Parsha Insights

Where Biblical law and Torah tale is brought vividly to life


The Jewish perspective on topical and controversial subjects

Life Cycle

Probing for meaning in our journey and its milestones.

Yearly Cycle

Discover depth and mystique in the annual Jewish festivals

Rabbi’s Desk

Seeking life’s lessons in news items and current events

Home » Life Is Beautiful, Passover

Passover: Discovering Your Self Worth

Submitted by on April 25, 2016 – 10:00 pmNo Comment | 22,817 views

Self Worth and Self Esteem

Have you ever wondered about the difference between self worth and self esteem? They sound like one and the same, but according to Dr. Christina Hibbert,[1] there is a subtle difference. And as it is with all subtle differences, once we discover them, we realize that they are fundamental.

Self esteem is the good feeling we get from knowing the things we are good at. The more things we are good at and the better we are at doing them, the higher the esteem in which we hold ourselves. Self worth is our sense that we are valuable just because we are. Not because of the things we do well. Even if we do nothing well, we feel immense worthiness; a unique gift to the world.

Birth and Growth

Children are born with self worth; they gain self esteem as they grow. Every child feels special. Even in-utero, they are coddled, fed and cared for. After birth, they are hugged, kissed and cooed over for no reason at all, just for being. When they cry, we respond and this tells them that they have value; they are important to everyone around them. Their sense of self worth is sky-high.

They gain self esteem as they start doing things. They fill a diaper and we applaud them. They eat solids, crawl, stand, walk, talk and we melt with joy. Their eyes light up when our eyes light up and they know they have done well. We reward them for every achievement and now their self esteem grows sky-high.

Children that are blessed with healthy parents continue to be applauded for everything they do. Sadly, too many parents ridicule, criticise, tease, verbally abuse and talk down to their children. The very people that filled them with self-worth, now rob them of it. The parents think they are teaching their children discipline and hardening their mettle; they don’t realize they are leaving their children hollow.

Deprived of self-worth, children learn to hide their inner emptiness behind their outer achievements. They bring home the best marks, excel on the athletic field or exhibit social awareness to collect parental praise. They impress their teachers and peers, they earn degrees, develop careers, gain promotions and become high earners all to prove that they are of high value.

The problem is that all this fills their tank of self esteem, not their tank of self worth. They take pride in the things they do well, but it doesn’t convince them of their own value. in their heart of hearts, they continue to believe that they are devoid of meaning and bereft of value. They don’t believe they amount to much. They hide behind their achievements, but deep inside they are empty.

All it takes is one well placed criticism to send their entire edifice crumbling. They built a castle of self esteem on an empty foundation. The tank of self worth is empty so the self esteem has nothing to stand on. Someone will tell them that they have terrible judgement or are that they are useless, someone will scream at them with intense anger, and they will crumble.

Why? Because they secretly believe it to be true. They managed to hide this secret even from themselves, but when it hits them between the eyes, they accept it as true and crumble. How terribly, terribly sad. So how do we fix it?

Awareness, Acceptance And Love

Dr. Hibbert suggests three steps. Self acceptance, self awareness and self love. Awareness is to recognize our weaknesses and stop trying to hide what we do badly behind what we do well. To stop denying our outer weaknesses in abject fear of confirming our inherent worthlessness. The second step is self acceptance. In my view this means, if G-d saw fit to make me as I am, then I am precisely what I need to be. If I’m good enough for G-d, I’m good enough for me. The third step is self love.

Self awareness and acceptance are about the things we do. They belong to self esteem. Self love is about ourselves. It belongs to self-worth. We esteem what we do; we love ourselves.

With self-love we remind ourselves repeatedly that we are inherently good. We are worthy, loveable and important. Not because of what we do, but in spite of it. irrespective of how others view us, we are unique and have a critical role to play. It means returning to our birth state; the self-worth of infancy.

With self love, we respond to criticism in two ways. First, we accept that we are lacking in the things we were criticised for. Next, we remind ourselves that we are worthy regardless. The primary reason we find it difficult to accept criticism is our inherent fear of confirming our worthlessness. Deliberately reaffirming our worthiness enables us to accept criticism objectively.

Then we embark on self improvement. Because we love ourselves, we strive to better ourselves. When our sense of self derives only from the things we do well, from the things that nurture our self esteem, we feel desperate to repair our faults, when criticised, to regain our sense of self. It is a daunting challenge and we are driven to succeed by insecurity and fear.

When we love ourselves, everything changes. We don’t want to succeed in order to have self-worth. We want to succeed because we have self-worth. If I am of value, if I am needed, if I am G-d’s gift to the world, I will be the best that I can be. Every success is a celebration, not a vindication, of my self worth.

It is a pleasure, not a labor. It flows, it isn’t a struggle. There is joy, rather than trepidation. Our self worth, doesn’t hinge on our success, it motivates our success. It is akin to losing weight. The first chunk of pounds is a labor. But once we witness our own success, losing the rest is a joy. Every step on the scale, is a celebration. Every cookie not eaten, heightens our excitement. It isn’t easy, but it is fun.


So what does any of this have to do with Passover? The prophet described Passover as a time of birth. Our lack of self worth is imprisoning; a constraint from which we must break free. We break out of our prison of worthlessness through rebirth. By feeding ourselves the same information that our parents fed us before birth and through infancy. This rebuilds our self-worth and empowers us to break free.[2]

Once reborn, we begin a seven week count to Shavuot. This is a process of growth from infancy to adulthood. It is a time to parley self-worth into self-esteem by discovering the things we do well. This entails awareness and acceptance of our weaknesses, but also of our strengths. When we succeed, we will receive the Torah in celebration of Shavuot. We will be ready to partner with G-d in making this world a better place. In short, when we are ready to grow up, Moshiach will make ready to come.[3]

[1] Author of “Who Am I Without You?” and “This Is How We Grow.”

[2] Birth doesn’t create. The fetus is complete prior to birth. Birth confers independence. Rebirth represents the sense of self that we have in abundance at birth and lose as we grow. See Toras Menachem 5748 v. 2, p. 464.

[3] This last section is based on Ezekiel 16 and Toras Menachem 5748 v. 2, pp. 506-507.

Tags: ,