We chase our self-worth through all forms of external validation, vanity metrics, career accomplishments, life milestones, etc., etc. But there's not a single external accomplishment that will permanently alter the perception you have of yourself. We spend our lives trying to bridge this eternal gap between who we are and who we want to be.
You won't permanently be a better, more charismatic, more charming person because you wrote a best-selling book, sold your startup, got a million downloads on your podcast, gave birth to a child, landed the hottest girl in school, or threw a touchdown pass in a big game. Matt Saracen threw a long bomb in Friday Night Lights, but it took the entire season for him to develop the confidence to be someone who could play in a state championship.
We all want to live the lives on our vision boards, sadly believing that we'll finally feel complete, whole, secure, and of value when the vision and reality become one. But ask anybody who lives the life that was once on their vision board, and you'll find that it didn't bring them eternal happiness. Janell Hanchett said of becoming a mother, "I'm still the same asshole I was before." I'd echo that sentiment about writing books and giving speeches.
In 2013, I was on what felt like a rocket ride to the moon. The Art of Being Unmistakable became a Wall-Street Journal Best-Seller, the conference I was planning sold in two weeks, our bank balance went from 600 dollars to 6 figures, and I met a girl I thought I was crazy about. I had checked off all the boxes. But in the span of a week, it all went to shit. Book sales declined, the girl dumped me, and I went on a tailspin.
While the external circumstances of my life, triggered the tailspin, it was my internal perception and my self worth that ultimately caused it. If my self worth had been solid, I wouldn't have viewed all these situations through the lens of believing that something is wrong with me.
The problem with chasing self-worth through our accolades is that it is a bottomless pit. The buzz wears off, people forget about your moment in the spotlight, and you have to do the next thing. Until you feel whole, complete, and secure without these things, they're just band-aids on bullet wounds. This causes us, as Rahaf Harfoush said to me, "to feel as if we have no value unless we're changing the world."
Startup founders who are worth fortunes kill themselves.
People who appear on the surface to have their shit together are falling apart on the inside.
Any confidence you gain because of external changes in your life is what a mentor once described to me as “bullshit confidence”. It's a house of cards.
Any level of happiness you attain because of an external change will also be temporary because of hedonic adaptation. As Sasha Heinz said to me in our conversation on the Unmistakable Creative, your reference group changes, the accolade becomes your new normal, and you're back to where you were in terms of your happiness.
Sometimes we're driven to achieve something because we want to prove someone wrong. The girl who left, the boss who fired you, the company who didn't make an offer. Then we achieve this thing we think will make us whole, and the people we wanted to prove wrong are nowhere to be found.
It's just another failed attempt to change how we feel about ourselves through an external accomplishment. I can't think of one person who has told me, "I proved that person who didn't believe in me wrong, and now I've permanently changed how I feel about myself." If you don't believe in yourself, then every accomplishment is a band-aid on a bullet wound.