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I do quite a bit of work around self-worth. Comes with the territory. Part of abuse comes from a low self-esteem, bad self-image, no self-respect. This is true for the person being abused as much as for the person abusing a substance. We get this idea that we’re not worthy of good things so we either allow ourselves to be treated badly by others, or we treat ourselves badly by abusing a substance or otherwise doing something to harm ourselves.

So I focus quite a bit on helping people raise their self-esteem and value themselves a bit more.

Sometimes this works and sometimes I believe in what I’m doing. Other times the process feels ridiculous and this is why.

I think the clinical process tends to be incomplete.

The piece that is there is the self-affirmation and self-care. Tell yourself good things about yourself. Challenge your negative beliefs. Do things you enjoy and that make you feel good. Take good care of your body, your sleep, your time.

These are very necessary things. Everyone should do them. No argument there.

But there’s another piece that gets missed.


We derive our greatest sense of worth and acceptance and value in a relationship context. Whether it’s a partner relationships, parent-child, friends, mentor and student, colleague or other, genuine, healthy and lasting self-esteem and self-worth come from interactions with others.

As much as we need to be able to tell ourselves where we are strong, we need others to say we are strong. As much as we need to see ourselves as lovable, we need others to actually love us. As much as we need to challenge our doom thoughts with hope thoughts, we need others to speak aloud their hope to our doom.

We need each other. Ultimately we need God, but one of God’s most potent manifestations is through each other.

In order to experience the fullness of life and health, we need to be in relationships so we can affirm each other, support each other and even correct each other. Doing all these things, we show the other that they are valuable. They show us that we are worthwhile.

True self-worth will never be found in isolation.