When does self-worth begin?
Some may argue that because babies can hear their parents while in the womb that self-worth may begin before birth. I think that worth begins the first year of life as a relational message from caregivers to care receivers. Leslie Becker-Phelps, Ph. D. wrote in her book, Insecure in Love, that “…children develop a way of bonding that seeps into their very being. This way of bonding becomes a working model that sets their expectations for how others will respond to them, as well as for how they feel about themselves.”
Babies are made to be care receivers in the first year of life. They are often doted on by one or more family members through well intentioned bouncing, hugging, feeding, burping, changing and more.
Please consider that the first year of life is often the worst behavior year for most of us. When you were a baby (when you weren’t being sweet) you cried, vomited, peed, pooped, refused to sleep, woke everyone up, and slobbered on everything. If you were attended to and comforted regardless of how demanding your cries were – you were being told over and over – you are worth it. That was solid validation.
Despite the “bad behavior” issues (which no one will let you get away with as you mature) you were given as much comfort as your caregiver(s) knew how to give. This first year set a precedent for trust (Psycho-Social Stages by Erik Erikson) and for self- worth. You didn’t have to pay for care and there were no requirements for to you follow to achieve care receiving status. No conditions for love were in place.
The conditions you may experience now couldn’t be placed on you then. You got to be true to yourself, in a primal sense, and you were still worth getting to know.
One Thing To Do: Remember your worth this weekend. You can’t remember your first year of life but you can remember what is feels like to be cared for – take that thought and fill up on it for two days. Repeat to yourself, “I am worth taking care of.”
Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S, LPC.