By Kristin Barton Cuthriell, MEd, MSW, LCSW
Peeling back the onion of success and peering deep into its core, I found something so critical that without it all the achievements in the world will never feel good enough. Without it, we will never feel truly successful regardless of money, power, position, possessions, accomplishments, and external validation. This foundational piece is so important that our relationships, our job performance, and our leadership ability will suffer in its absence.
"So what is it?" you may ask.
It is a strong sense of self-worth.
If we do not know our worth, it will impair every aspect of our life and blind us to our passions and purpose. It will take us away from who we were created to be. In order to be successful at just about anything, we must begin within.
To illustrate just how important a strong sense of self-worth really is to our success, let's take a look at the impacts of feeling unworthy. Some of this may really surprise you!
The Impact on Our Relationships
If we do not know our worth, our relationships will suffer. When we undervalue ourselves we usually operate with our insecurities in the driver's seat, and we tend to communicate in a passive or aggressive way rather than communicating assertively. When a passive person feels threatened they want to retreat and avoid confrontation at all costs unlike the aggressive person who goes into fight mode. These defensive styles of relating are rooted in a low sense of self-worth.
People who know their value communicate assertively. They respect their own needs and the needs of others. Assertive folks communicate responsibly, effectively, and respectfully without giving their power away or trying to prove how powerful they are.
The Impact on Our Job Performance
When we devalue ourselves we will always sell ourselves short, making it impossible to reach our true potential. If we don't know our value, we won't believe in ourselves which is necessary if we are going to be successful on the job. Opportunities will pass us by because we either assume the opportunity is out of our reach or we fear failure.
If we do not know our worth, we can be difficult to work with. We may take things too personally and become defensive -- maybe even explosive. We may become passive aggressive, being outwardly compliant while taking sweet-toned vicious jabs at our co-workers.
We may even take on the role of office victim. You know the type that spends more time complaining about their job and their treatment than they do actually working. Philosopher Henri Frederic Amiel once said, "We are never more discontented with others than when we are discontented with ourselves."
When we know our worth, we refuse to settle for the status quo and push ourselves out of our comfort zone. Knowing our worth decreases our fear of failure because we view mistakes as learning opportunities rather than something that defines us. Refusing to be victims, we spend less time complaining and more time trying to figure out how to change ourselves and our situation. It is clear to us that if we cannot change our situation, we have a choice to make. We can either accept the situation or find another place to work.
The Impact on Our Leadership
Leaders who do not know their worth on a deep level are usually not very effective leaders. This is often because they lack humility. Not knowing their worth causes them to overcompensate and come across as having an ego that is larger than life. This massive ego, which is actually covering up insecurity, makes them power driven and more likely to belittle and humiliate subordinates rather than inspire, encourage, and motivate.
Humble leaders, aka leaders who know their value, don't have to prove their worth to anyone because they already know it. This makes them less egotistical, less threatened, less defensive, more approachable, and more encouraging to others.
They are team players. These leaders are excited to hear ideas from everyone no matter the person's position or rank. They aren't concerned with knowing it all and want to learn from others so that they can do what is right for their mission. Ezra Taft Benson noted, "Pride is concerned about who's right. Humility is concerned about what's right."
Humble leaders do not belittle others to feel more powerful. To them leadership is not about having power over anybody. It is about empowering everyone they lead.
As you can see, success is an inside job. Lucille Ball put it so well when she once said, "Love yourself first and everything else falls in line." It really does begin with you.
"Okay!" you may be thinking. "I get it! I need to know my value before I will ever feel truly successful! But how do I do that?" you may ask. Great question!
Below you will find well researched techniques that I have seen help hundreds of people.
The Road to Success: Ways to Increase Your Sense of Self-Worth
Become Your Biggest Encouraging Coach
"Self-worth comes from one place. Thinking you are worthy." -- Wayne Dyer
Start by paying attention to what you say and think about yourself. If it sounds something like this...
Nothing ever works out for me. I'm not smart enough. I'm not pretty enough. I will never amount to anything. Everybody is against me. If I speak up, they will think I am stupid. I can't. Nothing goes my way. I'm unlovable. No one in my family ever did it. People like me don't belong here. It will take me forever to finish. I always mess it up.
If you are going to increase your sense of self-worth, you have to stop being your own bully and become your biggest encouraging coach. There is already too much bullying in the world. You surely don't need to chime in by bullying you.
Whatever we focus on and whatever we say to ourselves grows! You must ask yourself, "What do I want to grow? Do I want to grow insecurity or a strong sense of self-worth? Which will help me succeed?"
When we say things to ourselves over and over again, we create pathways in our brain. We deepen the path the more we say these things. If you have been criticizing yourself for years, those negative pathways are deep. But research shows that brain plasticity, the brain's ability to reorganize itself, allows us to rewire our brain. By changing what we say and think about ourselves, we can create new positive self-affirming pathways that will make all the difference.
Try saying some of these statements daily.
I'm smart. I'm beautiful. It is okay to make a mistake. I can do it. It's okay to be imperfect. I'm lovable. I will learn. I'm worthy. I will take baby steps to get there. My mistakes don't define me. I can get back up and try again. I'm worth it.
If you practice being your own encouraging coach over and over again, your sense of self-worth will grow.
Avoid Comparing Yourself to Others
"If a man does not keep pace with his companions perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him keep step to the music which he hears, however measured or however far away." -- Henry David Thoreau
Avoiding comparison can be difficult, especially with the rise of social media. Sites are often filled with the achievements of others. Most people who see these posts really are happy for their friends, but unless they are deeply secure with themselves, they may fall into the comparison trap -- at least just a little.
Look at what Diane is doing with her kids. I should be doing that. Check out Susan and Tim. We should be more like that. Look at how much Kim can juggle. What is wrong with me? Look at Lori in the Bahamas. I never go anywhere. Oh, look... Cindy's son made straight As again. I must not be a good enough mother.
You get the picture.
How to Avoid Comparing Yourself to Others
Change the way you think. When you compare yourself to others you are usually comparing their strengths to your limitations. Without realizing you have strengths where they may be more limited.
Realize that we are comparing ourselves to our perception of them. We are comparing what we know about ourselves on the inside (our insecurities, fears, and our past baggage) to what we see of them on the outside. It isn't a true comparison.
Remember that when it comes to social media, we are comparing our entire life (the good, the bad, and the ugly) to their highlight reel.
Cultivate gratitude. When we focus on our strengths and blessings, they will grow.
Challenge Limiting Beliefs
Old Belief: If I am not perfect, I am a failure.
New Belief: No human being is perfect. I choose to focus on progress rather than perfection.
Old Belief: My assumptions are reality.
New Belief: My assumptions aren't fact. They are just assumptions.
Old Belief: Everyone has to like me for me to have worth.
New Belief: My worth is not defined by other people. Besides, I will make myself and others miserable if I try to please everyone.
Old Belief: My mistakes define me.
New Belief: My mistakes don't define me. They are learning opportunities.
Old Belief: Rejection and criticism are personal.
New Belief:Most of the time rejection and criticism have nothing to do with me and everything to do with the other person.
Old Belief: It is terrible if I let anyone down.
New Belief: If I try to please everyone, I will let down the people I love the most -- including me.
Making Your Behaviors Match Your Values
If your actions don't match your values, your sense of self-worth will decrease. Try to identify what it is you really value and try to make your behaviors match. If you value health, make sure you are exercising. If you value honesty, make sure you are telling the truth. If you value kindness, make sure you are treating yourself and others with compassion. While working on this, focus on progress rather than perfection. Most of us won't get this perfect and that is okay.
Acknowledge your progress.
My Final Note to You
Remember that you are uniquely made. There is no one just like you. No matter what you have been through, you have great worth. You are going to feel inadequate from time to time. You are going to make mistakes. You are going to experience rejection, and you are going to experience pain. But these things do not decrease your value. They make you human.
Please be mindful of where you place your focus. You really do create your own reality. If you want to be successful, no matter how you define it, choose to shift your focus away from your perceived inadequacies and zero in on your strengths. If you have a difficult time identifying your strengths, it doesn't mean that they are not there. It just means that your sense of self-worth needs work.
Practice the techniques above, read books on personal transformation, talk to a trusted friend, seek professional counseling, cultivate gratitude, and be kind to you. Success is on its way my friend if you begin within.
*If you would like to dive deeper into the subject of this article, check out Kristin's popular book, The Snowball Effect . You can also subscribe to Kristin's weekly newsletter at www.thesnowballeffect.com.
Kristin Barton Cuthriell, MEd, MSW, LCSW is a national speaker, a best-selling author, and a psychotherapist at Eden Counseling Center in Norfolk, Virginia. In addition to writing The Snowball Effect and co-authoring The Success Chronicles, she has written for the Huffington Post, Tidewater Women and Richmond Magazine. She has been the quoted expert for Fox News Magazine and has been a guest on The Hampton Roads Show, Doctor Radio, and other radio programs throughout the country.