How to Stop Measuring Your Worth in Achievements

Posted by on September 10, 2016 in Conscious Evolution, Conscious Living with 1 Comment

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By Malia Bradshaw | Tiny Buddha

“The better you feel about yourself, the less you feel the need to show off.” ~Robert Hand

The first vivid memory I have of anxiety is when I was only seven years old. I sat in math class, gripped with fear that I wouldn’t get a perfect score on my test. If I got even one answer wrong, I would feel worthless.

This striving for achievement followed me all the way through college. I not only graduated with a 4.0 grade point average, but I had an impressive Curriculum Vitae filled with awards, extra curricular activities, publications, honor societies, and more. Each time I added something to my list of achievements, I felt a surge of worthiness.

Yet, this satisfaction with myself didn’t last long. Soon, I was on to the next task to prove to myself (and others) that I am worthy. 

I fell into the same trap in graduate school: commuting each night, taking extra classes, making all A’s, working a part-time job—until the panic attacks hit. I couldn’t control my brewing anxiety anymore, and I developed debilitating panic disorder and agoraphobia. I could barely function, so I made the decision to drop out of my graduate courses.

I believe the panic attacks were my body’s and mind’s way of screaming out for help. Their way of saying, “I’ll make you stop since you won’t listen,” of letting me know that perfection isn’t healthy or possible.

During those anxiety-ridden days, the panic made it impossible for me to live a successful life according to my previous definitions. Suddenly, my biggest accomplishment was simply making it through the day or going to the grocery store alone. I felt antsy and worthless without academics or a steady job.

I was forced to redefine my ideas of self-worth. I realized that chasing my worth based on one accomplishment after another was making me miserable.

I had to learn that my worth runs so much deeper than what I can prove through achievement. I had to learn that I am worthy simply because I exist, and nothing more.

Here are four ways that I have started overcoming the need to base my worth on accomplishments.

1. Make a list of all the things you love about yourself that have nothing to do with achievement.

This may sound silly or trivial, but making a list of the things you adore about yourself is actually a lot harder than you’d think. The first time I sat down to write this list, nothing came to mind that wasn’t linked to my accomplishments.

Slowly, I opened up to the fact that I love how genuinely good-hearted I am. I’m compassionate and sensitive, and I love that about myself. I love that I’m a good listener. I love that I’m soft-spoken and not confrontational. From there, the list just kept flowing.

If you have a difficult time with this, it can be helpful to ask your loved ones to write a list of all the things they love about you. This can be a wonderful way to remind you that you are more than what you do.

2. Redefine your idea of success.

Recently, I felt twinges of worthlessness as I perused social media and found that my peers were accomplishing seemingly great things in their high-paying, full-time jobs. They looked successful, and I felt very unsuccessful teaching my low-paying yoga classes and publishing my writing for free.

But then I stopped and asked myself what a successful life would look like to me. For me, a successful life would be spending the day doing things I love. It would be having loving relationships that teach me and help me grow. It would be making a positive impact, however small, with my work. Success doesn’t have to mean money or recognizable accomplishment.

After I defined what success looks like to me, I realized I’m already living that life. I spend my days teaching yoga and writing, the two things I absolutely love to do. I have beautiful relationships. I’m making a positive impact with my teaching and my words.

As I was busy chasing some unattainable dream of success, I didn’t realize I had it all along.

When you find yourself gripped with unworthiness, ask yourself what success would look like to you, and you alone. Are there ways in which you’re already living a successful life, based on your definition? The answers might surprise you.


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  1.' jason says:

    yes I just had to comment on this clandestine and outrageous parapsychological program going on that seems to entangle the minds or mental faculties of unsuspecting and unwitting individuals I have been in this mess for almost 30 years and I am sick of this bullshit. I am owed by the feds 2 million dollars along with interest on this 21 year 0ld debt due to that Unabomber asshole who somehow appeared in a dream. I have yet to be paid my portion of that reward money for my very unique and unusual work related to this mess.

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