The Correlation Between Self-Worth and Success

If you have ever read any of my previous #MotivationalMonday posts, then you know that I openly share about what I am learning about myself in my process of personal growth.

Well, strap in because today, I’m cutting a little deeper and getting a little more raw than I usually do.

I’m not proud to admit this, but there is something that happened to me in 2002 that still affects me to this day. Trigger phrases and actions put me on edge as if I were experiencing PTSD; no offense intended to those with this medical diagnoses, but I genuinely feel as though I can relate.

Yep.  Fifteen grown-woman years later, it still pricks my heart and a few tears escape when I think about it, largely because of the blow to my pride.  I consider it to be my biggest mistake in my life. Only now have I come to a point where I’m ready to allow myself to fully heal (which is why I’m even able to write about it).

No, I’m not going to share the specifics of the situation because when I look at it objectively, it’s embarrassingly stupid and for all my transparency, I still have a sense of saving face! LOL! Needless to say, though, it created a clear line of demarcation in my life: how I lived my life fearlessly before for “The Event” and how I’ve held myself back from trying a lot of things ever since.

Prior to “The Event”, I don’t think fear was in my vocabulary.  Sure, I knew the dictionary definition.  But outside of every New Yorker’s healthy fear of the subway’s third rail, or that a yellow taxi cab might run me over while standing on the sidewalk, I really didn’t know what fear looked like in my life.

As a young child and teenager, I would frequently get ideas in my head of things I wanted to do that I had never done before: learn to play jazz music by ear; apply to an elite New England college as a Black girl from The Bronx who took almost all the honors classes her public high school offered; plan concerts and events. “Try” wasn’t really in my vocabulary either; I just did it.  And I usually got good, if not great results.  

It never occurred to me that I shouldn’t bother because I was ill prepared or because I didn’t have the appropriate experience.

I carried that fearlessness into adulthood and my early career. But five years in, “The Event” happened and I reduced myself from “living” to “existing.”  You’ve heard of functional alcoholics?  I believe I was functionally depressed over the situation for an extremely long time.

Afterward, whenever I thought about attempting to accomplish a new idea, I would hear the voices in my head say, “What makes you think you can do that? Remember “The Event?” You’re going to try and fail; it’s not going to work.” I wound up aborting so many ideas before they had a chance to breath free air.

Sadly, I had taken a solitary incident of failure (plus the 14 challenging months that followed) and interpreted it to mean that I was a failure and that I had no right to pursue any of my dreams. I honestly felt that I didn’t have what it took to accomplish them. I mean I had tried at my biggest dream to date and failed abysmally.

For a long time, I thought my issue was fear.  I was afraid to try something new, like Pavlov’s dog, because of what past experiences taught me. In reality, I didn’t have the maturity at the time to understand that one incident didn’t need to define me.  I also didn’t have any prior experience with failure, so I simply didn’t know how to process it.  Ultimately, I allowed “The Event” to erode my sense of self-worth that had (unbeknownst to me) fueled all my previous power moves.

Hindsight, as you know, is 20/20.  I’ve recently realized that in whichever areas of my life I struggle the most, I usually have an underlying feeling of unworthiness.  There’s a strong correlation (more like an infinity loop) between my actions and my feelings of deservedness.  If I’ve taken action on an issue and I’ve had good outcomes, I deem that I’m worthy of those outcomes and I continue taking actions that support that trend.  But the opposite also holds true; if I’m not getting good results in an area, I think I’m not worthy of success in that area, so my subsequent actions tend to sabotage any efforts for progress.  I create a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Digging a little deeper, I realized that I have compartmentalized my sense of worth to very specific areas of my life where I feel I’ve done good enough work to earn it.  It is time for me to develop a healthy, overall sense of self-worth that doesn’t link deservedness with actions but instead is based on acceptance of my whole self: every flaw and rock star quality I possess.

I’m starting to entertain the thought that maybe I’m worthy, just because I’ve been given The Grace to be worthy. Thankfully, worthiness and grace are two different things; the latter isn’t predicated on the former.

With this new mindset, my sense of self-worth doesn’t have to exist in just a series of isolated areas.  It can blanket my whole life.  And if my self-worth blankets my whole life, then the areas I struggle in will start to be transformed because my actions have always followed my sense of worth, remember?  I’ll be acting out of a new belief center and will start to see new results.

In my current reality, in whichever areas I have a high level of self-worth,  fear is not an issue for me.  I don’t get caught up in the crazy post “Event” thoughts; I just take actions that allow me to achieve what I want. So with this revelation, I’m “hacking” the pattern and I’m starting to put it to work for myself instead of against myself.

In the last few weeks, as I’ve been meditating on these thoughts, I feel like an opaque veil that was on my eyes have been lifted. I get sad when I think about how much time I’ve wasted being unaware of this destructive thought pattern and how much I could have possibly accomplished in the last 15 years.

But then, I have to also appreciate my journey.  If “The Event” never happened, what could have happened to me as I continued on that trajectory might have destroyed me, as ill prepared as I was.  Now, I’m better equipped to fight my own inner demons and overcome external obstacles to claim the success I dream about. I’m starting to feel worthy and deserving of my dreams.  A sure-fire sign that I’m going to achieve them.

Have you noticed a similar pattern of the relationship between your self-worth and the goals you accomplish? Have you diagnosed other destructive thought patterns that hinder your growth?  Share with me in the comments and let’s grow together.

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