How to Build Self-Belief & Self-Worth

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This article is built on the belief that we all have four main parts representing who we are. If you’ve seen the famous Pixar movie, Inside Out, you know exactly what I mean. For those who haven’t, I’ll explain it briefly.

Inside Out is a movie about a child growing up and how her personality develops over time through the challenges of adolescence. Unlike traditional films, the story is told through fictitious characters in her head that represent different emotions controlling her behavior from a massive white control panel. The main character, Joy, represents the emotion of joy and is constantly trying to fend off the less positive emotions like anger, sadness, and disgust from messing everything up…

While this was created primarily as a kids’ movie, the concept is brilliant and will be crucial in understanding how to build your self-belief and self-worth.

Self-Belief Vs. Self-Worth

What is self-belief, and how is it different than self-worth? Before one particularly powerful conversation with my incredible girlfriend, Emilia, I used to think they were the same. I was very mistaken, and this one distinction has opened me up to a whole new world of understanding.

Self-belief is a belief in one’s own ability to do, accomplish or create something. Self-worth, however, is a belief in one’s own internal value or what one deserves. In other words, a person with high self-belief says, “I know I can build this castle.” The person with high self-worth says, “I know I am worthy of this castle, and I will upkeep, honor and defend it when necessary.” One is focused on your ability to achieve or manifest something extrinsically. The other is based on what you believe you are worthy of intrinsically.

Having completed thousands of coaching sessions, trainings, speeches, and podcasts with people all over the world, I know now that everyone operates with different levels of each, which significantly impacts who they are and who they become.

The 4 Types

Have you ever wondered why compelling novels, shows, or movies captivate us so much? It’s because we see parts of ourselves in the characters. Every book you’ve ever read or movie you’ve ever seen has four main character types, each of which is represented in Figure 1 above.

To explain each, I will reference one of my favorite movies, Titanic. This film provides a perfect example of each character type, but in case you haven’t seen it, I’ll provide enough context to ensure these concepts land.

Type 1 – The Victim

In the film, a character named Rose Dawson feels trapped in an engagement with a man she doesn’t love named Cal Hockley. It’s 1912, and they’re headed to America on the Titanic, where they’ll host a massive engagement party.

Rose represents Type 1, the victim. The victim represents fear, uncertainty, and helplessness. The victim is someone with low self-belief and low self-worth who’s suppressed and feels trapped by one or more of the villains. In this case, Rose feels trapped in an engagement with a man she doesn’t love, trapped in a society that deems women less worthy, and trapped by a controlling mother who lives in constant fear of others finding out her late husband squandered their family fortune.

If you refer to Figure 1 above, you’ll see that the y-axis represents self-belief, and the x-axis represents self-worth. Both go from 0 to 10, and the victim is represented in the bottom left quadrant as someone very low in both (0,0).

Type 2 – The Villain

There are three main villains in the film. Two are individuals, and one is represented by society. The most apparent is Cal Hockley, a spoiled, arrogant, and entitled son of a major steel tycoon who treats his fiancé like property. Another is Rose’s mother, a judgmental elitist who uses her daughter to protect her own reputation and financial security. Lastly, the third is the dogmatic and ignorant beliefs of society in 1912, which discourages and disempowers women from choosing their own destiny.

In the graphic above, The villain is represented in the bottom right quadrant as someone with very low self-belief and very high self-worth (10, 0). This represents someone whose self-worth is inflated and not tied to their words, actions, or anything of real merit.

Unfortunately, this is where status, controlling others, and power become the primary drivers of one’s unconscious behavior. This is actually a mask for a lack of self-belief, and it manifests as a massive over-correction to compensate for a deep feeling of insecurity, fear, and lack of control over their own life. This is also where conditional love and manipulation tend to flourish since there’s no real belief in their own ability to influence otherwise.

In the film, Cal Hockley is a perfect example. It’s very clear that he sees himself as better than other people, even though it’s not true. He uses his money to control others and refers to himself as royalty. He thinks he’s amazing even though he was born into wealth and didn’t create anything himself. Very deep down, however, he does know this, which actually amplifies his need to manipulate and control others even more. He lives in what I refer to as the Imposter Circle.

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Figure 2 – Imposter Circle Vs. Growth Circle

Referring to the graphic above, the Imposter Circle represents someone whose outer results far exceed their inner awareness and capabilities. In the film, Cal has a ton of wealth and status but didn’t develop the business acumen or financial skills necessary to grow or sustain it himself. It was all handed to him, and because of that, he actually feels trapped in constant fear of losing rather than an abundant desire to learn, grow, and succeed.

The Imposter Circle is where the villain is born. This is where someone is living in a fear of failure more than desire. This is someone who’s playing not to lose rather than to win, and instead of being honest, humble, and authentic, they start playing for status instead of positive impact. Over time, outer results, reputation, and what others think of them start to matter more than who they are as a person, and that’s where darkness flourishes.

Make no mistake, we all have a villain inside that’s constantly trying to gain ground. We all have a dark side and false self that tempts us. It wants us to feed it. Remember the movie I referenced earlier, Inside Out? Now imagine each of us has these four parts sitting in front of a massive control panel. Now imagine that panel dictates everything we say, think, do, feel, and believe. The objective is not to deny these parts but rather to remain aware and in control of which part is driving and when.

The Growth Circle, however, represents someone who’s far more than meets the eye. In other words, their capabilities and awareness internally far exceed their current external results. For example, Jack Dawson’s character, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, represents the Growth Circle perfectly. On the outside, he appears to be a poor, third-class man struggling to find his way. On the inside, however, he’s actually an incredibly capable, intelligent, and confident artist traveling the world, mastering his craft, and expanding his portfolio.

Individuals in the Imposter Circle play the perception game and focus on short-term results that bolster their appearance and reputation. Deep down, they’re deeply insecure and primarily focused on what others think of them, even though they often claim otherwise. Individuals in the Growth Circle, however, focus on long-term growth, self-improvement, mastering their craft, and serving the greater good.

Type 3 – The Hero

Next is the hero. Represented in the upper left quadrant, the hero is someone with high self-belief and low self-worth (10,0). At first glance, it appears like Jack is the hero, but that’s not true. Jack is actually the guide, which we’ll discuss further in the next section. The hero is actually Rose, but not until after one particular scene.

In this scene, Rose, Cal, and her mother are getting a first-class tour of the upper deck from Thomas Andrews, the ship’s Chief Designer. If you’ve seen the film, you’ll likely recall this as the first time Rose realizes there aren’t enough lifeboats on board. As they’re walking, Jack quickly climbs a railing from the lower deck and steals a first-class hat and jacket to conceal his identity. He waits for them to walk past, grabs Rose’s arm, and pulls her into an empty room.

This is where he implores her to see reason. “They’ve got you trapped, Rose, and you’re going to die if you don’t break free. Maybe not right away because you’re strong, but that fire I love about you; eventually, that fire’s going to burn out.” In other words, Jack is asking Rose to take a leap of faith. He’s asking her to leave that toxic relationship and get away from her toxic family. This is where Rose rebuttals, “It’s not your job to save me.” He replies, “I know… Only you can do that.”

This is where Rose is confronted with a choice. She can stay the victim, allow fear to win, and remain stuck in her old world with Cal Hockley, or she can embark on a new, exciting, and challenging journey into the new world with Jack. The first option provides certainty and security but far less freedom and fulfillment. The second is the much more frightening, challenging, and uncertain path, but it also provides Rose with the chance to shoot for the beautiful, dynamic, and positive life she’s always dreamed of.

This is what people refer to as the moment of truth. It’s that one courageous moment that could change everything. This is Rose’s chance to take charge of her life forever, but it requires tremendous courage. She can face her deepest fears and move forward or slip back into the trappings that made her consider suicide in the first place.

This is a choice we all face, not just once but many times throughout our lives. One path has a safety net, but it comes with a glass ceiling. The other has no ceiling but no safety net. One requires us to stay stuck, suppressed, and small. The other requires self-belief, self-worth, vulnerability, and personal growth. One is conditional and doesn’t allow us to be our true selves. The other is unconditional and gives us freedom.

So this is the moment. Will Rose take the harder, scarier road toward freedom and fulfillment, or will she slip back into the depths of the old world where she’s safe and certain but deeply unfulfilled?

At first, she chooses to stay in the old world. Jack says, “I’m too involved now. You jump, I jump, remember!? I can’t turn back until I know you’ll be all right.” Rose replies, “I’m fine. Really. It’s not your job to save me. I’m going back.”

In the next scene, Rose is having tea with her mother and a few others. Her face is filled with apathy, defeat, and hopelessness. As the mindless chatter in the background muffles, Rose looks to her left at a first-class woman with her daughter. She sees a little girl being taught to put a napkin in her lap properly. This little girl is clearly suppressed, conditioned, and trapped, just like Rose was, and this is when Rose reaches her breaking point and changes her mind forever. The thought of staying stuck is just too unbearable, and this is when she finally says yes to her truest self.

After that, the camera switches to the front of the ship at sunset for one of the most famous scenes in cinema history. Rose says, “Hello, Jack. I’ve changed my mind.” This is the moment when Rose finally commits and casts aside her old world completely. This is the moment when she faces all of her deepest fears and officially becomes the hero of her own story.

Type 4 – The Guide

Next is the guide. Represented in the upper right quadrant, the guide is someone with high self-belief and high self-worth (10,10). This is someone who’s internally abundant, often far more than meets the eye, and free of the need to prove themselves to others.

As discussed, at the beginning of the film, Rose feels trapped in a world she can’t escape. She saw her whole life already lived for her. If you recall her narration, “It was always the same narrow people, the same mindless chatter.” Her world in first class was boring and toxic because she had to live a lie. She had to pretend to be in love with a man she wasn’t. She had to pretend her family was wealthy when they weren’t, and she had to pretend to enjoy the luxurious first-class parties, small talk, and people that she couldn’t stand.

That’s when she decided that her only escape was to end her own life. After one particularly toxic dinner party, she runs distressed to the back of the ship. Jack is stargazing on a bench nearby, and she runs right past him. Ready to jump, she steps over the railing. Jack arrives just in time.

“Don’t do it,” he says, slowly moving closer. “Don’t come any closer,” she says, “If you do, I’ll jump.” Then Jack starts to take off his jacket and boots. “Well… I guess I’m going to have to jump in there after you then.”

This is when she refers to him as absurd. “You’ll be killed,” she replies. “To be honest, I’m much more worried about that water being so cold,” he says. She asks, “How cold?” Then he proceeds to tell her about the brutal winters in Wisconsin, where he grew up, and how he fell through the ice once. “It’s like a thousand knives stabbing you all over your body,” he says.

This is where Rose starts to rethink her choice to jump. Eventually, Rose begins to see reason and allows Jack to pull her back over the railing. She slips suddenly, and Jack is barely able to grab her in time. She screams, and the officers nearby hear it. As they arrive, Jack finally gets her back over the railing, but all they witness is a half-dressed, third-class man on top of a first-class woman who was screaming. Jumping to conclusions, they assume Jack assaulted her.

Rose explains that it wasn’t an assault but that she slipped, and Jack saved her. As a thank you, Jack is invited to a first-class dinner the following evening. The next day, Jack and Rose connect as she extends her thanks, not just for saving her but also for his discretion. She finds out he’s an exquisite artist, and he learns about why she’s in such distress. After a short tussle, when Jack asks if she really loves Cal, they start to really connect and get to know each other at a deeper level.

By this point, Rose has shown Jack her world in first class, and Jack has shown Rose his world in third. The only real difference between Rose and Jack is that Jack is free. He’s free from the need to appease his family, free from the need to be seen favorably by others, and free from his own fears and insecurities. He’s internally abundant, fully capable of making his own choices, and he doesn’t need to prove himself to anyone. He knows his value, regardless of who else sees it. That’s what he wants for Rose, too, and honestly, that’s what we all want deep down. He knows, however, that only Rose can free herself, and that’s my message for you as well.

Back To You

Now that you understand the 4 Types at a deeper level, it’s time to bring this all back to you. As promised in the beginning, it’s time for the how. In other words, how do you build your self-belief and self-worth? It comes down to 3 powerful steps.

  1. The first is to figure out where you’re actually at in your own hero’s journey. Where do you fall on this quadrant? Remember, we all have all 4 parts, but the key is to figure out which part is driving you most. Are you currently operating as the victim (0,0), villain (0,10), hero (10,0), or guide (10,10)?
  2. Next is to self-identify which circle you’re currently operating in. Briefly review Figure 2 again. Are you living more in the Imposer Circle or Growth Circle?
  3. Steps 1 and 2 are all about self-awareness. We had to figure out where you were before we decide where to go next. Step 3, however, is about becoming the hero of your own story. This is the part only you can do. Just like Rose, it’s time for you to make one bold new decision. It can be as simple as deciding to finally hire a coach or therapist (a new guide), or it can be as drastic as never speaking to a specific villain again. The choice is yours.

But here’s the thing. You can’t go to the gym once and be fit for life. This is a process you have to do over and over again. One decision can change your trajectory forever, but you’re not going to do this once and stay free forever. This is a process that needs to be repeated every time you feel stuck.

Remember, being and staying the guide is not a one-time trophy, but rather, it’s earned each and every day. The pesky bugs are always trying to take the garden. Negative thoughts and fears creep in if we’re not careful. Villains start to gain ground inside us and around us, and they slowly erode our boundaries if we’re not diligent. Every time we succeed at a new level, there’s another level of challenge that requires even more of us on the other side.

Just like how a beautiful home will rot and decay if you don’t take care of it, so it also is with your self-belief and self-worth. These bullets above need to be constantly checked in on, and ultimately, it’s only a consistent and relentless focus on personal growth that can keep the darkness at bay.

So, as I leave you to contemplate this further, I ask you. What is that next bold decision you’re going to commit to?

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