A crisis of self-worth: What happens when you don’t like yourself. Part 1

July 19, 2022

I’ve learned to slam on the brake
Before I even turn the key
Before I make the mistake
Before I lead with the worst of me

Give them no reason to stare
No slippin’ up if you slip away
So I got nothing to share
No, I got nothing to say

On the outside, always looking in
Will I ever be more than I’ve always been?
‘Cause I’m tap, tap, tapping on the glass
I’m waving through a window…

Waving Through a Window by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul

I love the music of the Broadway show Dear Evan Hansen, especially when sung by Ben Platt, the original lead of the blockbuster performance. But, man, it is it heart-rending! The show highlights a crisis of self-worth in a young man suffering from social anxiety and the longing to be accepted.

Healthy self-worth is huge. Poor self-worth is devastating. Self-worth is the essential third leg of the well-being stool:

Happiness + Contentment + Self-worth = Well-being

I think it’s the most devastating of the three when it is absent from a human being’s life. I also think it’s the most embarrassing to talk about. Think about it. We aren’t afraid to admit, “I’m just not happy” or “I’m feeling a little discontent.” But nobody wants to say out loud, “I don’t like myself.” It feels so needy and pathetic.

Lately I’ve been wondering whether a self-worth crisis is lurking behind much of our societal edginess and personal sadness. Could a self-esteem catastrophe be fueling our historic levels of anxiety and depression? Is this why the great resignation is showing no signs of slowing down?

So, let’s talk about this. Over the next few posts, I am going to think out loud with you about self-worth and I am hoping you’ll join in and offer reactions to it all. Today I want to offer what I believe to be the 6 agonizing questions that form a human’s self-worth. Next week I will explore the devastating impact of poor self-worth, not just on an individual, but on their family, community and workplace. I’ll wrap it up with some solutions to poor self-worth, zeroing in on the community and workplace. I think this is extremely important and I expect you’ll agree.

So…with minimal comment, here are the 6 agonizing questions that lie at the foundation of a human being’s self-worth.

  1. “Am I desired?”

Related questions…”Does anyone love me?” “Does anyone want me?” This is ground zero of self-worth and the motivation behind a lot of art, music and literature (see the song above). This may be the first existential crisis of a toddler’s life and the question that dogs even seniors in their later years.

  1. “Do I matter?”

This is the question of meaning. Do I have a purpose? Was I created for a reason? 99% of the people whom I coach about their destiny end up in tears somewhere in the process, because this question is so bone-level.

  1. “Am I successful?”

This is related to “Do I matter?”, but it is a more an everyday kind of wondering. It’s as simple as worrying if the meal you made is enjoyed by others or as complicated as whether you are fulfilling your job description at work.

  1. “Am I appreciated?”

Another way to ask this…”Does anyone notice me or my work?”  What’s maddening about this question is that each of us has unique ways of wanting recognition. Some want a literal pat on the back, while others need a token of appreciation and others an “atta-boy”. I’ll address this further in my third post.

  1. “Does anybody care what I think?”

A related question might be, “Do I have a voice?” Everybody thinks. Everybody has opinions. Everybody has ideas. When those thoughts are disregarded or summarily dismissed, a self-worth crisis will surely follow.

  1. “Do I look good?”

Body shaming is most pronounced within. We hate our own bodies more than anyone else ever could. Research indicates that a majority of Americans experience weight stigma. Some stats push the number over 90%.

Now think about what happens in a human being who perceives the answer to each of those questions to be “NO!”. Stop and review those 6 self-esteem questions and hear the word “NO!” after each. My heart sinks just thinking about it. Imagine a community, a workplace, a family, a country or a culture in which a “NO!” to each question resounds throughout its people. It would be a self-worth disaster. But that’s where we are.

Instead, what if many of us cared enough to ensure that the human beings in our workplace, community or family heard…

Yes, you are desired!

Yes, you matter!

Yes, you are successful!

Yes, we recognize you!

Yes, please tell me what you think!

Yes, we like you just as you are!

That would be a self-worth revolution.



  1. Thomas S. McEwen

    Appreciate this post, I definitely think you are onto to something. In my years working at Community Behavioral Health Pavilion, I saw the very effects of a society stricken with anxiety.

    • Dave Rodriguez

      Thanks Thomas, I think a lot of anxiety is driven by low self worth. I’m sure you’ve seen that a lot!


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