I once had a client, Shanelle, who asked her employer for a demotion and a salary cut. Yes, you read that correctly. Shanelle, suffering from extremely low self-worth, was intimidated by the responsibilities of her role and felt incapable, despite regular encouragement from her employer that she was excelling in her position.
Sometimes we are our own worst enemies. Shanelle’s situation certainly was extreme, but the unfortunate reality in this fast-paced, competitive world is that too many people suffer from low self-esteem and self-worth. One medical professional even suggests that 85% of the world’s population experience low self-esteem. The stats for females are also bleak; a study conducted in the U.K. revealed not only high levels of self-esteem in young females, but that 47% of the girls surveyed opted not to participate in certain activities due to their low self-esteem.
Low self-esteem and self-worth not only negatively affect personal growth, they also cripple professional prospects, like in Shanelle’s case.Research has shown time and time again that people with higher self-worth have higher salaries. Self-esteem may even affect your salary as much as cognitive abilities do.
The correlation between self-worth and salary can seem like somewhat of a circular conundrum, though: higher self-esteem can land you a better salary, but wouldn’t getting a higher salary perhaps give you the confidence you need to have more self-worth?
Self-worth is not a measure of your external value. It’s the subjective, internal measure that you place on yourself. Confident people didn’t become confident because they landed a stellar, high-paying job; to the contrary, they landed the job because they perceive themselves in a positive light and they exude confidence. Don’t believe me? Take a look at this study, which found that confidence during teenage years strongly correlates with higher earnings in adulthood.
Building the confidence to reach for that higher salary, however, isn’t exactly easy and can be particularly challenging for women. It’s a double-edged sword, considering that both men and women judge females who ask for a higher salary, but not men who do. Regardless, we shouldn’t let gender stereotypes dictate our self-worth, and we shouldn’t be afraid to demand our true value.
So how do we build our self-esteem and confidence? That’s the million dollar question, but it’s not as hard as it may seem. Remember, it’s you who determines your value, not those around you. Here are a few simple ways to give yourself a boost…
1. Dress the part. The way we dress strongly affects the way we feel about ourselves, so start each day looking your best. It’s a simple, surefire way to boost self-worth. It not only helps us feel better about ourselves, but will pay off for you professionally, too; 93% of executives report that the way a person dresses at the office affects their prospects for a promotion.
2. Be conscious of your body language. It may seem strange to think that the way we carry ourselves can build our confidence, but it’s been scientifically proven that it can. Even if you don’t feel confident just yet, when you hold yourself in a way that communicates confidence to those around you, your “fake” confidence actually becomes your reality.
3. Pay attention to how you speak to yourself. If you’re constantly telling yourself you’re not good enough and that you’ll never be successful, then you’ll never be good enough, and you’ll never be successful.Don’t focus on your failures; concentrate on what you learned from them. Remind yourself of your achievements. Encourage yourself. Reward yourself. No one likes being spoken to negatively, so why do it to yourself? Positive thoughts lead to follow-through, which brings me to my next point.
4. Be proactive. It’s easy to sit around complaining that things aren’t the way you had wanted or hoped. But there are always steps you can take to improve your circumstances. So identify what those steps are, and get to work! Even if you don’t succeed fully, you’ll have the confidence to know that you took things into your own hands and worked hard to pull yourself out of a rut.
5. Stop being a perfectionist. Perfectionism is a form of insecurity—it often comes from the fear that one will be exposed as a failure, and thus it keeps us in a stake of overworking ourselves to “guarantee” an ideal image. However, perfectionists guarantee their own failure, because nothing can ever be completely perfect. They are tremendously hard on themselves, which is very damaging to self-worth. Establish your priorities. Focus on what’s truly important. Forgive yourself for your mistakes.
Improving the way you look at yourself is the true path to changing the way others regard you and building self-worth.
Shanelle’s situation is living proof of that. After working with Shanelle, it was clear that her lack self-worth was holding her back professionally. We worked together to look at where these mental blocks and beliefs around her worthiness rooted, and a transformation was cultivated—to the tune of a lot more confidence… And a $30,000 raise.
So stop holding yourself back, and get to work! You’ll see your confidence show up in your bank account.