Did you know that today, March 24th, is celebrated as National Every Person Is a Person of Worth Day? This day hasn’t been around for very long – it was established in 2020 by the Academy of Adolescent Health – but here at MINES & Associates, we’d happily take any day to celebrate others’ (and our own!) worth and dignity.
Humanistic psychologists believe that every human being is inherently worthy, just by being born. Yes – that means that you don’t have to do or achieve anything in particular to have value. You are already valuable and worthy just for existing.
How can this respect for human dignity and inherent worth translate to the workplace? Clearly, employees do need to perform well in order to prove their value to organizations. But this idea of inherent worth goes beyond people’s jobs – and no matter how they’re performing at work, it’s important to respect and value each person’s dignity.
Here are some ways you can celebrate each person’s inherent worth – including your own.
Take a strengths-based approach
Especially if you’re in a management role, you might be used to looking for your employees’ opportunities for growth. But for people to truly grow, it’s just as important – if not more so – to remind them of their unique strengths, as well.
Think carefully about what each person you work with brings to the workplace and to the world beyond. Perhaps one colleague goes above and beyond to take on extra responsibilities. Maybe another always brings a sense of positive energy and motivation to every meeting. These strengths can go beyond the workplace as well – for example, maybe you know that one of your colleagues really stepped up to help with caretaking for a family member, or is a really talented musician in their spare time.
Noticing strengths is a great first step – but affirming those strengths to the person themselves can be a great way to honor their dignity. Let people know what you appreciate about them. It’s not about giving them worth – it’s about honoring the worth that they already have.
For example, you might say something like: “I really admire how passionate and dedicated you are about your music. When you play, it brings so much joy and wonder to everyone around. The world wouldn’t be the same place without your music.”
Don’t forget to see your own strengths, too. Just like everyone else, you also have unique gifts that you bring to the world. Spend some time today to think of 3 different strengths that you offer to your colleagues and to the world around you. If you’re having trouble, ask the people who love you what they would say. You might be surprised by their answers.
Have empathy for others’ experiences
This is especially important for organizational leaders, but it remains true for everyone – practice having and showing empathy for other people. Empathy is the ability to see the world from another person’s perspective. It’s having the understanding that their perspective and worldview is just as valid as your own.
When you can show empathy for others, this reaffirms for them that their experiences and emotions are valid. For example, let’s say that an employee is late to work. Empathy is the difference between saying, “Tardiness is unacceptable!” to saying, “Tardiness isn’t accepted at work. And at the same time, I’m curious about what happened to lead this person to be late. I can imagine that no one wants to purposely be late to work, so there must be a reason. I’ll ask them about it.”
Understanding and honoring that every person has their own experiences, opinions, emotions, and perspectives is a profound way to celebrate their worth and dignity.
Find purpose and meaning, and help others do the same
It can be hard to remember your self-worth when you feel lost – like you don’t contribute anything to the world, and that everything you do is meaningless. A good way to combat this feeling is to find or remember your purpose and meaning. This might closely overlap with your job title, but you might also need to reflect on how the two (meaning and your job) relate to one another.
When people have a sense of meaning in their lives, their self-worth improves. They start to see how each action they take is a fulfillment of that deeper purpose. When you have an overarching purpose, you may be able to connect your self-worth to that purpose and the deeper gifts you bring to the world (regardless of your mistakes or accomplishments).
Be aware of cognitive biases
Bias comes in many different forms, and most of them are unconscious. In other words, biases may be unknowingly affecting the way you think about both others and yourself.
This includes things like implicit racial bias, where you could be treating white people preferentially over people of color (even if you don’t consider yourself to be prejudiced). But it also includes cognitive biases that could affect the way you interpret events that happen.
For example, you may have a negative bias against your own accomplishments. You might think to yourself, “I don’t contribute anything. I’m no good, and I’m always making mistakes.” Every day, you’re likely experiencing both accomplishments and mistakes. But if you’re negatively biased against yourself, you could be playing the mistakes on a highlight reel in your brain – while completely (and unknowingly) disregarding all of your accomplishments and contributions.
Try to notice when these biases are getting in the way of respecting the worth of others or yourself. Challenge yourself to change these thinking patterns.
Play the affirmation game
Lastly, the founder of the Academy of Adolescent Health and the National Every Person Is a Person of Worth Day – Dr. Mary Jo Podgurski – has created an “affirmation game” that you can play in order to grow others’ sense of self-worth as well as your own. Although the game was originally created for parents and their teen children, it can easily be adapted for adults both at home and at work.
The instructions are simple: print out the affirmation cards, which hold statements like “I accept who I am right now” and “My feelings are important.” Shuffle them, hand the out, and have each person read their card out loud. The group can discuss how each affirmation makes them feel and how it can help them to support their self-worth. Some affirmations may feel uncomfortable to say out loud, and that can be discussed, too.
Of course, feel free to create your own affirmations that are a better fit for working adults.
If you’re feeling down on yourself or struggling with feelings of worthlessness, then seeing a counselor can help. MINES & Associates’ Employee Assistance Program includes many benefits for your well-being, including 24/7 free and confidential counseling.
Always remember that you are inherently worthy – just like every human being – and you don’t need to do anything to “prove” your worth.
To Your Wellbeing,
The MINES Team