3 Steps to Escape the Trap of Needing to Prove Your Worth

We live in a society that’s influenced by daily messages that thin is beautiful, money is success, status is importance, and if you’re falling behind in any of those categories—well, you’re falling behind.

The unfortunate truth here is that when we tie our personal value to our ability (or inability) to land the promotion, win the competition, ace the test, or receive the invite to that exclusive party, we’re suggesting that our personal value is conditional upon external circumstances.

Instead of appreciating our strengths, we focus on our weaknesses and end up hustling to lose another pound, make another sale, or get one more comment on our selfie because without this worldly approval we struggle to feel adequate.

So how do we know if we’ve fallen into this cycle of hustling after our worth? And if we have, how do we stop chasing after this brief ‘high’ we get when we receive external validation?

If we ever want to escape this trap, we need to start claiming the worth that’s already ours with these three steps:

1. Claim Your Worth Unconditionally

Contrary to popular belief, your worth can’t be earned, achieved, given, received, increased, or even decreased because it JUST IS.

“You didn’t come here to earn your worth…it came with you” —Sheri Dew

  • When a new mother stays up all night with a colicky baby or goes to bed with vomit in her hair does she love her child any less?
  • What about later, when the same child comes home from school with an F on his report card because he’s failed his math test?
  • Or, when he rebels as a teenager and makes poor decisions that result in spending a few days in Juvie?

The love a mother has for her child is unconditional, so why should the standard be any different for yourself?

We love those closest to our hearts so freely, yet we struggle to treat ourselves with the same love, kindness, and respect. We say things to ourselves we’d never say to a friend, and we often judge our worth by comparing ourselves to the progress and achievements of others.

2. Don't Allow Your Work to Define Your Worth

When we judge, criticize, and love ourselves less because we don’t reach our own expectations, we are training ourselves to believe our ‘enough-ness’ is directly tied to our performance. This makes us falsely believe that we need to achieve more to be worth more, which creates the need to constantly be hustling after our ‘next big thing.’

However, if our worth can’t be earned or achieved, and your hard work and accomplishments don’t make you any more valuable, then why work towards the executive position? Why try to lose the extra 20 pounds? Why volunteer at the homeless shelter? Why bother trying to improve your life at all?

While your accomplishments,and good works don’t increase your personal worth, it makes your life experience better.

Experiencing life at its fullest means you’re learning, growing, and striving to become better every day because it makes your overall human experience more enjoyable and fulfilling, not because it makes you more worthy.

3. Make Failure a Lesson, Not an Identity

So often we attach our confidence and self worth to our results and abilities (or possibly the lack thereof). However, when things don’t go as planned, we can’t let the outcome make a statement about our identity.

If you’ve ever tried out for an athletic team, launched a business idea, or asked someone for their phone number, you’ve likely experienced some form of rejection or failure.

After these failed efforts, you may have also struggled with feelings of inadequacy, failure, or felt you failed because you just weren’t good enough in some way.

But what if your failed attempts and rejections don’t actually say anything about who you are?

When a scientist is running tests in his chemical lab, he is going to test a lot of variables before he finds one that produces his desired results. If after every unsuccessful experiment, that scientist took the failure personally and believed HE was the failure, instead of the test, imagine how long it would take to make any scientific progress!

“You can either walk inside your story and own it, or you can stand outside your story and hustle after your worthiness” —Brene Brown

You have value because you are a human being, not a human doing.

As we learn to shift our view from being the failure, to having failures, our shortcomings simply become learning experiences to propel us forward, instead of mental blocks that destroy our perceived self worth.

When we implement these three steps, we’re granting ourselves permission to pursue great things without jeopardizing our identity, and without the need to compare and prove ourselves to the world. This newfound freedom allows us side step the hustle and let go of the fear that we’re not enough.

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16 Responses

  1. This is an awesome message that everyone needs to remember. I’m writing these three steps down to have as a constant reminder!!!

    1. Thanks so much for letting me know this was helpful to you Bobby! Love that you’re taking action by writing them down, way to go!!

  2. Great post, Ashley! I especially liked the mindset shift from “being a failure” to “having failures” that teach us how to grow and develop. This little shift moves us from a place of hopelessness to a vantage point of hopeful growth. And as a mom I related to your example of the unconditional love we have for our kids but can’t seem to muster for ourselves. Thanks for your insight.

    1. Laura, I’m so glad this message resonated with you. As a young mom myself, I know how powerful it can be to remind ourselves not to not judge our own performance in a way we would never judge or criticize our little ones. Thanks for letting me know you could relate, you’re not alone my friend!

    1. Hey Rachel, yes it’s something so many struggle with so you’re definitely not alone. Watching those self-defeating thoughts and then challenging them is a great practice to step-by-step frame a new way of viewing yourself and your worth/value. Big love your way. B

    2. I struggled for a long time with this too, but realizing that my achievements didn’t increase my worth was GAME changing for me and myself confidence. I also agree with what Bernadette Logue said about challenging your self-defeating thoughts. It takes daily practice, but reframing your thoughts can have compounding results! Keep your chin up girl, everything you need to achieve your wildest dreams is already within you <3

  3. Dear Ashley,
    I couldn’t stop my tears from sinking when reading your insightful post! Not sure whether it was pain or happiness tears though 🙂 What I am sure about is that we may ALL have experienced such confusing battles in our minds where we become our worst enemy. We have all been conditioned unconsciously by family, school and society in general to unconsciously compare ourselves to others encouraging fear, envy, shame, self-doubt and preventing us from genuinely love who we are in order to become able to better love others, express one’s mind authentically without automatically offending since we would have already built trust by making continuous deposits in the emotional bank account of people we are dealing with. That is to say becoming interdependent (which is the only possible way to behave in an interdependent reality anyway!), kind for real (not because we are looking for acceptance) and tough at the same time requiring a high level of inner-security and bravery to confront, and above all becoming a fully principle-centered person. I’ve personally been struggling with negative self-talk and perfectionism almost my whole life and starting my inner-discovery and growing journey was the most painful life experience; but I do believe it is 100% worth it and I am so grateful to all the amazing people, including you Ashley, who are contributing everyday in making this journey bearable ! What I find really great now is that, despite all my fails in regulating my negative emotions from time to time, I am so genuinely willing to share my personal struggle and the insignificant amount of wisdom I am acquiring from day to day, to help people better connecting with themselves and ventually becoming more “true” by giving them, implicitely, the permission to be imperfect and imbalanced thanks to the awareness they are far from being alone !

  4. This is a great read. I especially love the section about turning failures into lessons. This question, “But what if your failed attempts and rejections don’t actually say anything about who you are?” is so powerful! What a great reminder that we are more than just the sum of our failures! Thanks for sharing.

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