“What do you do for work?” This question is probably one of the first questions you get asked when you meet someone new. It seems innocuous enough on its own, but when you consider how people react based on your answer, it’s indicative of what we, as a society, put value in. Our value as a person has become tied to what we do, how much we earn and what material things we’ve acquired in our life. If you have little to your name, then you must not be worth much as a person.
The rise in social media compounds this. Whenever you browse Instagram or Facebook, you see family, friends, and acquaintances posting about where they’re eating, where they’re vacationing, that new house or car they just bought or which exclusive events they’re attending, and you begin to ask yourself, “Am I doing anything valuable in my life?”
That’s when crippling self-doubt comes in, and you begin to question your worth. And when that happens, you may lose the confidence and drive to go after your goals. This can also be worse for people of color or overweight women who always feel judged by racial prejudice or lack of acceptance.
“Decide to stand out like an eagle among birds”.
Recently, my daughter was feeling very sad about her new school. She decided to keep in close contact with the girls in her former school, and I didn’t really like that. Not that I have a problem with keeping in touch with old friends – in fact, I love it when I’m able to do that. However, I believe you should also learn to embrace new people, new culture and new experiences.
With this in mind, I insisted that she make friends at her new school; to which she burst out in tears and said, she can’t fit in.
That broke my heart.
So, I sat her down and explained the ways of an eagle. I said to her, “Eagles fly very high; they don’t fit in, they stand out. And it’s because they stand out that all the other birds admire them and are drawn to them.”
I asked her to go and fly like an eagle. I told her not to try and fit in but to stand out, and I shared a few of my personal stories with her as well. Immediately I saw her brightened up, pumped up and ready to fly.
Today, I see her using her power and influence to stand out just like an Eagle! She’s always grinning and happy, and she now has more friends than she could imagine. She is currently a more joyful girl who has friends both in her former school and in the new school.
The reason I share this small but compelling story is that I know many people who had childhood trauma big or small, had nobody there to help talk them through their trial and they have carried the wound into adulthood, their marriage, and their business. When you think you can’t fit in the industry, it can hinder you from reaching out to your ideal customers; it can hinder you from speaking up and getting visible, it can rid you of your self-worth, all of which are terrible feelings that make you think you have nothing of value to add.
You can reclaim your sense of worth today. You can decide to stand out and fly like an eagle.
Here are five ways you can do that:
1. Understand What Self-Worth Means
Often people equate self-esteem to self-worth, but it’s not quite that simple. Self-esteem is feeling good about yourself, but self-worth is knowing that even if you don’t feel so good about yourself, your life is still valuable. In the words of author Wayne Dyer, “Self-worth comes from one thing – thinking that you are worthy.” Whatever you’re going through, and whichever stage in your life you’re in at the moment, you should never lose sight that you are always valuable. Accept who you are and find ways to leverage your unique difference.
2. Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
In knowing our self-worth, we must understand that each one of us has a unique journey in life. We need to stop measuring our worth with others because it will never measure up and we all have different definitions of what it means to be of value. Your self-worth has to be tied to who you are as a person, not based on the achievements of others and the unique journey you’ve taken on.
To quote Dr Kristin Neff, “There is always someone richer, more attractive, or successful than we are. And even when we do manage to feel self-esteem for one golden moment, we can’t hold on to it. Our sense of self-worth bounces around like a ping-pong ball, rising and falling in lock-step with our latest success or failure.”
The next time you feel doubt in yourself when you see of a colleague or a college friend get a promotion, be happy for them and then focus on the journey that is unique to you.
3. Challenge the Negative Thoughts About Yourself
When we continually doubt our self-worth, it seems like negative thoughts about ourselves become a habit that we’re not even aware of. If we fail to complete a chore on time, we start questioning our abilities to achieve anything.
Sit down and write all the negative thoughts you’ve thought about yourself over the past twenty-four hours, even the tiniest thing that you believe is inconsequential. And then you’ll see just how hard we are on ourselves and how we never give ourselves a break.
What you need to do is challenge those negative thoughts. So, you didn’t do your laundry today, but you’ll have the time tomorrow, or maybe you’ve completed a task that’s more urgent. Or perhaps you didn’t get the promotion you’ve been working for, but your preparation gained you more skills you can leverage towards a different promotion or maybe you can even look for opportunities elsewhere.
4. Make Positive Affirmations a Part of Your Daily Habit
Positive affirmations aren’t just a new age concept. A 2013 study by David Creswell of Carnegie Mellon University showed that even a brief self-affirmation at the beginning of the semester boosted students’ ability to solve problems under pressure. “An emerging set of published studies suggest that a brief self-affirmation activity at the beginning of a school term can boost academic grade-point averages in underperforming kids at the end of the semester,” according to Creswell.
Imagine just how much more it can do for our lives when we constantly affirm ourselves? Just try and list two or three things that you feel are good about you on a daily basis and see how it can change how you approach the day. Write them down and constantly refer to them throughout the day when you start doubting your self-worth.
5. Practice Self-Love
Feeling good about yourself puts you in a better mindset to think more positively about yourself and your life. Author Amy Leigh Mercree says, “When we self-regulate well, we are better able to control the trajectory of our emotional lives and resulting actions based on our values and a sense of purpose.”
Find out what things bring you joy, it may be enjoying a cup of coffee or getting a massage and indulge without feeling guilty. Taking care of yourself isn’t being selfish, it’s knowing your value and that you deserve to enjoy your life!
Ebere Akadiri is A Nigerian Food Entrepreneur who lives in The Hague. Her passion to inspire others to achieve their goals drove her to found Rise and Lead Women along with her co-founder, Poonam Barua. Their mission is to inspire women to take the lead in closing the gender gap in workplaces and in business.