I recently worked with a client who was struggling with her sense of purpose and self-worth in a major way.
As I asked her more questions, it became clear that she was tying her self-worth to her boss’s reactions to her performance.
Each time he didn’t react to her work quickly or in the way she had expected, it took a bite out of her self-esteem. She started feeling lost about her purpose at her job.
She tried to be proactive. The first thing she did was try to convince her boss of her contributions. She set up meetings with him to present her work, hoping to get a response then and there and see if he thought her work was important.
When that approach didn’t get the desired results, she started working harder, forcing her work to be bigger, better, different. It was burning her out.
Then, she began to think that if her hard work wasn’t getting recognized, she had no purpose at the company. She began thinking she needed to move to another job where she’d be appreciated for the kind of work and effort she was putting in.
This normally happy and grounded person was becoming increasingly anxious, not only at work, but outside of work as well.
As her coach, I stepped in and told her it was time to take a step back and just breathe. She’d been feeling more and more horrible about herself and was headed for a downward spiral.
The problem was that she was putting her effort and energy in the wrong place.
Instead of being proactive about trying to get a certain reaction from her boss, she needed to be proactive about improving the way she viewed herself and her value.
I helped her face the horrible feelings she was having about herself and understand where her self-worth actually comes from.
Contrary to what most people think, self-worth and sense of purpose (click here -sense of purpose blog) are two mutually exclusive concepts; knowing your sense of purpose doesn’t create self-worth.
What is self-worth, then?
Self-worth is the sense of your own value. It stems directly from your opinion of yourself. No one else can give you your self-worth; it has to come from inside of you.
If you don’t believe that you’re worth a lot, it’s absolutely going to show up in your life. Others might treat you differently because of your low sense of self-worth, but they’re only reacting to your attitude toward yourself.
Can you see why it’s crucial to know your self-worth and how you value yourself in the workplace?
If you’re not sure where you stand on the self-worth scale, try this simple two-step exercise to see what you believe about yourself:
- How do you add value — not just at work but in every area of your life? How are you valuable? With those questions in mind, can you make a list of 5-10 beliefs about yourself?
- Can you name someone who has less self-worth than you and why? How does this person treat her- / himself? What kinds of things do you hear this person say about her- / himself?
Answering that second question sometimes helps frame up the first question even better.
And it was the second question that really clicked for my client.
Once she recognized what low self-worth looks like, she was determined not to feel that way about herself.
She worked through the activities and strategies I recommended and starting separating her view of her value from the responses she got (or didn’t get) from her boss.
Now she feels a lot more confident because she has established her self-worth in her own mind. She knows that she is a good daughter, a great friend, a valuable employee, and an honest person.
Her boss didn’t change what he was doing, but because my client was no longer relying on his reactions to feel “worthy,” she started feeling happier at work.
Now she likes her job and doesn’t want to leave. She is passionate about her work and delivers excellent results without needing to get recognized. She shows up as her best self, and even though she knows there are no guarantees about how others view her, she maintains her own healthy view of her self-worth. She knows others can’t change what she thinks about herself.
She defines her self-worth based on her performance and her accomplishments, not on how others react to them.
Remember, when you allow others to define your self-worth by their actions or comments, you’re give away all your power. You’re letting someone else decide how you feel.
Only you get to decide what your self-worth is. It’s based on who you are and what you achieve, not on other people’s approval of you or your work.
What is your opinion of yourself?
Click here to find out what you REALLY think of yourself and how it’s impacting you at work.
When you truly know your self-worth, you’ll have less anxiety and greater job satisfaction.
Image by Olga Delawrence