Sunday, April 27, 2008, is a day I’ll never forget. I remember sitting on an uncomfortable couch in a small income-based apartment in Brookings, South Dakota feeling devastated. The 29th consecutive NFL draft had just ended and taken my dreams of being a professional athlete with it. I was a standout Division I athlete at Michigan State University, but no team had picked me. Not a single one. Even all these years later, I can still hear the pain in my brother’s voice as he quietly told my mom that I hadn’t received the call I’d been working toward for so many years.
It wasn’t until several years later that I finally got it, finally understood why no team had picked me. I was listening to a podcast by a guy named Steven Furtick, and I heard him say “talent will take you where character won’t keep you.” In other words, you can have all the talent in the world, but you won’t be able to sustain the success it gives you if you don’t have the character to match it. (It’s a phrase I often use now when I attend public speaking events to share my story.)
Furtick’s words of wisdom allowed me to realize that I lost out on a career in the NFL because the talent I had wasn’t on par with my character at that point in my life. And why wasn’t my character on my par with my talent? Because I didn’t have high self-worth.
What is self-worth?
What exactly is self-worth and why it is important? Self-worth is how you see your own value or worth as a person. In other words, it’s about understanding who you are, knowing what you believe in or stand for, and living this truth each and every day.
The definition of self-worth seems simple. But as a concept, self-worth is hard for most of us to truly grasp. I’ve came across lots of people who don’t know their self-worth. And I can’t count myself out of this group — it took me almost 10 years to fully understand what self-worth is and why I needed it so badly.
Self-worth can make or break you. Having a high self-worth gives you the confidence to pursue success in any domain of your life. Low self-worth, on the other hand, is damaging (something I’ve experienced personally). It leads to professional hardships, bad relationships, and unhealthy friendships. But more importantly, it creates a losing culture in your life that’s hard to crawl your way back from.
The link between self-worth and identity
What’s one of the secrets to having high self-worth? Understanding your true identity. This is something I struggled with for years.
As a Division I football player, I lived with a false sense of identity. My true identity was lost in stadiums filled with thousands of people on Saturday afternoons and evenings. It was lost among the screaming fans, TV cameras, and millions of dollars that my teammates and I brought in for the university. I saw myself solely and completely as a Michigan State football player. It seemed right at the time, but letting what I did define who I was and what I was worth was a big mistake. It gave me a false sense of identity and created a standard for evaluating myself that I simply couldn’t meet.
What you do may seem important. But it isn’t who you are, and it doesn’t even come close to representing the purpose you have to fulfill in life. To have a high self-worth, you can’t let what you do or what you think you should do define you. You need to understand who you really are, know why your true purpose is important, and make this your guiding principle in life each day.
It’s easy to brush off self-worth as something that doesn’t really matter. But having a strong sense of who you are is the key to overcoming obstacles, building strong relationships, and living life with purpose. Remember, talent will take you where character won’t keep you. If you don’t have high self-worth, everything else in your life will take you only so far.