The Basics of Human Worth

Rachel Clifton
We live in a culture that emphasizes a strong work ethic and external determinants of success. As a result, we often measure our worth as humans according to our performance. To some extent, wanting to achieve a certain standard of living can motivate us to accomplish needed tasks. However, this way of thinking becomes problematic when we become stressed out from the demands we place on ourselves.
Another way of viewing our worth is with the concept of unconditional human worth. This term suggests that we are valuable as people not because of things we do, but because our essential, core self is unique, precious, of unchanging value, and good. Claudia A. Howard (1992) has come up with five axioms to describe unconditional human worth:
1. All have infinite, eternal, and unconditional worth as persons.
2. All have equal worth as people. Worth is not comparative or competitive.
Although you might be better at sports, academics, or business, and I might
be better in social skills, we have equal worth as human beings.
3. Externals neither add to nor diminish worth. Externals include things like money,
looks, performance, and achievements. These only increase one’s market or social
worth. Worth as a person, however, is infinite and unchanging.
4. Worth is stable and never in jeopardy (even if someone rejects you).
5. Worth doesn’t have to be earned or proved. It already exists. Just recognize,
accept, and appreciate it.
When worth equals externals, self-esteem rises and falls along with events. This can be problematic because our lives would be like an emotional roller coaster. In contrast, when worth is separate from externals, self-esteem remains constant. It is likely that we will still experience negative emotions due to events that happen in our lives. It is okay to feel the emotions, but we want to separate uncomfortable feelings from feeling bad about the core self.
Information retrieved from: Schiraldi, G.R. (2001). The Self-Esteem Workbook. Oakland: New Harbinger Publications.