top of page
  • Amina Aitsi-Selmi

Self-worth versus skills: a vital distinction for overachievers

News! The next Leaders Circle (Transformational Communication) is next week on Thursday 14th! Join me and a small group of doctors and professionals to power up your confidence in sharing your ideas, negotiating and resolving conflict in day-to-day work. It’s going to be inspiring and informative and you’ll get to connect with new likeminded people on the path to your highest career and life fulfilment. See here for details and registration. I also talk about it a little at the end of today’s video. If you feel it’s time to try out this kind of self-exploration, sign up and I look forward to seeing you!


As a recovering overachiever, there are a few key lessons I’ve had to learn. One of them is not to confuse my identity (let alone my deeper sense of who I am) with my achievements.

This goes for any external object or symbol: they are not you. You are you.

Enter the distinction between self-worth and skills.

Watch the video or read on.

Self-worth is a natural state. It’s the sense of joy at being alive. You don’t have to be doing anything. You could simply be sitting still and resting in the rhythm of your breath (have I mentioned how awesome meditation is?...)

In fact you’re more likely to experience this state of innate self-worth when are still and calm. You might also feel it when you’re in nature or contemplating something vast like the cosmos and experience a sense of connection. This is because of the wider perspective you’re afforded which puts the breaks on your habitual inner-chatter and may even send your inner-critic on holiday for a while, giving you a sense of clarity and inspiration.

You can never get enough of what you don’t really need.

You can’t prove your self-worth. Any attempt to do so will put you on an endless, wild goose chase that will leave you feeling exhausted, empty and confused. The pursuit would be doomed because it started on a false assumption.

This is where highly intelligent, high functioning people functioning in a knowledge economy (i.e. that values expertise) can get locked into a success trap. Your wild goose chase is useful to other people and organisations who benefit from your efforts, especially if they’re on their own wild goose chase. It’s reassuring to run in packs even if we have no idea where we’re going or why we’re going there.

The chase may involve qualifications, accolades, prizes, reports, papers, meetings, titles, etc. These are all great as long as they’re not used to prove your self-worth. In fact, it’s best to separate them entirely.

Harvard philosophy professor, Michael Sandel, talks about the pitfalls of meritocracy. It’s no merit of mine that I happen to be born into an era that values intellectual ability. Doing well at school and being paid for my brains is a function of the times we live in, not of something of universal merit within me…

Which brings us to skills. These are the tangible and less tangible abilities that we usually identify with learning i.e. they can be taught and learned. Learning and practising your skills can make you mentally and physically tired which requires stamina when you’re trying to uplevel them (as I was reminded recently on a trip to Russia for fencing training); whereas being in and enjoying your natural sense of self-worth does not.

Photo: Uplevelling skills can tire you out.

To live a healthy life, we need to be unfolding constantly into more refined, clearer and brighter versions of ourselves.

You are unique and if you stay hidden behind a veneer of acceptability, the world will be deprived of what you have to offer. This unique form can be deployed skillfully through learning the right skills.

A key skill is better communication in all its forms. It allows us to share our unique perspective and experience in life in a way that hopefully enriches that of others.

Acquiring skills can be fun and facilitate this sharing of your experience and contribution to the world. Achievements and accolades may come along the way but as a byproduct of the activity of unfolding your unique potential and sharing of your energy.

In contrast to proving your self-worth, acquiring skills is an emergent property of your grounding in the joy of self-expression. You’re not trying to prove anything. The causal direction is reversed if not absent altogether. Everything just is.

The key message:

Transform work into play. Learn skills that help you unfold your highest potential joyfully and never question your innate self-worth as a human being. If you find that you’re operating consistently from a sense of misplaced obligation, time to check in and see if you’re trying to prove yourself causing misery to you and those around you rather than express yourself in a way that benefits the happiness of all including yourself.

Have a great week,


Upcoming events

14th of June at 7pm: The Leaders Circle: Transformational Communication. Register here

26th of June: Managing care for patients with

multimorbidities. National Institute of Health and Care

Excellence Annual Conference 2018

6th July: Birthing babies, birthing your dreams: a parent’s

power to create the right life and career. PLUSbaby

(physicians returning to work after parent leave).

0 views0 comments
bottom of page