Inspired living

Self-transformation: From shame to self-worth



     It is our light
     and not our darkness
     that is real.

Marianne Williamson


The history of self-transformation is rooted in the ancient art of alchemy, that mythological process by which base metals were said to have been transmuted into gold. Each one of us have our “base metals” which can include a lingering sense of shame or guilt, and feelings of being useless, inferior, second-rate or worthless.

Recently a talented friend of mine said to me, “Somehow I just never feel that I’m good enough, particularly at those times when I really stuff up, and even when people praise me for my work.” Many people feel this way.

Our natural inclination is to shrug off the weight of our negativity – our base metals – so we can embrace the “gold” that we sense ourselves to be. We yearn to accept ourselves unequivocally, without judgement and shame. We want to feel at peace and to be happy, rejoicing in life and all that it brings. But how can the tiny wave bask in the glory of the vast unbounded ocean if it does not even approve of itself? In other words, we cannot embrace our true wisdom, beauty and magnificence if we condemn those few aspects of our personality that we regard as less-than-ideal.

Self-transformation rests upon the bedrock of accepting ourselves regardless of our limitations. The goal is to be non-judgmental about all of our weaknesses, mistakes and even those wilful acts that went against our conscience. We have to disempower all feelings of shame and self-hatred. These have been sabotaging the few vestiges of self-worth that have survived from when we were born.

The mind is the culprit. Instead of being its master we became its slave, allowing intrusive, self-destructive thoughts to enter the sanctify of our inner world. It’s like a farmer unwittingly allowing one of his muddy pigs to come into the house, whereupon it wreaks havoc until finally evicted.

When confronted with our shortcomings it is important that we only allow into the mind those thoughts conducive to accepting ourselves and furthering a sense of being worthwhile. So what are we to do when the “pig” thought begins knocking at the door of our mind? Perhaps we can harness its intrusive force to further our self-transformation.

Fortunately, every self-hating thought has hidden within it a sweet seed of non-judgmental self-acceptance. Using our discriminating wisdom we can transmute the self-demeaning thought into one that enhances self-worth. The thought, “I’m so stupid!”, becomes, “I can learn from this mistake.” I’ll return to this powerful method for self-transformation in a future post.

With only self-affirming thoughts allowed into our mind we can now begin to stoke the fire of high self-regard, strengthening the foundations of our belief in ourselves.

When we were babies we felt totally at ease with ourselves. This was very obvious in each one of us. Somewhere along the way we got caught up in trying to be other than who we truly are.

The path of self-transformation demands that we return to accepting ourselves for who we are; that we make our feelings of self-worth impregnable against unexpected errors and misfortunes. What follows are some guidelines for achieving this aim:

7 steps for reclaiming self-worth

1. Follow the path that has heart because it is the heart that knows the way. The     more we trust ourselves and be true to our heart’s desire, regardless of social and material challenges, the closer we draw to those untapped strengths that come to the surface when we follow our own star. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “With exercise of self-trust new powers will appear.”

2. Never compare yourself with others. Does the lone desert flower rank itself less than the abundance in a suburban garden? Regardless of whether we think we’re superior or inferior to someone else, every comparison throws a shroud over our own inner light of exquisiteness and greatness.

3. See yourself in those you admire. Remember that the Beauty and wisdom we see in others is a reflection of what already lies within ourselves, waiting to be recognised and manifested. To experience real self-transformation, imagine that your exemplar is a mirror in which you are seeing yourself, that their voice is an echo of your own innermost thoughts spoken out loud.

4. Look for the best in others. Negativity is like gravity – it pulls us down. At first we might find it easier to notice, ruminate on and even talk about what’s wrong with someone else. This only inhibits our self-transformation by lowering our own feelings of self-worth. If an ocean wave belittles another it is demeaning itself, for all waves are part of the one sea. When we look for and see what is good and just in another we come closer to recognising our own strengths and exquisiteness.

5. Let go of entitlement. This is a tricky one, like anger and judgement, because feelings of entitlement create the illusion of self-worth, but only for a while. Every time we  brood over what the world owes us, we take a step backwards towards those weaker years when adults provided for all of our needs. Self-transformation requires us to stride towards our goal without thinking that someone should be carrying us.

6. Exercise your signature strengths. Each one of us have a composite of strengths and virtues that define and identify us as a person. They are our own unique blend, much as our written signature belongs to us alone. University research in psychology shows that people who exercise their signature strengths have a greater feeling of well-being and self-worth. Three of my strengths are being kind to others, feeling at one with Nature and reading books on wisdom. The more I put these skills into practice the better I feel about myself. It’ll be the same for you with your own signature strengths.

7. Spend time with those who like you. Sometimes it is not easy to be happy with who we are, particularly if too much time is spent with people who are indifferent or negative towards us. Overtly or subtly, they are giving out the message that we are not good enough. If we have a tendency to be too hard on ourselves, keeping the company of such people only makes it more difficult to begin liking who we are. Spending more time with those who clearly admire, cherish, fully accept and value us is important, at least in the early stages of self-transformation in this area, much as sun, rain and protection from the wind are essential for young seedlings in the garden.

Be free!
Dance in the joy
of your infinity.




Ron Farmer is a psychologist who writes a regular blog about self-help therapy, self-transformation and being the change we want to see in the world. He is passionate about using the mind and heart to promote our own health and wellbeing, as well as those around us. Ron is a practising therapist on the Gold Coast and produces CDs and books on how to rediscover our innate peace, love and joy.