“For many of us, feelings of deficiency are right around the corner. It doesn’t take much—just hearing of someone else’s accomplishments, being criticized, getting into an argument, making a mistake at work—to make us feel that we are not okay.”—Tara Brach, Ph.D.

Feeling deficient at work can throw us into a cycle of career disappointments, which in turn lower our self-worth. On the flip side, high self-worth increases job engagement, beefs up productivity and performance and improves relationships with coworkers. A body of research shows that the value we place on ourselves has a direct link to job performance and career advancement. But sometimes we get so focused on building our careers, we overlook this inner fuel—our self-worth—that propels us up the career ladder. Employees who value their worth tend to have better focus and make better leaders because they trust their judgment. They make sound decisions in such matters as assuming autonomy on projects, managing teams, hiring and promoting personnel and overall communication with colleagues.

In a recent study conducted by Skynova, 92% of people who said they were highly satisfied with their jobs also had a positive attitude towards themselves, versus just 53% of those with low job satisfaction. Other key findings from this survey of 1,019 people revealed how their personal and professional lives intersect on an emotional level and how work is connected to self-worth:

  • 40% of unemployed people report low self-esteem, compared to 28% of those employed full-time.
  • Over eight in 10 people believe that a good career is an important aspect of self-esteem.
  • 92% of professionals say performing well at work positively impacts their self-esteem, while two in three with high self-worth reported work-related negativity rarely impacts their personal lives.
  • People with high self-esteem also reported higher satisfaction with individual components of work, including work tasks (88%), coworkers (87%) and work-life balance (83%).
  • People exceeding expectations in their jobs (77%) were more likely to report having high self-worth.
  • No one who reported missing their performance expectations said they had high self-esteem.
  • 78% said performing poorly at work negatively impacted their self-esteem, in addition to their mood and mental health (79%), interpersonal interactions (62%), and home life overall (58%); whereas, being good at a job positively impacted mood and mental health (90%), interpersonal interactions (84%), and home life overall (82%).

7 Tips To Beef Up Your Self-Worth And Build Your Career:

Practice positive self-talk. Talking to yourself in a positive way might sound odd, but it’s not. Well established science has shown that first-name self-talk—the positive way you speak to someone else, referring to yourself by name instead of as “I”—is a self-regulatory mechanism that creates psychological distance from negative thoughts. When you do this, the negative voice isn’t the only story you tell yourself. Once you engage this way in dialogue with your inner critic, you start to recognize your self-worth and have more self-value.

Develop a wide perspective. You always have a choice in how you look at your career trajectory. Keep your eye on the big picture, which allows you to build on the many positive aspects of your workday. Think of a camera. You can replace the zoom lens—which focuses on negative work situations—by putting on a wide-angle lens which helps you see bigger possibilities. Get in the habit of looking for the upside of a downside work situation; avoid blowing disappointments out of perspective; underscore positive feedback instead of letting it roll off; focus on solutions instead of problems; pinpoint opportunity in a work challenge; refuse to let one bad work situation rule your outlook. And for every heart-wrenching negative emotional experience you endure in your career, create at least three heartfelt positive emotional experiences that uplift you to build your self-worth.

High-five your “tallcomings.” When your thoughts constantly focus on your shortcomings, you become blind to the strengths and talents you have. To offset this imbalance, capitalize yourself by learning to high-five your “tallcomings” alongside your shortcomings. There’s a reason the word “shortcomings” is in Webster’s but “tallcomings” isn’t. There’s no such word. Having been hijacked by our critical voice on a regular basis, we get in the habit of ignoring our positive attributes and clobbering ourselves with negatives, creating a flawed view of our worth. It’s important to have a critical eye, accept constructive feedback and recognize our strengths and limitations without dropping our head in our hands. Make it a habit to throw modesty out the window and name as many of your accomplishments as you can—what you’re good at, the skills and talents you possess, and what you’ve achieved that your negative voice constantly overshadows.

Cultivate self-compassion. Self-compassion is like a best friend that talks you off the ledge, bounces you back when you feel disheartened and propels you closer to your goals. And orders you the proverbial pizza when you need it. Pep talks, affirmations or an arm around your shoulder are good medicine to co-exist with your inner critic’s oppression. I don’t mean someone else’s arm. I mean your own capital Self’s supportive arm. When you self-soothe through letdowns—instead of attacking yourself—you feel better and cultivate the confidence and courage to face workplace challenges.

Define your career goals. Name your strengths, assign worth to your work skills and make a plan for achieving your goals. Make sure your skills and goals are aligned and set boundaries so you can stay on a path of reaching success. Be able to say no when you’re already overloaded and practice “radical self-care” so distractions don’t detour you from your career destination.

Recall past victories. The human mind is hard-wired to automatically go to the negative, but when you reflect on what you’ve already achieved, it brings a more realistic balance. Studies show when we’re confronted with a challenging work situation and recall a time you mastered a similar hardship, it boosts your confidence and self-worth and helps you scale career obstacles. Point to lessons learned and underscore ways you grew stronger through hard knocks.

Be open to feedback. You can’t have a front without a back or an up without a down. And none of us are perfect. So request feedback from coworkers whose opinions you value. After a performance review from a manager or supervisor, take the constructive feedback, instead of getting defensive, and turn it to your advantage. Asking yourself how constructive feedback can improve your performance is in itself a building block to self-worth that can help you arrive at your career destination.


  • Bryan Robinson, Ph.D.

    Founder and CAO of ComfortZones Digital and Author of 40 books.

    ComfortZones Digital

    Bryan Robinson, Ph.D. is Founder and Chief Architect Officer (CAO) of ComfortZones Digital--the digital companion to mitigate workplace stress. He is a professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, psychotherapist in private practice, and award-winning author of two novels and 40 nonfiction books that have been translated into 15 languages. His latest books are CHAINED TO THE DESK IN A HYBRID WORLD: A GUIDE TO WORK-LIFE BALANCE (New York University Press, 2023)#CHILL: TURN OFF YOUR JOB AND TURN ON YOUR LIFE (William Morrow, 2019), DAILY WRITING RESILIENCE: 365 MEDITATIONS & INSPIRATIONS FOR WRITERS (Llewellyn Worldwide, 2018). He is a regular contributor to Forbes.com, Psychology Today, and Thrive Global. He has appeared on 20/20, Good Morning America, The CBS Early Show, ABC's World News Tonight, NPR’s Marketplace, NBC Nightly News and he hosted the PBS documentary "Overdoing It: How To Slow Down And Take Care Of Yourself." www.bryanrobinsonbooks.com.