Exactly How I Maintain a Healthy Sense of Self-Worth During Tough Times

While feeling super stressed and scouring Pinterest for inspiration for a web production project the other night, I fell in love with a quote that popped up from an unknown writer or speaker: “Magic happens when you do not give up, even when you want to. The universe always falls in love with a stubborn heart.” It touched me on that particular day, one that had felt like a struggle both personally and professionally. I felt like I wasn’t good enough, and wanted to throw in the towel! Seeing the quote reminded me that I’m just a human being and that it’s perfectly normal for circumstances to occasionally feel like a bit too much when pushing hard to break outside of my comfort zone. It never hurts to be reminded that persistence is key — and that my capabilities and value definitely don’t fail to exist on challenging days.

In a time where so much of what we say and do is splashed across social media and the internet, it truly doesn’t take much for a person’s sense of self-worth to suffer a hit. Rejection, criticism and self-doubt can seem ever-present in a fast-moving world where things aren’t always as they appear. An optimist at heart who tries to live a healthy, confident and fulfilling life, even I can admit that maintaining a healthy sense of self-worth can be challenging — but it’s not totally impossible. Though I’m still training to be an artist when it comes to managing mine, I’ve uncovered a handful of helpful tactics that keep me in check nearly all the time:

1. Quit making comparisons. There’s nothing like comparing myself to someone else to make me feel crappy pretty much instantly. Whether it’s something superficial or skill or milestone based, I’ve learned that spending my time focused on what other people are doing or have (and conversely, what I’m not or don’t) is a total waste of time.

I was recently alerted to a number of awesome strategies for quitting the comparison game, many of which I’m actively using now. I think learning to remind ourselves that things aren’t always as they seem and that everyone struggles is exceptionally helpful.

Ever feel like everyone else is enjoying an exotic destination on a gold unicorn? Remember that things aren’t always as they seem (or appear on social media!).

2. Measure actual output. Whether comparison-induced or stemming from something else, imposter syndrome was something that plagued me for most of my early career. I noticed that my feelings of insecurity and doubt were closely tied to my sense of self-worth — so in order to maintain it today, I regularly measure my output to reconfirm that I’m accomplishing good stuff and moving in the right direction. This can be something as small as adding up the number of positive client interactions I’ve had or as big as milestones, assignments or projects I’ve completed. When I can clearly see what I’ve accomplished and can see my value, I have a much healthier sense of self-worth.

Though I measure professional output, I think this tactic can work well for the personal stuff too. Reminding yourself about occasions where you’ve been a reliable, trustworthy and fun friend or a solid human being to everyone you encounter is straight up proof that you deserve to have a great sense of self.

3. Read stuff in my ‘awesome’ folder. A go-to trick, I’ve kept an ‘awesome’ folder in my inbox for nearly a decade. I started it during some trying times back in undergrad, and have kept it going since. My ‘awesome’ folder is home to anything that lights me up, makes me smile and warms my heart, be it casual emails from friends and family or notes from clients. A quick read through my folder almost always restores my healthy sense of self!

4. Look for a learning opportunity. I feel a strong sense of self-worth when I have something to offer others, so learning helps me amplify the knowledge and abilities I already have and allows me to give even more. Plus, learning something new feels like an accomplishment as it calls for focus and dedication. Reminding myself that I’m smart and capable by doing something actionable usually leaves me feeling much more positive about who I am and what I can do.

5. Practice gratitude. Is there any scenario where practicing gratitude doesn’t help, at least a little bit? Downtrodden days that bring on a suffering sense of self-worth are the perfect time to step back, take a deep breath and evaluate what’s going right. In my world, it could be that I haven’t met an aggressive business goal, but when I consider that I actually left a full-time job to start my own thing and have been able to support myself by doing it (so grateful!) for nearly two years, I don’t feel so bad about my abilities or self.

I have friends who feel terrible about where they’re at personally every time Facebook surfaces another connection who got engaged or had a baby; but I wish they’d acknowledge and feel grateful for the meaningful relationships they have in their own lives (plus all of their other blessings and the hard work they’ve put into earning all of them). As Oprah wisely says, “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” Once you can see all of the good things you have because of YOUR own efforts, you’ll likely feel so much better about yourself. You deserve a big pat on the back!