Have you ever found yourself at one of those awkward family dinners where one of your aunts tries to set you up with someone? Been there. Truth is, people give a lot of importance to relationship status. We often talk about finding “the one” or refer to our partners as our “better half,” and there’s nothing like being single at a family dinner to make you feel like the odd one out.  

But is the idea of finding love and fulfillment outside of yourself ever healthy? And where do we draw the line between love and neediness?

When it comes to relationships, some personality types can dive right into them to the point of sometimes struggling to leave a bad one. As an INFJ I can relate to this, but I recognize this pattern in other types as well. We get so emotionally invested in romantic relationships that we often fail to set boundaries – which can lead to disastrous consequences.

But first, what exactly is self-worth?

Self-worth can be defined as having a sense of your own inherent value as a human being. When you have a healthy sense of self-worth, you don’t feel the urge to measure your value based on things outside of yourself such as your job, what other people think of you or yes, your relationship status.

We all know this is easier said than done, especially for Intuitive Feelers, as we can have a tendency to base our self-worth on only one aspect of our lives. Sometimes we may even think we can only be happy if we’re romantically involved with someone. If this sounds like you, read along to see how you can develop a healthy sense of value, without tying it to a relationship.

Understand why you’re seeking external validation

Often, we fail to develop a sense of self-worth because we’re seeking acceptance and validation from others. ENFPs in particular can crave external validation to the point that it becomes unhealthy. As an ENFP, you might rely too much on compliments and praise from your partner to ease your insecurities, for example.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with wanting attention from a loved one, or taking their opinion into consideration before making a big decision. Still, problems arise when you rely completely on another person to feel confident about yourself and your life choices.

To start developing a true sense of self-acceptance, you’ll need to understand why you’re seeking external validation in the first place. Most of the time, this desperate need for approval comes from a place of fear and insecurity. By analyzing the root of those fears, you’ll know if they’re unfounded. If they’re just irrational fears, there’s no need to give them that much power and attention.

Be kind to yourself

We’ve all heard the truism that we first need to love ourselves before loving somebody else, but for some personalities this self-caring habit doesn’t come naturally. ISFJs, for example, can be so altruistic and passionately devoted to others that they tend to neglect their own needs -- giving in when it comes to decision making or changing their opinion on a subject to avoid a conflict.

As endearing as this selfless behavior is, it can exhaust you. Worse, it can lead you to think that you’re only worthy of love as long as your partner loves you, or as long as you have someone to dedicate yourself to. The solution? Be kinder to yourself. Set some time to explore your interests – reading, listening to music, sports, cross-stitching – or to simply rest and reflect for a while.

Not only will this ‘me time’ allow you to feel re-energized, but it can also help you develop your sense of self-worth. Besides, research suggests people with a high sense of self-esteem tend to have relationships that are more satisfying, so it’s a win-win!

Be clear about what you want

Another way to avoid tying your worth to romantic relationships is to be crystal clear about what you want in a partner. Far too often, we create an image in our heads of what a "perfect" relationship looks like (Idealists are pros at this), failing to see that the person sitting across from us is very far away from that image.

INFPs, for instance, can let their idealistic and empathetic nature get the best of them, attracting problematic partners and excusing their poor behavior in the hopes that “things will get better.” Spoiler alert: they won’t.

So before stepping into a potentially toxic relationship, take some time to reflect. What type of person do you want to spend your time with? Did something go wrong in past relationships that you wouldn’t want to repeat? The clearer your intentions, the more self-respect you develop, and the harder it will be for you to accept someone who doesn’t give you that same respect.

Comparison is the thief of joy

There’s no way you can reach a state of true self-acceptance if you’re constantly comparing yourself to others. It’s a difficult habit to break, but it’s important to know that your comparisons can be biased.

In fact, research shows that we will often make ridiculously biased and unattainable comparisons, such as comparing ourselves to the most talented Michelin-starred chef when evaluating our cooking skills. Sounds absurd, right? After all, if you’re using an unrealistic target when evaluating your abilities, you’re in for major disappointment. Yet, some of us do this all the time.

To break this negative comparison cycle, start cultivating your self-worth by recognizing you’re capable of great things! When you acknowledge what you bring into a relationship, you’ll understand that you’re valuable, and important just as you are.

In conclusion

There’s no perfect formula for finding self-worth and fulfillment outside of a romantic relationship, but there are definitely practices you can implement to develop your inner sense of worth. When you evaluate why you might be seeking external validation, or trusting other people to tell you how to live your life, you’re already taking that first step in your self-worth journey. Go you!

Andreia Esteves
Andreia is an INFJ who used to think she was the only person in the world terrified of answering the phone. She works as a freelance writer covering all things mental health, and psychology related. When not writing, you’ll find her cozying up with a book, or baking vegan treats. Find her at: https://andreiaesteves.com/