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The Difference Between Self-worth and Self-esteem: Why it Matters

Updated: Feb 24

Many striving for success confuse self-esteem with self-worth—a common pitfall with serious personal consequences.


Self-worth refers to the deep, internal belief of inherent human value belonging to every person simply because they exist. It remains steady through life’s ups and downs.


Self-esteem relates to pride and confidence tied to specific skills, appearance, achievements, or external validation.


Basing one’s self-worth so tightly on the ups and downs of achievement leads to chronic stress, fear, and suffering. The consequences emerge everywhere––the CEO wracked with self-doubt after failed initiatives, the social media influencer feeling worthless when they lose followers, the athlete judging themselves as undeserving after not medaling, or the executive who lost all confidence after a bad quarter of sales.

When your self-worth is dependent on external validation and success, you feel worthy when things are going well and unworthy when they are not. It is an exhausting and self-defeating way to go through life.


To foster genuine self-worth, it's essential to balance ambition with self-compassion. Here are four actionable steps to get started:


  1. Notice Patterns: Pay attention to when your sense of self-worth becomes overly reliant on external validation or narrow measures of achievement. Bringing awareness to these patterns is the first step toward cultivating a more stable sense of worthiness.

  2. Practice Self-Compassion: Counter self-judgmental thoughts fueled by failure or criticism with affirming truths of your inherent worth. Remind yourself that your value as a person is not contingent on your accomplishments or external opinions.

  3. Engage in Meaningful Activities: Invest time in activities that make you feel intrinsically worthy, such as creative outlets, community service, or spending time in nature. These activities can help anchor you in your sense of purpose and intrinsic value.

  4. Let Go of Perfectionism: Allow yourself to be a “work-in-progress” instead of self-criticizing. Making mistakes or having weaknesses does not make you inadequate or diminish your value. Letting perfection go is incredibly liberating and necessary to reach peak levels of achievement.


While it's possible to have high self-esteem in certain areas of life but lack core self-worth, the reverse is not true. When self-worth is cultivated, it remains steady even when self-esteem inevitably fluctuates through life's ups and downs. By replacing the peaks and valleys of self-esteem with unwavering self-worth, you can build a solid foundation to navigate life's challenges and pursue your goals with resilience and authenticity. 

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