There are so many ‘self-‘ words. There is self-esteem, self-compassion, self-acceptance, self-respect, self-confidence, self-love, self-care and so on; so many words to describe how we feel about ourselves, how we think about ourselves, and how we act towards ourselves. Having a sense of self-worth means that you value yourself. We need to ensure our children have self-worth.
Self-worth is defined as, “the sense of one's own value or worth as a person; self-esteem; self-respect.” (www.dictionary.com). There are subtle but significant differences between self-worth and self-confidence. Self-confidence is not an overall evaluation of yourself, but a feeling of confidence and competence in more specific areas. For example, you could have a high amount of self-worth but low self-confidence when it comes to sports, certain subjects in school or your ability to speak a new language.
It is not necessary to have a high sense of self-confidence in every area of your life; there are naturally some things that you will simply not be very good at, and other areas in which you will excel. The important thing is to have self-confidence in the activities in your life that matter to you and a high sense of self-worth overall. To illustrate this further, consider Charlotte:
Charlotte has a wide variety of interests, including running, reading, horse-riding with her friends and playing video games.
Charlotte is not particularly good at running and has never taken part in a competitive race. She is struggling with her reading and frequently misses the themes that her peers in class pick up on. She is improving with her riding but still has many falls. She loves playing video games but is never able to get the scores that her friends achieve.
Despite all of this, Charlotte still believes that she is worthy and valuable. She knows that her worth as a human is not dependent on her ability to run, read, horse ride or play video games. Whether she is great, terrible or somewhere in between at each of her vast range of chosen activities, she knows she is still worthy of happiness, fulfilment, and love.
Children with low self-worth:
- are self-critical and hard on themselves
- feel they are not as good as others
- think of the times they fail rather than when they succeed
- lack confidence
- doubt they can do things well
Conversely, children with good levels of self-worth:
- feel liked and accepted
- feel confident
- feel proud of what they can do
- think good things about themselves
- believe in themselves
Why does self-worth matter?
Children who feel good about themselves have the confidence to try new things. They are more likely to try their best. They feel proud of what they can do. Self-worth helps children cope with mistakes. It helps children try again, even if they fail at first. As a result, self-worth helps children do better at school, at home and with friends.
How do we instil self-worth in children?
At Yateley Manor we are acutely aware of the importance of being a good role model. When we put the effort into everyday tasks we are setting a good example and children learn to put effort into their work too. Modelling a positive attitude also counts. As staff, when we go about our tasks cheerfully it encourages the children to do the same.
We focus on the strengths of the children. Messages that children hear about themselves from others easily translate into how they feel about themselves. Harsh words ("You're so lazy!") are harmful and not motivating. When children hear negative messages about themselves, it harms their self-worth.
“Strong people have a strong sense of self-worth and self-awareness; they don’t need the approval of others.” (Roy T. Bennett)
Even if a child’s self-worth is low, it can be raised. Furthermore, it needs to be raised if they are to continue to learn and develop well, preparing them for successful adult lives.