Why your self-worth can no longer be tied to your success at work

29 January 2019 Victoria Butt

Why Your Self Worth Can No Longer Be Tied To Your Success At Work

High confidence and believing in oneself is proven to improve success at work, however what happens when your professional career takes a sudden turn?  Can failure at work effect your self-worth and confidence outside of work?

A recent article published by Forbes stated “Current research is conclusive that self-esteem is linked to our sense of competence in the areas that are important to us.” Our careers are becoming increasingly more important and highly demanding given the rapid pace of business, legislative changes and the ever-changing workforce.

Unfortunately, I have witnessed many senior leaders who have worked tirelessly in their careers, only to be found redeployed or in an unexpected career position. In almost all of these cases, their self-esteem has taken a huge hit and often affected their relationships with their family, friends and colleagues.

One of Australia’s leading executives recently shared his perspective on the link between self-esteem and success at work. He states that “success is not a destination” and his goal is to “simply leave business in better hands for the next generation“.  This down to earth executive shared that his self-esteem is not directly linked to his success or failure at work and that he would:

”genuinely walk away from work tomorrow if it meant his family, kids or himself were negatively affected”.  

I have known him for over 10 years and have witnessed him miss industry engagements and conferences for his child’s swimming carnival or day care graduation. While he works incredibly hard and is dedicated to his role and company, professional success it is not at the detriment of his family or personal values.

This is a great example of an executive who does not allow his sense of self-worth be defined by his success or failure at work. 

A small business owner I know well, unfortunately lost his business after 6 years and I saw his self-worth melt away overnight.  He invested all of his savings into the business and prioritised his business over family, friends and his health for 6 years.   Over the years, I noticed that when his revenue was up, he was tangibly happier, more confident and was able to maintain and enjoy an amazing relationship with his wife and children. 18 months after his business failed, I saw his personal and professional confidence had not recovered. His relationships have been significantly affected and he is still reflecting on what went wrong and how he could have done a better job. He was so personally invested in his business that when it failed, he felt that he was a failure as a person. 

As a founder of an organisation myself, I have found the following steps have helped me maintain a separation between success at work and my self-esteem:

  • Creating realistic urgency in work – Everything is urgent to somebody; however, I create and control my own urgency;

  • Own my diary – Whether it’s a morning run with my little boy or having lunch with friends at least once a month, I will control my own diary;

  • Consistently reassess my “why”/my purpose – If I am clear on my purpose and “why” in life, then it is easier to prioritise the right tasks which require my attention and energy;

  • Surround myself with the right people – Whether it’s Parity’s advisory board or clients/candidates and friends in my network, the people I surround myself with will keep me accountable to the right tasks;

  • Regular mental health/rest and relaxation days – This would ideally be in a hot sunny location, however if that cannot happen, I will take a day a quarter to book some R&R time; and

  • Set a family strategy for 2019 – Sitting down with my husband and ensuring we make a note of our family, relationship and financial goals. We have done this for the last 2 years and it gives us both a lot of perspective and comfort.


With our professional and personal lives becoming worryingly close and interlinked, I believe it’s critical to keep perspective on how much our success or failure at work effects our positive state of mind. By using these steps as a guideline, I hope that you too will be able to maintain the much-needed separation between success at work and your personal self-esteem.


Victoria Butt is the Managing Director and Founder of Parity Consulting, recruitment experts in Product, Marketing, Communications and Digital – creating parity by investing in ALL relationships. An avid shark diver and lover of wine, professionally Victoria’s passionate about leadership, inclusion and diversity in the workplace and empowering women, in particular women looking to return to work after having children.

 For a confidential discussion, Victoria can be contacted via email on vbutt@parityconsulting.com.au or via phone +61 402 418 326