What To Do When Your Self-Worth Is Worth Nothing.

Exhausted, anxious, strained, worried, tense, frustrated, and agitated. These are the words I would use to describe the way I have felt almost everyday for the past several years. That makes my life sound so depressing, which is absolutely not the case. I actually have a very blessed life, which is what makes me continue to forge on each day. All of those feelings come from my own opinion of myself and because I’m always last on my list of things that are important.

Self-worth isn’t something most people talk about in daily conversation. Women don’t go out for coffee or a girl’s night and discuss how much they love themselves. We especially don’t discuss the other side, which is loathing oneself and feeling like you don’t have any special qualities. That would be uncomfortable and inappropriate in most social settings.

But why does it have to be that way? Why do we have to hold our doubts inside where we let them simmer until they are strong enough to boil over? We need to support each other and build ourselves up with the doubts about ourselves as the foundation. We need to be able to openly talk about the less popular topics together and work to make ourselves and those around us feel good. It’s so healthy and natural to talk to someone you love when you’ve had a bad day or are upset. But who are we supposed to talk to when it’s our own self that we’re upset with and our own inner voice that is bringing us down?

My life has had a series of events that created a firestorm of self-doubt in myself. My mother passed away when I was 12, which was extremely traumatizing. My dad remarried and I had an unhealthy relationship with my stepmom (I say “had” because we are now on a different path and respect each other very much). Then years later, my husband and I were dealt a hand that we were completely unprepared for when we faced the effects of infertility (if you’ve read other Iowa City Moms Blog posts by me you know though that because of our infertility issues we began our adoption journey, and then were blessed with our beautiful daughter).

Photo by Lindsay McGowan Photography
Photo by Lindsay McGowan Photography

Why am I telling you all this? Because this series of events led me to believe that I was not worthy of having my own mother, or a mother-like figure, or be a mother myself. I loathed all ideas surrounding motherhood because every traumatic event in my life was based around that topic. I felt like I didn’t deserve to be a mother, which is a great way to slowly self-destruct. And that’s exactly what I did.

It was touch and go for a while for me and my emotions. Some days were better than others, but the self-hate never really went away. It affected everyone around me because I was crabby, easily frustrated, had little patience, and wasn’t able to enjoy things like I should have. I wasn’t (and still am not) always an easy person to be around, which I’m well aware of. That wore on me and after several years, I decided it was time to do something about it. I actually was a mother at this point and I needed to show my daughter how much I love her by also loving myself. I wasn’t going to be able to do that if I kept telling myself that I didn’t deserve any of the good things in my life.

Photo by Lindsay McGowan Photography
Photo by Lindsay McGowan Photography

After much thought, I decided to begin seeing a therapist. She is amazing and has taught me so much about myself. She’s guided me through the multiple layers of grieving that I had never done. She continues to listen to me and we freely talk about my low self-esteem like I wish I had enough confidence to do with the people in my everyday life. Through this process, I have learned so much. I still have a long way to go to get back to the place where I happily love who I am, but I’ve worked hard on myself and I’m proud of that.

If you are someone that deals with the roller coaster of low self-worth, here are a few ideas to help get you back on track. I have to remind myself of these things everyday and take little baby steps to liking myself, but I’m doing it and so can you!

Agreements to Make With Yourself:

  1. Stop taking everything so personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What they say and do is their own reality and not yours. Don’t soak it in and suffer through something that isn’t yours to carry.
  2. Don’t make assumptions. Be honest with yourself and those around you. Build up the courage to freely express what you really want. Don’t let feelings sit, but instead clearly state how you feel to avoid any misunderstandings.
  3. Be brave. Try your best in any circumstance you experience. If you simply do your best, there will be no reason for regret. People will respect you more if you show effort and are a person of your word.
  4. Be authentic. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. You do not need to mold yourself into someone else’s idea of the perfect person. Celebrate ways you are unique and commit to accepting your faults.

If you can make these agreements with yourself, you will find yourself on the road to higher self-worth. It will help you enjoy the life you’ve been given and you’ll be thankful for the struggles because they have made you stronger. It will be hard to do these things everyday, but I have faith in you, just as I now have faith in myself.

Melissa was born and raised right here in Iowa. Although she grew up in southwest Iowa (about as close to Missouri and Nebraska as you can get!), she has called eastern Iowa home for 15 years. She and her husband Eric live in North Liberty, along with their 4 year-old daughter Kennedy. Melissa attended the University of Northern Iowa where she earned her BA in Early Childhood Special Education and her MAE in K-6 Learning Disabilities. She currently teaches kindergarten for the Clear Creek Amana School District, where she has taught for 14 years. In her spare time, Melissa loves to be outside playing or working on projects in their yard, spending time with family and friends, and baking up goodies for her family. She also enjoys taking walks with their two dogs, plump beagle Lenny and shy dachshund-beagle mix Cooper. Life as a full-time working mommy keeps her very busy, but Melissa wouldn't have it any other way!


  1. Beautiful, honest post Melissa! This is going to help a lot of women–I know it resonated with me! Thank you for being brave and sharing your story. I think you are fabulous!

  2. Great honest post. So many of us battle with this. I battled this as we went through our own infertility battle and adoption. I even went through depression after adopting because of the feeling of not being a “real” mother. Thanks for telling your story.

  3. Sherri, thank you so much! I think you’re FABULOUS too!

    Lynn, it is amazing how many women have told me they related to this post. I’m so glad that my honesty helped others!


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