Finding The Story: Self-Evaluation & Self-Worth

Story Michael Laffey Life Coach

‘People have self-worth if they value themselves and see their life as meaningful’, Freden,1982[i]

Let’s start with a couple of definitions:

  • Self-Evaluation: measuring up to
  • Self-Worth: perception of your own value


The Context of Finding Meaning

Finding one’s meaning is highly personal & unique. Equally, the measurements someone applies to that meaning can change over time, too.

As we age there can be a heightened level of importance in finding meaning. Where people don’t have the ability to share their values with other people, or more importantly with others who can understand the relevance of them, it is an important part of coaching to provide opportunities for people to discuss issues relating to their perception of life, its values and meaning.

Labelling The Past Incorrectly Infers The Present

For many people their life is often defined by what they are. Also, what that who is changes through work or life circumstances. When people retire or change careers later in life (increasingly common!) there is a continual reference-loop to what they did prior to their retirement or career change – eg. I was a bank manager, I was a housewife, I was a teacher.

These career labels infer a level of status. Other people are somehow able to contextualise the individual and what they contribute & stand for.

But once someone stops identifying with what they once were there follows, “Who or what am I now?”

For some, as they transition through these changes deeper personal interests in life become more relevant; digging further into intrinsic aspects of what they enjoy. It could be anything from being more involved in their family (many times with the focus on being involved with their grandchildren or increasingly a re-marriage or second family), taking up hobbies which they may want to re-connect with or expand upon, go back into education or find some outlet where they can broaden their interests, fill knowledge gaps or upskill.

To Enjoy The Story You Need Characters With Depth

As part of the “Who am I now?” it helps to define values or a belief system. There are a couple of approaches which I personally like. I see them as ways to help someone to unlock themselves and create a form of self-evaluation they are able to understand in a whole sense and relate to more meaningfully:

Psychophilosophy (Sherman, 1981)[ii]:

    • Is based on people changing their psychology about themselves
    • Pyschophilosophy is a life-time’s work which often culminates in later life
    • This allows, especially, older people a new way of thinking and dealing with themselves. Allowing them to be compassionate about themselves & elements of their past
    • It creates an opportunity for people to discuss issues relating to their perceptions of life, its values, meanings and other things which concern them
    • Through this comes clarification of thoughts and feelings, possibly even with people who share similar concerns

Pyschobiography (McAdam, 1990/Runyan, 1984)[iii]:

    • Is based on someone constructing their life as a biography
    • Each stage is effectively considered as a chapter
    • Episodes in peoples’ lives can then be considered as part of a whole

The benefits of both of these approaches are that:

  • The individual can investigate their own history; to begin to make sense of it both at ‘chapter’ and at ‘entirety’ level
  • These reviews can highlight if the individual’s approaches & styles have adapted to situations or certain factors over the duration of their lives


I’m rarely a purist so in some way I feel that both Psychophilosophy and Psychobiograhy can fluctuate between each other; creating a story with background & applied context.

They allow someone to review their life as phases or chunks. These phases allow perspective and an acknowledgement that each one occurs with different needs & drivers. Progress & development can be also viewed in context.

As part of that review; strengths and flaws are often identified, together with a greater appreciation for resourcefulness and further potential to be achieved.

That’s when “Who am I now?” becomes clearer and the next transition or phase can properly start to build.


 [i]Ageing In Society: Pg 128; Adjustment In Later Life: Freden, 1982

[ii]Ageing In Society: Pg 130; Adjustment in Later Life: Sherman, 1981

[iii]Ageing In Society: Pg 131; Adjustment in Later Life: McAdams, 1990; Runyan, 1984