Is your self-worth determined by the recognition and validation of others?

It amazes me how many intelligent (both emotionally and academically), focused and diligent people I cross paths with who completely devalue themselves. Whether it is in business, in health, in relationships or any other facet of life, their worth is capped due to their own self-sabotaging predisposition to benchmark themselves with others.

But there is one thing just as destructive as the self-comparison… the negative bias of the societal establishment they are confined within (such as work, home, etc.).

A large part of our worth is determined by the recognition of others: bosses, colleagues, parents and partners. But what if they don’t have that recognition to give?

What if, blinded by their own insecurities, they (whoever they are) engage in the act of Leveling, the term coined by Danish Philosopher Søren Kierkegaard to describe the social process of suppressing an individual’s identity as they do not meet a specific criteria.

So are you going to sit around and wait for them to change, to have a moment of enlightenment when they recognise your unique character and intrinsic value which transcends societal expectations?

Your identity is shaped from the collection of every relationship, every experience, every conflict, every heartbreak, every loss and every personal success. No one can take these away from you. And despite what the mass society (and in particular the mass media) would have you believe, it has nothing to do with looks, money, sporting achievement and all the other externally defined KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators).

Your identity and distinct perception is forged from all the challenges you had to endure and these are your true worth.

The big question is how can you honour this worth?

  • Could it be insisting that a partner, sibling or parent stops being so condescending?
  • Could it be telling a colleague in work to stop offloading work onto you?
  • Could it be as simple as asking a neighbour to turn their music down?
  • Could it be setting a personal challenge that forces you outside your comfort zone?

We all hit self-esteem setbacks. My recent one was being turned down for a 2nd Tedx Talk. I could have easily personalised the rejection but then I would devalue the fact that I kept pushing forward despite all my own fears and past experiences.

The key point I keep hitting home with my posts is that we are all only human and the process of building (or re-building) self-worth is cyclical. Sometimes we progress, sometimes we regress. But the more you take the emphasis away from the opinions of others and focus on personal validation, the less the impact of regression will have on you and how you feel about yourself.

If you have any questions, I would love to hear from you.


PS. If you enjoyed my articles or videos, or would like help with working on your self-esteem, then you will love my online personal development program The Self-Esteem Blueprint, where you will empower yourself with knowledge and tools to take control of your stress and worry, your relationships, your boundaries and your self-worth. The program is open for registration NOW and I would love to have you on board.

Karl Melvin
Karl Melvin
A Cousellor and Psychotherapist based in Aspen Counselling in Lucan, Dublin, Karl works with adults suffering with depression, anxiety, grief, relationship problems and specialises in helping people break free of dysfunctional families. He is also a public speaker on mental health and personal development. He regularly blogs mental health/relationship advice on the site and can be found on