Defining your life's work starts with defining your value. But what does "value" actually mean? Your own sense of how important you are, or something else? Today I want to share my personal distinction between self-esteem versus self worth, and explain why getting the difference clear can be a source of immense freedom (it has been for me).
But first, let’s dig into some definitions.
What do we mean by value?
You probably know by now that I’m a bit of an etymology geek. Looking at the way language has evolved often helps us to better understand the concepts they represent.
When we look at value from this perspective, we see that value generally means the regard that something is held to deserve: the “importance, worth or usefulness of something”.
It comes from the Latin meaning “Be strong, be well, be of value, be worth”.
Now I find it really fascinating that value’s original meaning wasn’t just about worth, but also about strength and wellness.
If you’ve experienced burnout (or are in it right now), you’ve probably already begun to see how much value there is in your ability to stay well and take good care of yourself. It doesn’t matter how “productive” you are in the traditional sense, if you’re falling apart at the seams, right?
So valuing ourselves has to begin with making sure we’ve got the resources we need to be strong and allow ourselves to thrive.
And your value – your importance, worth, or usefulness – builds on that in many other ways, some of which you might not have thought of in this way before.
4 factors to consider when thinking about your unique value
1. Your talents
This is the place where most of us start when we think about our value. We ask ourselves a version of a question like “What's my boss really paying me for?” Or “what do my clients really want of me?”
Usually, the answer to those questions comes out as a version of talents.
Well, I'm really good at writing.
I'm a really good facilitator.
I'm a genius with an Excel spreadsheet.
But that’s only one piece of your value. There are others – and they're the ones we're going to really dig into right now.
2. Your purpose
Your purpose can be summed up as “why you do what you do”. Given two people with the same skill sets, an employer is always going to take the person whose “why” is driving them.
The reason is simple: if you've got internal motivation to do something, you're more likely to do it, and to do it well. It adds more value to have a clear purpose.
If someone has a vision for their life that they're moving towards – a clear vision for their own life or the legacy they want to leave – that provides internal motivation. It adds to the value of that individual, when they have that clarity that's pulling them forward.
So perhaps your talents include being a great teacher – you're organised, engaging, and good at conveying information. But your purpose is to equip the next generation with the skills they need to respond to the global challenges they'll face.
Can you see how that adds to the value of your talents?
What would your version of those statements look like?
3. Your mission
A mission is what an individual wants to achieve with their work.
Again, being clear on that adds to your value. Start speaking about that mission in your job interviews, or to your clients when you're talking to them, and you’ll find that if they are aligned with the mission, they will be aligned with you.
4. Your values
Slightly different to the value we're talking about here, are those things that you value.
Perhaps as a teacher you value creativity, excellence and teamwork. If those values are shared by a prospective school, they’ll add to the value you can bring as a member of the Senior Management team.
They are also the filters through which you make decisions about how you want to do your work. So you might choose to evaluate a new opportunity in terms of your values.
At our BeFulfilled retreat, we explore each of these aspects in more depth. It can be hard to get clarity on them by yourself, after all – often we’re so immersed in our worlds that we’re not really able to pull back and see the threads that join it all together. If you’d like to find out more, book a call with the team here to get the full details.
Self-esteem versus value
So where does self-esteem come into it? Well, what I want to share next is my own personal definition. Thinking about value and esteem in this way really set me free when I understood it, and I’d love to know if it does the same for you.
Self-esteem and self-value are different. A lot of us believe we’ve got low self-esteem for one reason or another. I believe, whether or not that’s true, it doesn't mean you can't value yourself.
Value is something that you can find immediately. It's already there, within you, waiting to be discovered.
And the fastest way of all to connect to your value is simply to become present to the value that you bring to others.
It might be a tiny bit of value to start with, just that you give really great hugs. You make a great cup of tea.
Self-value therefore comes oftentimes not even from within, but from without. By having it reflected back to us how other people see us.
Self-esteem, on the other hand, is not something you can necessarily experience immediately. Self-esteem, for me, is that cumulative confidence that builds each time you contribute value. It comes from positive feedback, when you’re in an environment that values your particular unique contribution.
You set yourself a goal to lead a project inside your organization and you lead that as well as you can and it's successfully delivered.
That is going to add to your self-esteem. But sitting there trying to psych yourself up to have the self-esteem to be able to do it first is having the cart before the horse.
The way I look at it, self-esteem is about setting achievable goals and achieving them. It's a reward.
But even if just for a moment, you can see yourself the way others who appreciate you see you, you can feel value.
How about you?
I’d love to know how that distinction lands for you. Can you relate? Does it help you to see that your value is made up of so many things, and that you can experience it even if you know your self-esteem is low?
Leave a comment and let us know. Our aim is to encourage and inspire you, so I’d love to know if this is a distinction that helps.