Self-worth is the ultimate path to happiness

Elena Chen
5 min readOct 31, 2021
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Do you feel happy about life? Do you lack self-confidence? Do you always feel the need to please others? Are you easily influenced by others? Do you constantly beat yourself up?

If most of your answers are yes. This article about self-worth may be helpful for you.

First of all, what is self-worth? Self-worth is defined by as the sense of one’s own value or worth as a person. It is also used interchangeably with self-esteem and self-respect.

Why is it important to talk about self-worth? Often times, a person with higher self-worth has more self-confidence or is willing to try something new or challenge themselves, has more personal boundary or can say no more easily to others, is less influenced by other people’s expectation on them or feels more in control of their lives, and is potentially happier in life.

If self-worth is so critical to our happiness, how can we build self-worth?

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Think about ourselves as a swimming pool and our self-worth as water in the pool. The water evaporates slowly so we have to add water to the pool every now and then. If we don’t add water for a very long time, we will face many problems like losing self-confidence, not being able to say no, being influenced by others easily and not feeling happy. There are many ways to add water to the pool and let me share a few examples with you.

Many people add water by getting recognition from other people. When others think highly of us, we feel really good about ourselves. If others don’t think about us that way or don’t express their thoughts to us, we would stop feeling good. People around us change all the time but the pattern remains unchanged. When we were young, we want to get praises from my parents, teachers, and classmates. When we started working, they became my managers and colleagues. When we had a family, they were our partners and children.

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Another way to add water to our pool is through acquiring our possessions, e.g. wealth, titles, power, prestige, physical body and degrees. As they are what we own, sometimes they can be even more effective than recognition from people because they are with us 24/7. Whenever we think about them, they will make us feel good. What we have also makes other people recognize us more. For example, if you are a billionaire, people would respect you and are more willing to listen to what you have to say.

There are other ways of adding water in addition to recognition from other people and possessions. For example, beating other people or being needed by our loved ones can also fill in the pool.

All examples above share a common characteristic, which is that they are all “extrinsic”, i.e. depend on someone or something. You can try very hard to influence other people or hold on to certain things. However, you never have full control over them.

You can lose them. Actually you will lose them.

When we lose them, we run out of water in our pool.

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How crazy it is to imagine that one of the most important things to our lives, self-worth, depends on something that we cannot control. The good news is that there is one way to add water that is completely intrinsic and fully within our control.

I call it living your values.

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What does living your values mean? There are two parts to it.

First, knowing your values.

Your values are what you believe are the right things to do or what you believe are good or bad. You can also interpret it as who you think you are. It is not what you have or who others think you are, but who you think you are.

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Second, taking actions that are aligned with your values.

You want to be true to yourself or live your life authentically. It is not hard to understand that you will feel a sense of worth if you take actions that you think are worthy. On the other side, not taking actions based on your values or taking actions against them will undermine your values. The disconnect between who you think you are and who you see you are will make you question whether your values are true and ultimately undermine your self-worth.

One of my values is helping others. More specifically, I believe that empowering others to realize their potential is the right thing to do. Therefore, I feel fulfilled, energized when coaching or mentoring others. Also, I wouldn’t feel a lack of self-worth when my client reaches their goal and therefore doesn’t need me anymore. This is because my self-worth is grounded in living my value, i.e. helping my client realize their potential instead of being recognized by my client or being needed by them.

If you are running low on water, or if your water supply is not reliable as they depend on others, why not try living your values intentionally? You will be surprised by what happens next.