What Is Self-Worth?

Self-worth is different from self-esteem. Clinical psychologist Dr. Christina Hibbert defines self-esteem as what we think, believe, and feel about ourselves, while self-worth is knowing that we are worthy or have value. I had high self-esteem but low self-worth. I had confidence in my abilities, so I wasn’t afraid of public speaking or cold calling. On the other hand, I had low self-worth, where I felt as though I didn’t deserve anything positive, as though I wasn’t working hard enough to deserve any positive outcome. 

Three ways that helped me build my self-worth:

1. Set healthy boundaries for every sphere of your life

Boundaries are limits we set for our lives. An example of a boundary in our personal lives is not putting up with disrespect from others. We often define boundaries regarding our personal lives, but setting boundaries in our professional lives is also important. What is your limit at work? We strive always to push harder, but this can lead to amazing results or destructive outcomes. 

I was a startup founder pitching to investors and venture capitalists. I created a comprehensive Excel sheet with details about every investor meeting I took. My Excel sheet had reached 97 investors, or 97 “no’s.” I was exhausted, but I always pushed myself and thought, “what if” the 98th one was the one? The numerous “what if’s” led me to forget about my health and mental well-being. I was heading toward burnout because of my endless “what if’s.” Excel is limitless, but what were my limits? This led me to step back and get some perspective on my situation. 

What was my limit in all this? 

Setting limits can be conflicting at first, and it can be perceived as giving up. But in reality, you are just not giving up on yourself. 

2. Practice daily self-care

Daily seems intense, right? But it’s not. Our image of self-care constitutes pampering spa sessions and massages, which are time-consuming. While these can be quite rewarding, they are not practical daily activities. 

To define what self-care meant to me, I asked myself: what are the things I always wished I had more time to do? I wished I had more time to write, which is something I love doing. I practiced self-care by giving myself ten minutes per day (yes, only ten minutes) to write. This small amount of time each day was enough to fill my glass. My self-worth daily dose led to my first published book, The Thin Lines: How to Build Your Self-Worth and Overcome the Imposter in You. 

3. Define yourself by your values

I always defined myself by my career and external factors rather than by who I am. My identity was distorted. What were my values? Was I defined by my work, or by who I was at work, or as a startup CEO? Was the fact that I was reliable, for example, something I should focus on more? I had to shift my focus inward instead of outward. Looking at who we are rather than what we are can greatly build our self-worth. 

Building our self-worth can be challenging. Trust me, I know. As a startup founder, I had lost respect for my own. I was not treating myself the way I was treating my employees. I wasn’t fair to myself. I gradually rebuilt my self-worth, which impacted my performance and, mainly, my mental well-being. It takes daily practice and daily reminders to understand that we are worthy and enough. But we can get there. 

Write down ten values that define you and remind yourself every day that this is how you define yourself.