Finding Your Self-Worth Outside Your Career

Warwick Fairfax

August 5, 2019

For many of us, our self-worth is tied to our job and career. If we are doing well at our job, we feel good about ourselves. But if we are not performing well at work, life might not look so good. This may seem normal, so what’s the problem? Isn’t this just life?

The problem is that seeing your self-worth  —  your identity  —  bound up with the outcome of how you perform won’t just affect you, it will hurt those around you. It will affect those that work for you, your co-workers, your friends, and your family.

While it is all too common to see your self-worth tied to your career, life does not have to be this way. There is a better way — a way that includes separating your self-worth and your identity from how you perform.

What is Self-Worth?

Life is rarely smooth. So, inevitably, we will fail at times. Our life and indeed our careers are full of ebbs and flows. We might get promoted and advance, or we might get passed over or even fired. We can be held back by a boss that does not appreciate us, or we might be laid off because of the economy.

Webster’s Dictionary defines self-worth as “one’s own value as a human being.”  It is closely related to self-esteem (meaning confidence in your own worth and abilities) and self-respect. It all boils down to how we feel about ourselves. Do we feel we are worthwhile, that we are valuable?

Feeling good about ourselves, whether in our career, our appearance, or other areas in our life, is critical to our ability to be happy. Feeling bad about ourselves and having little respect for who we are can lead to bad choices in our career and in our relationships.

Having a healthy self-worth, which sadly does not seem that common in our society, means we value who we are. We don’t accept behavior at work or at home that devalues us. We accept jobs that are in line with our abilities and do not settle for less.

We need to feel we are worth something because of who we are, not what we do. In a sense, we need to appreciate ourselves; our gifts, talents and abilities; backgrounds, heritage, everything. When we anchor our identity not in our performance, but rather in our own inherent value as human beings, we free ourselves from the natural ups and downs of our careers.

Finding Your Self-Worth Outside Your Career

My faith says that God loves us because of who we are, and that we are made in his image. Psalm 139 says that God created “my inmost being” and that we are “wonderfully made.” To me, this means our self-worth comes from who we are, not how much or little we accomplish — not our careers, not how much money we have in the bank, but of the person we choose to be, day in and day out.

So how do we begin to separate our self-worth from our career? A word of caution: this is not easy. But with some perseverance and belief, it is possible. Below are some initial steps you can start taking today:

  1. Strengthen your innermost beliefs and values. Have a daily routine that reinforces and reminds you of your beliefs. This could be through prayer, meditation, or journaling.
  2. Take inventory of the people you surround yourself with. It’s important that your innermost circle also carries the same beliefs and values as you. When we are feeling down, they can remind us of our beliefs.
  3. Look outside your job. Examine who you are and what you care about outside of your career. What brings you joy and fulfillment? Look for outlets for your passions and beliefs outside of your job. Volunteering is a great way to express what matters most to you.
  4. Examine your current circumstances. Take some time to evaluate whether or not your job and the people you work with are in alignment with your beliefs and values. If not, consider a change in direction.

Finding our self-worth outside of our career and performance will make us more resilient to life’s inevitable ups and downs. Life is not easy. We will face trials and challenges. When we separate our self-worth from our career and value ourselves for who we are, we will help strengthen our self-esteem and our self-worth.

Reflection

  • Do you feel that you have worth, that you have value?
  • How much is your self-worth tied to your career?
  • For what activities could you volunteer that would be outlets for your passions and beliefs?

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