Teaching students to be self-advocates is a common outcome goal in high school programs. In working with my students at Coastside Leadership Academy, we realized that in order for students to build this developmental skill, they have to believe that they are worthy of having their needs met. To do this, we learned about self-worth.
Self-worth is understanding that a person’s value as a human being is inherent, simply because they were born. It is separate from external factors like appearance or achievements. Self-worth is deeply tied to self-esteem and is the foundation for how someone feels about themself.
To start our lesson, we had students examine their own foundation of self-worth with these questions.
- What are your strengths and talents?
- What do you like most about yourself inside and out?
- What experiences have made you feel proud of yourself?
- How do you handle setbacks and challenges?
Students walked and talked with a partner while answering the questions and then they shared one of the answers with the group. We felt that these questions were a way for our students to think about and notice the value that they bring to our community and beyond.
From here we introduced how self-worth is related to other social emotional skills. We created a document with definitions of these five self-worth connections.
- Self-worth and assertiveness
- Self-worth and fear of rejection
- Self-worth and healthy boundaries
- Self-worth and self-advocacy
- Self-worth and self-compassion
After we discussed each with the group, we had students choose one connection to reflect on. Students wrote in their journals for about 20 minutes before sharing what they felt comfortable. Some students shared their whole reflection piece and others only shared which topic they chose, all levels of comfort sharing was welcome.
I have been working to instill confidence in girls and women throughout my career, and I found this self-worth reflection meaningful for myself and my students. It was interesting to see how self-worth and self-esteem can be situational. While in general, I am strong in areas of self-advocacy and assertiveness, self-compassion can be a challenge for me because I have high expectations for myself. I didn’t draw the association that in order to be kind to myself, I have to feel worthy of kindness. My hope is that by examining these relationships with my students, they can learn these things in their teens instead of discovering it at 37. Self-worth evolves over time and is important to continue to reflect on throughout the different stages of life.