an extremely powerful factor in personality development and behavior. Self-worth represents the various ways our feelings of importance as individuals can play a role in determining aspects of our personality. Our sense of security is linked directly to our level of self-worth.

So again, you and I could have a similar Personal Style but if one of us has high self-worth the other has low self-worth, we could respond differently to similar events.

  • Self-worth is the part of the human personality that determines personal value and importance.
  • It is the area of our thinking that evaluates our behavior, appearance, feelings, thoughts, and abilities.
  • It outlines both the level of appreciation we have for ourselves and the way we feel about our inherent worth—what we believe we need to be or do to have value as a person.

There is debate in the psychology community about the degree of impact our levels of self-worth have in our life and the specific strategies that will best assist us to improve our self-worth.

But the majority of research overwhelmingly supports the opinion that there are strong overall benefits to our having high self-worth. Self-worth is not only a source of motivation and personal energy to engage life, it reveals areas of psychological vulnerability. Dr. Nathaniel Branden, author and researcher of Our Urgent Need for Self-Esteem, sums up our thoughts in his quote.

Self-worth provides the experience of being able to cope with the basic challenges of life and being worthy of happiness. It consists of two components.

1.       Self-Efficacy: Confidence in our ability to think, learn, choose, and make appropriate decisions

2.       Self-Respect: Confidence in our right to be happy and the belief that achievement, success, friendship, respect, love, and fulfillment are appropriate to us.

The basic challenges of life include such fundamentals as

  • the ability to earn a living;
  • the ability to take independent care of ourselves in the world;
  • the competency to form in human relationships that are mutually satisfying; and
  • the resilience that allows us to bounce back from adversity and to persevere in our aspirations.

Most of the research suggests our self-worth is in constant flux, changing in response to the many dynamics that present themselves in our lives. We never achieve high self-worth permanently; we are always actively re-establishing it during our entire lifetime. We see a fluctuation of self-worth in individuals who are laid off or fired from long-term positions or when personal relationships fail. In numerous cases, seemingly high-self-worth individuals can fall apart.

It is possible to reduce the impact various events could have on an individual’s self-worth levels, if the person understands the situation and has specific approaches for maintaining and increasing self-worth levels.

As self-worth goes up, so does our sense of trust that somehow we can cope with the environment. When it decreases, we lose confidence that we can be successful in our environment. For instance, a person with a high level of self-worth may overcome a negative environment and become successful, while a person with a lower level of self-worth may fail within positive surroundings.

Note that self-worth is learned; it does not exist at birth. It is a product of nurture, not nature. It develops in us during very early childhood. It is also strongly affected during adolescence and adulthood as people and events react to our personalities and behavior.

To some extent, self-worth is developed by factors in all the other categories. It is especially influenced by factors within the Social Teacher category. We come to behave toward ourselves in much the same manner that significant others have behaved toward us. For instance, if parents are persistently critical of small failings or imperfections in their children, when the children become adults, they may have difficulty appreciating the skills and the attributes that they do possess, but were taken for granted or undervalued by their parents.

If the reactions of significant others are positive toward who we are and what we do, our self-worth levels begin to increase and strengthen. If their reactions are negative, we become weaker and our sense of value as a person decreases. The process of self-evaluation occurs within the mind of each individual throughout his or her lifetime. While the foundation for it is pretty well established by the time we are 7 years old, self-worth development is influenced by many other critical factors as we grow up.

The important point to remember is that our self-worth levels are learned and whatever has been learned can be unlearned. The key is to understand how self-worth is structured within the personality and what can be done to shift it from the negative toward the positive. Personal Style theory can be a major advantage in the process.

Many HR departments avoid development programs or assessments in the area of self-worth. Mostly because it is seen as too much of a soft skill or executives would rather have dental work than talk about their self-worth levels. Yet more and more research links an individual’s performance to their self-worth levels. So even if we choose to ignore it, does not mean that there is not an opportunity to increase our team’s self-worth and all the performance measure which follow suit. The sin of omission does apply in this case.

You can learn more about your self-worth levels by completing our Self-Worth Inventory, which measures five categories: Self, Family, Peers, Work and Projected Self. To learn more, please go to

Ken Keis is considered a global authority on the way assessment strategies increase and multiply your success rate. In 22 years, he has conducted more than 2000 presentations and 10,000 hours of consulting and coaching. Author of Why Aren’t You More Like Me? Discover the Secrets to Understanding Yourself and Others, Ken can be contacted at 604 852-0566,, or through

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