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  1. Blog
  2. Mental Health

What It Means to Know Your Worth & 7 Ways to Improve On It

Don’t sell yourself short

Woman smiling
Photo courtesy of Eye for Ebony

Knowing your worth is essential for your happiness and success in life. From the time that we’re born, society conditions us to believe our worth is tied to achievements like level of education, relationship status, net worth, physical appearance, and more. But as people, we’re much deeper than just our accomplishments. 

Clinical mental health counselor Kendra Surmitis says, “To know your worth is to believe in your intrinsic value as a human being, and to know that you are worthy of respect and acceptance from others.” Psychotherapist Tameka Brewington adds that people who know their worth are clear about how they show up in the world—they don’t base their worth on what society says or believes about them.

According to the experts, here’s why it’s important to know your worth, how it impacts us in the workplace, and seven ways we can improve on knowing (and showing) our self-worth. 

Read more: 17 Bestselling Books on Confidence to Boost Self-Worth & Change Your Mindset 

Why it’s important to know your worth

Surmitis says, “When an individual knows their worth, they have an impenetrable sense of being valuable and good enough, and therefore, when mistakes are made and hardships are encountered, they can sustain a sense of being innately worthy of respect.”

Plus, self-worth is directly tied to self-esteem. Brewington says, “A person with low self-esteem has a distorted view of themselves and how others perceive them. Their self-worth and value is diminished based on feeling less than or not enough.” 

On the other hand, people who believe that they have worth and value are more likely to perceive their own attributes, accomplishments, and qualities positively. “Self-worth and self-esteem are essential ingredients for robust mental health, and together, they bolster important skills such as self-advocacy and continued striving for fulfillment,” says Surmitis. 

It’s also important to know your worth so you aren’t basing your happiness on how others feel or what they say about you, Brewington says. For example, people who don’t know their worth attempt to seek happiness solely through people-pleasing. However, they end up spending all of their time and energy “doing” and “being” for others, and their own happiness begins to suffer without them knowing why. True happiness comes from within first, then extends to others.

Read more: 11 Remarkable Traits of People with Positive Self-Perception

How knowing your worth impacts you in the workplace

Knowing your worth impacts your job performance in various ways. For starters, Brewington says that employees with lower self-worth often seek validation in their work. They work more, sign up for more, and overextend themselves in hopes of receiving positive feedback. 

However, overworking, perpetuated and encouraged by hustle culture, negatively impacts our mental health. “[Overworking] is not sustainable, and people become frustrated with work expectations, leading to them not being happy in their job,” Brewington says. “Low self-worth can also make a person have anxiety about their job security. They could be doing a fine job, but they don’t believe that they’re doing enough, and they worry about getting fired.” 

Knowing your worth in the workplace is critical to being able to trust in your own judgment and performance. “When we appraise our worth highly amongst our peers and employers, we’re more likely to take on opportunities to grow, which often leads to advancement, promotion, and higher levels of work satisfaction,” Surmitis says. “Feeling positively about oneself at work demonstrates confidence and readiness to thrive with more responsibility and autonomy.”

When you know your worth, you’re better equipped to advocate for your needs and champion equity in your treatment and compensation. Having self-worth builds resilience, increases your ability to deal with situations like getting called out, and creates a willingness to maintain self-sustaining boundaries with the people around you. Not only are you more likely to stand up for yourself, but you’re also more likely to be a cheerleader for your personal career development and advancement. 

From a purely numbers perspective, knowing your worth is what helps you earn more. Remember that every salary you accept becomes the jumping off point for your salary expectations in your next role, and each time you don’t negotiate out of fear, you could be costing yourself tens of thousands of dollars–or more. Moral of the story: Don't accept jobs that lowball you, and always negotiate to get what you deserve.

Read more: The Art of Positive Self-Talk: How to Shift Your Thinking & Build Resilience

7 ways to get better at knowing your worth

1. Begin with an intentional appraisal of your value. 

Surmitis suggests: “Regularly make time to reflect on your achievements and recognize your contributions to team efforts, as this will prime you to recall your successes.” Keep a work journal and write down any major contributions that you can look back on when you need a reminder of how worthy you are. 

2. Explore your strengths and opportunities for growth. 

“Be curious about your impact on others and ask for feedback from those you respect. Most importantly, be courageous and align your work to your values, as this approach will support a more meaningful experience of your working life,” Surmitis says.

3. Consider the motivations behind your behavior. 

For example, think: Am I taking on this assignment because it aligns with my advancement goals or because I’m looking for reassurance from my boss? Am I saying yes to going out with friends because I truly want to or because I don't want to disappoint them? “People need to take time to identify what they like and don’t like and make decisions based on their personal preferences and not on outside influences,” says Brewington.

4. Practice speaking positively about yourself. 

“Reflect on the meaning and value of your contributions, and actively build a narrative that reflects your worth,” says Surmitis. Always be your own biggest advocate. 

5. Ask for what you think you deserve, even if you’re nervous. 

If you think for even just a second that you’re worthy of a raise or a promotion, stick with that thought. Something inside you is saying that you’re worth it, and you’ll never know the answer unless you ask. 

6. Surround yourself with positivity. 

Make a vision board for your workspace and surround yourself with positive, motivational quotes, images, and goals for your future. Limit time spent with toxic friends and anyone who doesn’t lift you up. 

7. Carve out time for self-care. 

Consider what you need on a daily basis in order to feel your best physically and mentally. If you’re not taking care of your health, you can’t reach your full potential. 

Read more: How to Create a Self-Care Checklist (with Examples)

About our sources

Kendra A. Surmitis, Ph.D. is a licensed clinical mental health counselor as well as an Associate Professor of Counseling at Prescott College. She maintains a private psychotherapy practice in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where she primarily focuses on self-authorship and psychoanalytic perspectives on women aspiring to grow their professional and academic success.

Tameka Brewington is a dually licensed psychotherapist in the State of North Carolina. She has been working in mental health and substance abuse for the past 20 years. Her primary areas of interest include women’s issues, working professionals, and adolescents, with specialization in substance abuse, and trauma. Her title credentials are Licensed Professional Counselor, Licensed Clinical Addiction Specialist, Clinical Supervising Intern, Nationally Certified Counselor, and Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor.

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