6 Ways to Value Yourself at Work

Being treated badly at work can damage our sense of self-worth

Is It Me?

Being treated badly at work can damage our sense of self-esteem, especially if it’s ongoing. Even if we know not to put too much weight on others’ opinions of us, there can be some part of us that doubts ourselves, and wonders, “Is it me?” Most likely we do have things to improve – we all do; but if we’re treated badly by those around us, it makes it harder for us to improve. Understanding this, and dealing with it constructively, can help us gain a greater sense of self-esteem.

The Source of Self-Esteem

I once had the experience of several significant areas of my life falling through at the same time. It felt like there was nothing left outside me to give me a feeling of self-worth. This turned out to be a really freeing experience. Those external things had been distractions from focusing on where my true worth comes from. I had no more reason to avoid it – or to keep driving myself towards external goals. There was only ‘what is’ – and a chance, at last, to listen to that.

If life goes badly, and I don’t get a sense of worth from it, what is my true worth?

It was like someone had been trying to tell me an answer for ages. I’d been busy, and noisy, and distracted by this or that solution, but finally realized I wasn’t hearing them, stopped and went “Oh.” I saw that I needed to open to the question: “If life goes badly, and I don’t get a sense of worth from it, what is my true worth?” Even before getting an answer to the question, I could tell there was one. By not looking for my worth outside myself, I started to have this unshakeable sense that it exists. This has been a much more pleasant, flowing and replenishing way to live.

Self-Esteem at Work

I realized this could be useful for people in challenging workplaces as well. Many of us look outside for our self-worth – through career success, in accomplishments or in other people’s opinions of us. Underneath, and much more powerful, is our own perception, or criticism of ourselves. Unfortunately, many of us are as hard on ourselves inside as those around us are. In fact, when others judge us, if some part of us didn’t unconsciously agree with them, their judgment would lose its power to beat us down. So what can we do about this?

  1. Realize there’s a difference between your flaws and your worth.
  2. Know that we all have flaws and we’re meant to. Accepting them, and compassionately learning from them can increase self-esteem. Teach your “inner boss” about the value of being supportive to yourself.
  3. Practice each day being neutral about your flaws. There are even meditations that can help with this (e.g., Buddhist meditation).
  4. Take your own personal development in-hand. This can change your dynamics with others more than focusing on their flaws. And it gives you something constructive to put your efforts towards when things go badly at work. Turn the bad situation into a positive gain for yourself.
  5. Know that, until you can value yourself inside, that feeling won’t come from outside. Let the external situation mirror to you where you still need to learn this.
  6. When things around you get bad, focus on your work, what you want to accomplish and what you want to move towards in your life (e.g., school, another job). But remember, wherever you go, to feel valued, you need to find that inside you.

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