“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson
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Last year I had an incredible opportunity to be a part of a business mastermind group with a famous coach and twenty of the coolest women I’d ever met. Among them were a designer, a photographer, a nutritionist, a writer, a spa owner and an Etsy rock star. They were smart, savvy, sexy, and ambitious—and I felt very intimidated the first time I sat in a room with them. 

Why is this? Out of hundreds of women, I was chosen to join the group after an extensive application process. I had to answer questions on my business model, my hopes and dreams, my character, and what I thought I could add to the group. I answered honestly and hoped for the best, but in the back of my mind I psyched myself out, saying there was no way I’d ever be chosen. I’d met many of the other women applying and I wasn’t nearly as special as they were—at least that’s what I thought. 

The first time we all met was at a retreat at a hip hotel in Santa Monica. Everyone was dressed beautifully and coiffed and made-up to perfection. We were asked to introduce ourselves and talk about what we hoped to get from our experience. Because I’m uncomfortable speaking in public, I waited to the last. To my surprise, almost every woman got up and proceeded to tell us how scared she was and how she felt like she didn’t know what she was doing in her business or her life. Half of the women had tears in their eyes by the time they sat down. 

This eye-opening experience made me feel more human. But it also made me wonder, why did all these accomplished, high-achieving women feel unworthy?

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It’s true that there are all sorts of outside influences conspiring to tear down our self-esteem. There are old messages we carry from growing up, telling us that we’re not pretty enough, not smart enough, not popular enough. Advertising and the media barrage us with images of inhuman perfection, the implication being that we can’t possibly measure up. Ironically, even self-help books, which you think would help support us, are often focused on all the things that supposedly need to be fixed.

Ultimately, self-worth has to come from inside. Your self-esteem is built on how you think about yourself, not on how others size you up. By the end of the weekend I was given an exercise by our coach. Every day I had to scream at the top of my lungs: “I am a yoga expert!” And it worked. I decided right then and there that if I wanted others to believe in me, I’d better start believing in myself. Instead of looking for external validation, I searched within, and I felt a new sense of peace with myself.

People with healthy self-worth share a lot of good habits:

  • They believe in their abilities and feel con dent that they’ll be able to solve any problems that might come along.
  • They attract others with their accepting nature. Because they don’t judge themselves harshly, they’re less likely to judge others.
  • They have a sense of humour and can laugh at themselves, knowing that nobody is perfect.
  • They know what they want in life and are willing to step outside their comfort zone to get it.
  • They aren’t constantly apologizing. They recognize that mistakes are a part of life and they accept that. (They’re also secure enough to offer an apology when one is really needed.)
  • They focus on their strengths, not their weaknesses. 

People who feel worthy haven’t received some kind of “I am worthy” certificate from a governing agency. They’ve built it up within themselves. With this feeling of worth, they’re able to go out and create change in the world, confidently leading others to feel good about themselves and to do good for others. 

 There are practical steps you can take to develop your own feelings of self-worth:

  • Focus on the positive and surround yourself with people who lift you up. Learn to accept—really accept—compliments.
  • Don’t de ne your worth in numbers, on the scale or in your bank account, or by the unrealistic standards set by the media.
  • Stop comparing yourself to others. And remember that the woman who seems to effortlessly have it all might feel unworthy herself.
  • Last but not least, change how you talk to yourself. And put this haiku on repeat:
    I’m worthy of love...I deserve to be happy...I’m EXACTLY where I should be.