The Neuroscience of Self Worth • Tess Morgane
We’re introducing our new Science Series with Tess Morgane, Neuroscientist + CBT Hypnotherapist, discussing the neuroscience and psychology underlying Lacy’s Manifestation Formula and process. Curious how and why it works? Keep reading!
The foundation to Lacy’s work, (which you have probably figured out by now) is centered on the concept of self-worth. In essence, we are working on elevating our self-worth to become our most magnetic selves to best co-create our desired reality with The Universe. This first piece shares the foundational concept of self-worth.
In this post I will cover a bit on: What is self-worth? How is it formed? What influences self-worth? Where does it live in the brain? And lastly, why work on self-worth?
What is self-worth?
Self-worth (also known as self-esteem) refers to the extent to which we accept, approve, and like ourselves, as well as how much we value ourselves. It is highly related to our concept of self which deals with the idea of “Who am I?”. Self-worth deals with how we feel about our concept of self. People who have high self-worth possess positive regard about themselves, whereas people with low self-worth possess negative regard about themselves. An important aspect of self-worth to keep in mind is that it’s subjective, meaning it’s based on our perception rather than reality and therefore it is highly influenceable.
(Just a little side note on narcissism. Narcissism is a personality trait characterized by a sense/need for superiority and a desire for respect and admiration from others. This is completely different than having high self-worth. Unfortunately, a common belief is that narcissism represents a form of excessive self-worth. However, this just isn’t the case as striving to feel good about yourself is completely different than striving/needing to feel better than others… So don’t worry, you’re not going to become a narcissist by doing the work.)
What are the foundations of self-worth?
The usual culprits are behind the blueprint of our self-worth, these include parents, family, peers, and society. Our early development of self-worth is heavily influenced by parental (or caretaker) attitudes and behavior. This later shifts as our social interactions move outside of the home, becoming more influenced by peers and society. Self-esteem can be viewed as a measure of your own history of developmental acceptance and rejection. Low self-worth? – see REPARENT
What Influences self-worth?
Psychologists theorize that self-worth is fueled by ‘perceived competence in domains of importance’ - meaning how well you succeed in areas your life you deem important. Self-worth can be derived from internal and external factors (example, how much money do I make versus how kind a person I am) and scientist have found that individuals who focus on internal factors have higher self-worth overall. What in your life are you deriving your worth, or lack thereof, from? What is your self-worth contingent on? Working through shadow and re-parent I realized I had several domains of importance that were totally skewed and was able to work through them.
So, take inventory on what are the domains that hold your self-worth. It’s incredibly freeing to see my self-worth becoming less and less dependent on external domains.
Where does self-worth live in your brain?
Like most complex processes’ neuroscientists don’t know the exact neural underpinnings of self-esteem. However recent neuroimaging and machine learning studies have begun to identify key features. Self-esteem is a highly complex process involving several different brain networks. These include memory, learning, theory of mind, valuation, emotional processing, amongst many others- all of which drive self-esteem. The key structures involved include the hippocampus, the cingulate cortex and the prefrontal cortex (PFC).
Memories and memory processes, governed by the hippocampus, form the base of our self-worth. We rely on our past experiences to help inform us of our baseline worth levels. Working memory is highly involved as it continuously updates on what is going on in the present with what we know of the past. Self-worth also involves the cingulate cortex which is a highly integrative structure that links together several brain regions. The cingulate cortex is involved in theory of mind and in relation to worth, is activated when we try to understand how others view us. The cingulate cortex is also highly involved in our sense of self and understanding of self. The cingulate cortex also projects to the limbic system aka our emotional brain by acting as a bridge between the thinking and feeling systems of the brain. The frontal cortex is primarily responsible for planning, sequencing and organizing behavior. The PFC is highly involved in self-evaluation, and self-reflecting and plays a vital role in self-worth.
(Interestingly studies have found that positive self-statements mainly activate the left hemisphere, and negative self-statements mainly activate the right hemisphere. We don’t know why or how this affects us but it’s a fun fact).
Why work on our self-worth?
There’s an overwhelming amount of evidence that indicates self-worth is the foundation of mental health and general well-being. People with high self-worth have lower rates of psychiatric disorders compared to those with low self-worth. Individuals with high self-esteem are less affected by negative experiences and show less brain activation when confronted with distressing stimuli. Not only that, but researchers found that self-worth is actually a predictive and not an outcome variable for success and well-being in life domains such as relationships, work, and health. Let us deconstruct this particular finding (if you take anything away from the post let this be it).
This is saying that self-worth predicts success and it’s not success that dictates self-worth. This has amazing implications - your self-worth is not determined by your accomplishments or failures, rather your success or failure is dictated by your levels of self-worth.
You don’t need to be where you want to be to feel worthy, instead feeling worthy will take you where you want to be. And if we now throw in what we have learned about magnetism and co-creating with The Universe - science has just inadvertently backed Lacy’s whole process.
If you weren’t sold by that last point, it is also worth mentioning that research studies have shown that people decide your worth to them based on what they perceive you think your own worth is (oh and so does The Universe BTW)!! So basically, the way you view yourself is mirrored in how others view you and how you’re able to co-create with The Universe.
Neuroscientist + CBT Hypnotherapist