My life changed dramatically when my parents got divorced when I was 12 years old. My parents had been fighting for years, so this was not a shocker. Still, something inside of me changed. I had never been a stellar student up to this point, but from the moment they separated I started to associate my self-worth with my accomplishments.

This was actually a positive for a while. I received mostly straight As and received leadership positions, such as a costume designer in my high school’s theater company, that I was proud of. I won academic awards every year, which I happily hung up in my room. My self-worth was sky high, and my parents said how proud they were of me.

In university, my health plummeted after I developed an autoimmune disease, which affected my work. I was no longer proud of my grades and struggled to balance a full plate of extracurriculars. When I had to leave to get medical treatment elsewhere, I felt like a failure.

I managed to pick myself up and transferred to a university in New York City. I applied to many different writing fellowships, internships, and constantly sent pitches to publications. Fortunately, I have been accepted for positions and am proud of articles that I have had published.

But, when I don’t receive something or a story does not land, my heart sinks and my self-worth takes a hit. In the journalism industry, rejection is the norm, so I need to work on changing my relationship with myself and not tie my self-worth to success. The problem is, that is easier said than done. I have had this mindset for the past nine years now – a little more than half of my life.

In the article “Self-Worth: Why You Need to Value Yourself More,” Ashley Fern says that people need “to reinforce [their] positive qualities and actively try to fix [their] negative qualities.” I know I am extremely hard-working, which is very much a positive quality. But, I know I need to practice self-love because I scold myself constantly for “failing.”

Now, I try to catch myself when I realize that I’m on the verge of beating myself up. I try to remind myself that the only thing that matters is that I put effort into everything I do, no matter the outcome. From time to time, I also try to take days off from doing work, which is difficult as an over-achiever. As a chronically ill person, I also am starting to recognize that I need to sleep. This also means I have dropped some responsibilities to get enough sleep.

I am an extremely passionate and hard-working person, and I need to use those qualities to find a solution to unravel my self-worth from my successes and perceived failures. Sure, I should still celebrate my successes, and I sure do. However, I need to stop revolving my life and my energy around trying to achieve goals. I should be happy with myself regardless of whether or not I publish articles, receive certain opportunities or win awards.

  • Julia Métraux

    Julia Métraux is a journalist whose work has appeared in Narratively, The Tempest, BUST, and Briarpatch Magazine.