A lot of people are too caught up in material measures of "success," or fall prey to the status and prestige mindset.  That is, they measure themselves with the yardsticks of what they have attained, how much money they earn, the house they live in, car they drive, jewelry they wear, and/or other external trappings of "success."  (The word trappings originally described the decorations people attached to their horse's bridle and saddle to make a statement about the rider's power and privilege.)

This emphasis on external and material achievement is a major source of personal dissatisfaction and unhappiness.  While comparing ourselves with others is a natural human tendency, and can be a source of motivation or pride, more often than not it serves only to produce feelings of envy and inadequacy.

Therefore, from a psychological standpoint, instead of material achievement, a much better metric for gauging self-worth is character.  Indeed, in my opinion, it is far easier to obtain material things and garner external validation than it is to develop a solid character and posses a deep sense of personal self-worth.  In fact, many therapists believe that unconditional positive self-regard might be the "holy grail" of good psychological adjustment.  What's more, because good social judgement is an important character trait, good character people often enjoy a great deal of social success because high quality people like to be friends with other high quality people.

One helpful method for working toward this most desirable state of deep seated self-worth (not to be confused with conceit, arrogance, or narcissism) is what I call the "character resume" technique.  This is simply a list of all one's positive traits, attributes, characteristics, and qualities.

Of course, just like an actual resume doesn't note one's occupational failures, disappointments, setbacks and unpleasant events, this "resume," too, should note and emphasize only the positive aspects of one's personhood.

Thus regardless of one's educational, occupational, and financial achievements, one's character resume might read as follows:

  • Honesty
  • Trustworthiness
  • Dependability
  • Integrity
  • Kindness
  • Generosity
  • Creativity
  • Compassion
  • Good sense of humor
  • Good problem solver

While this might seem like "blowing one's own horn," this is exactly what an actual resume does, right?  In a way that falls short of blatant self-aggrandizement, our resume is meant to extoll our professional or occupational "virtues."

Similarly, by noting and emphasizing our personal virtues, we can connect with the important "emotional capital" that is a crucial part of our self-worth as well as our social and psychological success.

In a nutshell, try not to confuse material wealth and external accomplishments (or lack thereof) with worth!  Or, as the saying goes, "Don't compare your inside with someone else's outside."  True success is based on self-satisfaction, happiness, love, true friendship, fun, and pleasure in the simple things of everyday living.

Remember:  Think well, Act well, Feel well, Be well!

Copyright 2017 Clifford N. Lazarus, Ph.D.

Dear reader,

The advertisements contained in this post do not necessarily reflect my opinions nor are they endorsed by me.


This post is for informational purposes only.  It is not intended to be a substitute for professional assistance or personal mental health treatment by a qualified clinician.


About the Authors

Arnold Lazarus

Arnold A. Lazarus is a professor of psychology, therapist, author, lecturer, and clinical innovator.

Donna Astor-Lazarus

Donna Astor-Lazarus is the Co-Clinical Director of The Lazarus Institute.

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