Merriam-Webster defines self-worth as "a feeling that you are a good person who deserves to be treated with respect." In other words, it's the belief that you are deserving of the things you want in life, whether it's a committed relationship, a job in your desired field, or even something as simple as happiness.
While this may sound easy enough, many people spend years trying to cultivate a bulletproof sense of value—a feat that is highly dependent upon what you choose to base your self-worth on. As psychotherapist Amy Morin writes for Inc., many of the common ways people go about measuring their worthiness are actually unhealthy. In her own words, here's why the five most common measurements are actually unsustainable:
- Your appearance: "Hair loss, wrinkles, and a middle-age spread can become catastrophic for anyone whose self-worth depends on their physical appearance."
- Your net worth: "People who measure their self-worth by the net worth never feel 'valuable enough.'"
- Your list of connections: "Depending on other people to make you feel good is like chasing a moving target. You'll never be able to receive enough praise and positive reinforcement to genuinely feel good about yourself."
- Your occupation: "Basing your self-worth on your job title is a big risk. An economic downturn, unexpected shift in the job market, or a major health problem may put an end to your career and lead to a major identity crisis."
- Your achievements. "It's normal to feel proud about your accomplishments … [but] you'll need to experience constant success to feel good about yourself—and that means you'll likely avoid doing things where you could fail."
The most dangerous part about these measurements is that they operate according to the "if, then" philosophy: "If I make partner at my firm, then I'll be happy" or "If I drop 10 pounds, then I'll be confident." Rather than basing your self-worth on extenuating circumstances, Morin recommends using a measuring stick based on factors you can control.
"Instead of chasing things that temporarily boost your self-esteem, measure your self-worth by who you are at your core," she writes. "You'll believe in yourself regardless of whether you've been fired, gone through a divorce, or failed to get a promotion."