How to Build Self-Worth as an Idealist

Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on July 14, 2019

Are you a dreamer and an innovator? Do the words empathetic, compassionate, humanitarian and cooperative resonate with you? Something is just unique about the way you’re wired, right? You have a knack for being a unique visionary who sees all the potential and “ideal” things that are out there in the world.

Psychologist, David Keirsey, divided the personality types into four groups based on temperaments (Idealists (NFs), Artisans (SPs), Guardians (SJs), and Rationals (NTs)). Temperament comprises all the characteristics, traits, actions, habits, attitudes, and values of a person. It includes personal needs, the type of workplace contributions a person makes and their societal roles. Each temperament has its own strengths and challenges.

Who are the Idealists?

The idealists include the INFP, ENFP, INFJ and ENFJ types. You might be wondering, “What do I have in common with these other three types?” The answer is more than you think. We’re all intuitive feelers and prefer to use intuitive functions over sensing functions. We prefer to make decisions based on our tastes, feelings, and people-related concerns rather than the application of impersonal logic. We love to ask the “why” and the “what if” questions in life, and we are a conceptual group who often find ourselves caught up in talking about theory.

We’re rarely interested in making small-talk, and think in terms of possibilities, dreams, and ideas. Our altruistic nature offers us a surplus of skills in creating and bringing about harmony. We’re imaginative and creative, help others and seek out ways to express ourselves as unique individuals. We aim to lead meaningful lives that feel aligned and authentic to our true selves.  

What’s that got to do with self-worth? Let’s find out.

Self-worth: How it differs from self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-love

First, some definitions:

  • Self-worth: A sense of one’s own value as a human being

  • Self-esteem: Confidence and satisfaction in oneself (how you feel about yourself overall)

  • Self-confidence: Confidence in one’s powers and abilities

  • Self-love: Love of self, an appreciation of one’s own worth or virtue

These words are often used interchangeably, which makes it tricky for us to figure out where to get started on our personal journey with building self-worth. Which one do we work on first?

The thing is, some of these concepts change from day-to-day, moment-to-moment. Your self-esteem and self-confidence have the potential to fluctuate from moment-to-moment because, honestly, you won’t always feel satisfied with yourself or confident in your abilities. But self-worth and self-love are lasting things that you can develop and always hold in the center of your being. It’s something you can hold within you despite any of the daily challenges that you may face.

Your self-esteem won’t last if you don’t have a solid sense of self-worth. This is because there are so many other things that can inflate our self-esteem (i.e., material/external things.) Your self-confidence can be broken down and built back up, over and over. But with self-worth, man, what a world of a difference it will make if you start there.

Why do we look for approval and validation externally?

We live in an age where we are conditioned to think that our worth is based on external things, such as the type of job that we have, how many likes we get on our social media, our GPA, the type of degree we have, or how physically attractive we think we are.

We equate these things with the word “success.” Then we end up measuring our self-worth by how “successful” we are. Success is a term that is subjective to each of us. We all have different priorities and values. Your definition of success should come from YOU. It needs to be defined by YOU.

Historically, gender roles play their part in this discussion. Traditionally, a woman may have believed that her self-worth was based on whether she was a good mother or not, or a man might have linked his self-worth to his ability to financially provide for his family. These attitudes hang over to some extent today. This could certainly be an entirely separate article in itself, so I will leave it there as we continue on to do some amazing work with unlearning old-patterning/conditioning around the outdated gender “norms” that do not serve our highest-good as humans.

Sam Laura Brown, an INFJ and a mindset coach and personal development blogger, stated, “I think there are two main reasons that people seek approval and validation from external factors. The first is because this is what we're taught to do. Growing up, we're taught that getting good grades and a gold star somehow means we're a better person - and this thinking carries on with us into adulthood unchecked and unchallenged. The second is because we're humans and long for community. Seeking external validation helps us make sure that we won't be rejected from the tribe.”

Why should I care about building self-worth?

How many of you hate to admit this, but do you seek the approval of your boss at work? From your husband/wife/partner? How does this affect the way you start to think about yourself?

As idealists, we need to step back into our power. We’re human, imperfect and we can criticize ourselves until the day we die. It’ll never end. There is so much release and calmness in building your self-worth from the inside. It’s a shift from the mind back into the heart.

If you struggle with insecurities (totally normal because we’re human!), then building self-worth is going to benefit you a ton! Nurture yourself in the way that you nurture others. You will feel more independent (from within) and you will be empowered to dream bigger. Boosting your self-worth will boost your creativity!

Kimberly Wenya, an ENFP, a manifestation and spiritual mindset coach, who is currently traveling the world in luxury (she’s currently in France! How dreamy, right?), commented on the topic.

She said that in building self-worth, it took her a lot of self-forgiveness. She told me, “I identified what was actually making me look for approval. I looked at the things that gave evidence that I was seeking approval and validation from others, then I would work to eradicate them from my life. I would stop using social media to re-calibrate. Then I would create this self-love from within. I repeat mantras and affirmations to myself (e.g., I am worthy). If I’m carrying or wearing something that I think proves myself, I say even without this I am worthy or I am worthy already and this is just embellishing myself.”

Tips on building self-worth

Like getting good at any practice or building something like muscle, it requires repetition and effort on a daily basis. Here’s just a few of the many ways that you can go about building self-worth over time. It’s like a holistic collection of things to align your mind, body and spirit.

  • Affirmations: Repeating positive affirmations (e.g., “I am enough,” “I make choices for my greatest and highest-good.”) can help you to maintain an optimistic attitude as you manifest positive energies and favorable opportunities for yourselves. You have the power to create your own reality. It’s pretty amazing.

  • Journaling: Get to know yourself. You can tell your journal anything. This is the place to nourish the relationship that you have with yourself. When I feel like I’ve absorbed the negative energy of others, I journal out my feelings in those moments no matter how silly it sounds. It brings a sense of clarity about which emotions belong to me and which don’t. Let go of the energy that no longer serves you.

  • Mindfulness: I used to think this was synonymous with meditation, but mindfulness actually refers to when you’re focusing on what’s happening around you and when your senses are fully engaged. According to Stacy Baker, author of the Mindfulness Journal, “It’s the ability to live in the present.” When you’re practicing mindfulness you’re learning to be focused in the moment and observe. I personally have found that when practicing mindfulness, I get to take a step back from my racing thoughts and become an observer rather than a frantic participant all the time.

  • Meditation: Stephanie Jameson, author of the Happy Empath’s Workbook, has this to say on meditation,  “Meditation is a great way for you to learn about energy, tune into your own heart space (which is essential for discernment), awaken your intuitive gifts, and gain clarity for creating something new in your life.” “The key to meditation is to allow whatever thoughts come up to flow through you.”

  • Avoid Comparison: You do not live the life they live and they do not live the life that you live. We use social media a lot and it’s tough to remember that what you’re viewing is a curated experience. It’s a snapshot in time. It’s an illusion. You actually don’t know their entire reality, so you should focus on curating yours into the best possible version of your dreams.

  • Get crystal clear on what you want: The more I spend time alone, the more time that I have to reflect on who I am at my core, the more I realized that I can get crystal clear on what I want. And when I’m really clear on what I want, I become super clear in my intentions throughout each day that I live.

  • Find your tribe: Surround yourself with like-minded people who are an energetic match for you. When you surround yourself with people who constantly criticize, judge, and make you feel less-than, it only makes you feel worse and lowers your self-esteem, which makes it tougher to feel a solid sense of self-worth.

  • Physical exercise: You’ve probably already heard that getting your body moving will boost your energy, happy cells, and self-esteem. Great addition for those who are looking to sprinkle more uplifting vibrations on to their self-worth pizza pie.

In the spirit of trying new things, choose to believe in your power and honor what your purpose is in life. It goes beyond having a “prestigious” or well-paying career.

Idealists are imperfect, but capable. We’re vulnerable, yet resilient. Life is a series of perceptions and judgements. Adjusting, living, and learning. But most of all loving. Loving each precious moment of this beautiful experience that we call life. We are all living our own reality. Focus on your own and making it the best, most loving, and full of light life that you possibly can.

Naomi Harrington

Naomi is an Internationally Board Certified Life and Success Coach, Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) Practitioner, an Empath, a mother, and the host of the That’s Deep Podcast. She has a passion for helping empaths understand their gifts, overcome energetic overwhelm, release limiting beliefs, and create stronger boundaries in relationships. Connect with Naomi at

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About the Clinical Reviewer

Steven Melendy, PsyD., is a Clinical Psychologist who received his doctorate from The Wright Institute in Berkeley, California. He specializes in using evidence-based approaches in his work with individuals and groups. Steve has worked with diverse populations and in variety of a settings, from community clinics to SF General Hospital. He believes strongly in the importance of self-care, good friendships, and humor whenever possible.


Jasmin Rose (not verified) says...

The clear definition of self-worth, self-esteem, self-confidence and self love was a lightbulb moment for me. Sometimes, I interchange tgese concepts. I'm an INTJ, I "feel" I don't need to learn these things because they are inherent to me. I usually start with myself then help others. I think the NFJ and NFP give themselves for others first and remember that they should take care of themselves later on. 

John R. (not verified) says...

I think I know the answer to do you find your tribe..especially if you’re an INFJ?

Claire K (not verified) says...

A key question, and a hard one! I would say persevere in putting yourself in situations where others with your values will also be. It will force you to clarify what those are, and force you to step out of your comfort zone, for sure! Volunteer for causes that are at the heart of your values, get more involved at your place of worship, take a class on something you are really into, join a local fb group that has meetups related to your favorite hobby... And practice friendliness and small talk; they open the door to deeper conversations and connections. It’s painful, but worth it! Ask me how I know ?

Eric J Snyder (not verified) says...

I have the same problem.

Claire K (not verified) says...

I appreciate this piece. You are getting at some important issues and actions for this group of people. I don’t know if you realize it, but in a few spots you fell into some popular language without bringing definitions or research to back the statements related to that. The biggest example: “Repeating positive affirmations....can help you to maintain an optimistic attitude as you manifest positive energies and favorable opportunities for yourselves. You have the power to create your own reality. It’s pretty amazing.”. I know there is research that backs up the power of our beliefs and the way we use words in our internal self-talk. I’m not so sure the ideas of “manifesting reality” and “positive energies” are science based. I read this piece in order to possibly share it with my daughter, a teen INFJ, but while she is certainly a feeler, she is also quite rational and I think she too would wish for more substance to back the recommendations here. ( I also am a IN type. Guess what the last two letters are? ?) Thanks.

Wai Leong Lum (not verified) says...

Great article as an idealist!

thatsdeepco says...

Thank you so much!!! :)

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