Grow your Self-Regard (one of a series of practical guides on how to build your emotional intelligence)

self worth


Self-regard is how we regard our inner selves: do we like ourselves as we are, right now, our good points and our faults?  When we look in the mirror can we smile at who we are, both on the outside (our appearance, bodies…) and in the inside (our talents, actions, qualities, strengths and weaknesses).  Do we therefore accept, respect and value ourselves?  Most people, no matter what their life experiences, need to work on maintaining their self-regard as life can knock it so hard, it can be difficult to recover.  Scientists tell us the brain is wired towards the negative due to the fact that it was this wiring helped us survive in primitive times.  Now that we can look at a tree and not experience the ‘flight’ urge due to thinking a bear will jump out and kill us, does not mean that our brain is not still wired towards negative emotions. This is why it is so easy to form a bad habit and not so easy to break it or to form and maintain a good one.  It is also why we tend to default to the negative side rather than the positive and are sceptical of compliments or good news.  Self-regard is one of those areas of emotional intelligence that requires constant attention or it can slip down due to how our brains are wired.  We can build it, and boost it daily, to keep it healthy and this will impact our levels of well-being, our performance at work and our connections with other people, positively.

As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others’ (Marianne Williamson – made famous by Nelson Mandela, President South Africa)

How to Build Self-Regard

First step is to know what it is, and recognise it in ourselves and other people

Self-Regard is the degree to which we accept and value ourselves.  How we feel about ourselves influences how we think, act and behave towards other people.

It is important to recognise what Self-Regard looks like and to notice it in both ourselves and in other people. This noticing will help increase attention to our strengths: when we acknowledge these strengths we can build on them.  Our level of emotional self-awareness supports us here.  Observing and paying attention to when we notice effective Self-Regard in other people is also important as it encourages us to model their strengths and incorporate them into our own repertoire of skills.

When Self-Regard is high we:

  • Like what we see in the mirror
  • Are comfortable ‘in our own skin’
  • Respect ourselves
  • Appreciate both our strengths and our weaknesses

It is also just as important to recognise what Self-Regard looks like when it is low both in ourselves and in other people.  In noticing and observing we can discover the negative impacts that low Self-Regard can have, explore what is behind poor levels of Self-Regard (e.g., we dwell on our weaknesses) and then examine any emerging patterns (i.e., what beliefs are behind this habit of focusing on weaknesses only?) which will support us in our plan to build our Self-Regard.

When Self-Regard is low we:

  • Are not accepting of ourselves
  • Lack self-respect
  • Have low levels of confidence
  • Are not very content or feel fulfilled

We all know that if we play to our strengths too often we can overuse the strength and it quickly becomes our weakness. Also, if the strength is not balanced with other related elements of emotional intelligence, the strength can quickly become our weakness.  This is why the EQi.20 emotional intelligence assessment balances a number of dimensions with each other and Self-Regard is balanced with Self-Actualisation, Problem Solving and Reality Testing. Where Self-Regard is so high and is not balanced, we need to recognise what it can look like in ourselves and in other people. This awareness of self and others, supports our plan to build our emotional intelligence.  It might mean that our level of Self-Regard will need to be brought down and/or the other dimensions with which it should be balanced, built up.  For example, where Self-Regard is lower than Reality Testing, we may find that we are overly reliant on reassurance from external sources to bolster our self-worth rather than relying on our inner strength and beliefs.  One dimension supports the other.

When Self-Regard is too high and/or not balanced we:

  • Are arrogant
  • Ignore feedback
  • Are overly confident
  • Use only subjective or only objective estimates of personal capabilities instead of a balance

Questions for increased awareness

Use these questions to further explore Self-Regard in ourselves and other people

1.  What do you believe are your strengths? Provide an example where you used                     your strengths to your advantage.

  1. Which of your abilities require development? Provide an example where you have had to work around/compensate for an area of weakness.
  2. Describe a situation where you had to overcome feelings of insecurity or low confidence in your abilities.
  3. Describe a time when it was clear you had made a mistake or error. How did you feel and what action did you take to rectify the situation? Why do you think you felt this way?
  4. How can you use your strengths to achieve more of your goals (personal or job performance)? How can you overcome weaknesses on the way to achieving your goals?
  5. What are you willing to do to improve your skills, abilities, habits, and attitudes?

Strategies, Tips and Approaches to build Self-Regard

  • Do a ‘strengths finder’ assessment. Remind yourself of your strengths often
  • Make a list of your best attributes and pin them to a mirror
  • Regularly record and take time to enjoy successes in a variety of areas of your life, no matter how small they are, celebrate them
  • At the end of each day spend five minutes reflecting on your day by asking: What did I do well? What feedback did I receive? What am I grateful for?
  • Keep a journal, write up your strengths, successes, positive thoughts, ideas for increasing self-regard. Review it regularly. Even the act of writing up a journal brings a sense of achievement and boosts self-regard
  • Put together a ‘self-regard building box’ and go to the box when you need to bolster your self-regard e.g., cards with kind wonderful words, mementoes reminding you of happy times, successes and achievements; special scents, poignant photographs, inspiring poetry and prose …
  • Pay attention, stop and pause often to notice when things are good and you feel well. Focus on how this impacts not just your thoughts but bodily sensations
  • Be compassionate and kind to yourself, forgive your mistakes, learn from them and try to move on
  • Give more, without expecting a return. Giving freely of your time to others, being kind, noticing how someone feels, smiling, putting ourselves out for others without expecting a returned favour. Try the ‘pay it forward’ strategy
  • Keep good company by spending time with people who like you for whom you are, faults and all. Avoid all toxic people, those who criticise you a lot, who find fault, who zap your energy and enthusiasm-
  • Spend more time on ‘self-care’: appearance, exercise, diet, sleep quality, walking in nature, spending time with animals, developing hobbies, taking regular holidays, relaxation time etc…-
  • Know your values and live them on purpose. Values bolster self-regard and when they are compromised there is conflict within and outside ourselves, which can be damaging to our self-regard
  • Spot and drop self-critical thoughts
  • Be very aware of any limiting beliefs and replace them with positive, growth-orientated ones
  • Take a look at your whole life and see where you are focusing your time and energy. If you are totally focused on achievement to the neglect of other areas of your life, it might be time to re-evaluate where you get your sense of self-regard from as vesting it all in one area leaves you vulnerable
  • Set realistic goals and enjoy the journey along the way. Sometimes if we are too goal-orientated, we forget to enjoy the journey and it is usually in the journey where most joy can be found and where our self-regard shines

Personal change takes time.  Observe, notice and pay attention, then try out new strategies and approaches and choose the ones that work best.  Keep going and review often. Don’t forget to acknowledge successes along the way to keep up motivation for change.

Further reading:  The EQ Edge by Stein and Book, published by Jossey-Bass

Note: This learning guide is part of a series that highlights the different Subscales of Emotional Intelligence (EI) as measured by the EQi.2.0 and includes tips and strategies for practical learning. Each guide is intended to be used in the context of a ‘Build Your Emotional Intelligence’ training/coaching programme and a personal EQi.20 Report. The learning guide content is based on the EQ-i® model of EI and associated resources as published by MHS in addition to the work of Reuven Bar-On, Steven Stein and Howard Book.  For more information and/or for your own EQi.20 assessment, contact Anne Marie Crowley






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