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Place too much self worth into work

Community Member
Hi everyone.
I’m new here. Hoping to write about my current feeling for some thoughts.
I work in a good job but can be high stress and a challenging boss. I don’t have kids and work is everything really - Even more during the covid lockdowns.
I had known for some time I’m abit of a ticking time bomb with my anxiety and one wrong turn or criticism at work would tip me over the edge and after some recent feedback on something I tried hard on, I am at that point.
I try really hard at work to be good because I want to be but also because I know I’ve been sitting there waiting to fail at something.
Would love to hear how others manage this kind of anxiety.. I know diet and exercise will help and I do try. I’m not doing intense exercise but I am getting in a daily walk or two.
3 Replies 3

Community Member

Hi Roberta

welcome to the forums!
I don’t necessarily have any advice for you but wanted to reach out and say hello, and that I hear you. I too hang a lot of my self worth on my “success” at work. It hasn’t served me that well in the past so I’m now working to try to put focus on other areas of my life to fulfill me and make me happy.

Is there anyone in your workplace you can speak to about how you’re feeling? I understand this may be difficult to do from home. Happy to chat and listen as much as you need!



Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Hi Roberta2,

Welcome to the forums.

Unfortunately, yes - I know exactly what you mean. For me, work has been EVERYTHING. Anything else was a lot further down the list.

I'm really glad you've posted this because I think, in this day and age, we can become conditioned to believe that being successful in your career is everything – get a promotion, earn more money, take on more responsibly, work longer hours…. Wear your productivity as a sign of being a successful human being; juggle as much as you can to prove that you are worthy.

I did that for so long and, at the beginning of this year, I burnout. It started as small things - less sleeping, working excessively, taking on too much, trying to fix everything, trying to be everything to everyone.... Then before I knew it, the anxiety took over and I was overcompensating at work and working 16+ hours a day because all of a sudden I was afraid I was a failure if I didn't get everything done on my list. I could complete 99 tasks on my list, but the 1 thing I didn't do made me feel like I was an utter failure. It was awful.

I ended up burning out so much, that I ended up in hospital as my brain simply turned off. I couldn't read or write anymore. It's been a long journey this year, and I haven't worked since Feb, but it's allowed me to stop and work through why I have these patterns of overachieving at work, and why it's so closely tied to my self worth.

So, as someone who has definitely been where you are, I am asking you to click on the below link and read the Perfectionism workbook. I read it and I went "crap - this is exactly what I do". It's got some really good tools to question your thinking: https://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/Resources/Looking-After-Yourself/Perfectionism

There is also an amazing book called Perfectly Hidden Depression by Margaret Robinson Rutherford. I opened to page one and it was so difficult to read, because it was like reading my autobiography.... Unrelenting standards, unable to practice self-compassion, judging your self-worth against achievements and successes, having little time for anything else outside of work, putting others' needs before yours.

It's an uncomfortable read - but it'll definitely answer some of the things you are talking about.

Happy to chat more.

G x

Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Hi Roberta2,

Some wonderful suggestions from Gabs - I too am going to look into those resources. I think work is a particularly difficult area to separate your sense of self worth from because of the culture of work as well. When you are there, you and other people in the organisation treat it with absolute seriousness, like the work we do not only defines us, but a mistake has massive repercussions - like we are trying to land a rocket on the moon. Its a complete illusion of course, unless you are working in emergency services, it is likely whatever mistakes or errors we make (because we are human and will make mistakes) can be rectified without much of an actual problem occurring. Not being able to meet a deadlines, may push a project back, may end up costing a little more money - is this such a catastrophe in the grand scheme of things? No - most things can be accommodated and it is natural - and actually a good thing - if we make mistakes. Many an invention was made on an apparent mistake. Understanding the importance and necessity of failure and not taking my work so seriously, are attitudes that I needed to adopt and have helped me.

I was a perfectionist at university, a highly competitive degree nearly drove me insane. I had a number of nervous breakdowns. It was unnecessary. Wherever my life leads me through success and failure I can happily accept. Its about seeing yourself, as you are, as already complete - without a need to prove anything to anyone. What do you need to prove exactly? I feel we only try to prove to others what we don't believe is true about ourselves so perhaps Gabs' book suggestion is a great way to start.

Practical suggestions - take more time to do other things. When we over focus on work, or study - this becomes the most important thing naturally. I'm not sure if you have a hobby - or would like to start one! - but it can be a great way to shift focus. I have really enjoyed paint by numbers - you can order them online - they send the paint and the canvas with the numbers and you paint a way. I know nothing of painting but you get a fantastic picture out of it, and painting in the little numbers is so meditative and distracting. I think something like that where you can shift your focus and have something tangible in the end might be a good way to separate yourself from work a bit.