What Does Self-Worth Have to Do with Addiction and Mental Illness?

We often associate addiction and mental illness with having an issue or problem with a particular substance or behavior. We think of depression and anxiety as being related to our current circumstances, losing our jobs, losing a loved one, or being overly stressed. We don’t always realize that our addiction and mental health issues stem from an internal lack of self-worth. Our feelings of inadequacy, inferiority and unworthiness are so painful that we look to self-medicate and numb ourselves with our drugs of choice and our addictive, compulsive behaviors.

Where does our self-worth come from, and if we are lacking in self-worth, how do we repair and rebuild it? Our self-worth is how we view ourselves, how we perceive ourselves, what kind of self-image we hold for ourselves. Our self-worth is our self-confidence, our self-esteem, our sense of self. When we have a healthy sense of self-worth, we feel fulfilled. We feel happy. When we don’t feel worthy, it is often because we have internalized our traumas to be a reflection of how good or bad we are. The ways that we’ve been hurt and the losses we’ve sustained make us feel as though we’re not good enough. We believe our abusers when they told us we weren’t lovable. We believe our imperfections to be moral failings. We carry years of shame that weigh us down and keep us from healing and moving forward.

When we have a healthy sense of self and self-worth, it is often because we were nurtured and supported in the ways we needed during our fundamental childhood years. We had loved ones tell us that they believed in us. We had people tell us that they loved us. We had people supporting our interests and encouraging us to actively pursue them. We were guided to find our talents, the things that made us feel fulfilled, the things that made us feel good about ourselves. Our gifts were fostered. We grew up knowing that we were protected, guided and loved unconditionally.

What can we do if we weren’t given a foundation upon which to build our self-worth? We can look inside ourselves and become conscious of where our self-worth is lacking, in what areas we feel inadequate or shameful, in what ways we feel unhappy with ourselves. We can become more mindful of how we speak about ourselves to other people. We can monitor our self-talk, how we think and talk about ourselves internally. When we make a mistake, do we encourage ourselves to do better next time or do we beat ourselves up and call ourselves a failure? When we speak to ourselves and about ourselves in ways that are uplifting and compassionate, that embody understanding and unconditional love, we grow, and we rebuild our self-worth. We thrive. We have self-acceptance. We excel when we love ourselves.

Healing from our addictions and mental health issues requires a foundation of self-love and self-worth. Without it, our sobriety may always be vulnerable to all of the insecurities we haven’t healed from.

If you’re struggling with addiction, you’re not alone. Reach out for support. The community of Riverside Recovery has personal experience with addiction and recovery. We’re here to help you reclaim the life you love. Call (800) 871-5440 today.