Home » Blogs » Happily Imperfect » Why Highly Successful People Struggle With Low Self-Worth (and How You Can Reclaim Your Self-Worth)

Why Highly Successful People Struggle With Low Self-Worth (and How You Can Reclaim Your Self-Worth)

Low self-esteem or low self-worth don’t have to be barriers to success. In this guest post, Jamie Daniel-Farrell, LMFTtells us how many highly successful people have used their low self-esteem to motivate them. She also provides some valuable tips for overcoming low self-worth since pushing ourselves to achieve more and more doesn’t actually make us feel worthwhile.

Highly successful people don’t get there on true grit alone.
There can be an underlying force.

Highly successful people might be the last individuals you would expect to suffer from low self-esteem. Many celebrities, CEOs, all-star athletes, and politicians suffer from low self-esteem or did at one point in their lives. When you look at their accomplishments, high income and prestige, you might imagine that to get that far they must have had an abundance of self-confidence.

Self-esteem isn’t a prerequisite for success

It’s not necessarily the case. Make no mistake about it; they’re hard-working, motivated and driven people. They seem to possess the smarts, talents, and skills to get to the top. What we don’t see is that many started out with doubts, insecurities, and feeling unworthy; born from a troubled childhood. That self-doubt played a significant role on their road to success.

Just Be Real, a personal development blog, published a post,  7 Celebrities Who Started Out with Poor Self-Esteem, that highlights the experiences of several highly successful and famous people and their struggle with low self-esteem. Featured are Oprah Winfrey, John Lennon, Hillary Swank, Russell Brand and Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn Monroe, for example, moved around a lot as a child. She had many foster parents, and a mentally unstable mother and father. The post explains that although she suffered from low self-esteem, Monroe went on to achieve amazing things in her life as a model and actress.

How does low self-esteem contribute to success?

Low self-esteem can be a powerfully motivating factor behind a person’s drive to succeed. Particularly relevant is the fact that a person with low self-esteem is continually striving to prove their worthiness, accomplishing one thing after the next. Individuals with low self-esteem have a deep-seated and faulty belief that a person’s value is based on their achievements and these five myths about self-worth.

5 myths about self-worth

  • Self-worth is based on your ability to earn it.  It’s what you do that determines your worthiness, and you have to work hard to get it. If you’re not working hard and achieving, there’s no reason to feel good about yourself.

  • Self-worth is the result of external events. It’s derived from external events in your life such as good grades, degrees, promotions, praise, recognition, awards and lofty job titles. You strive to achieve to fulfill the need to feel better about yourself.

  • Self-worth is the result of being better than everyone else. You compete with others and have to be doing better than everyone else. It’s difficult for you to celebrate the success of others as it reminds you of your need to be one step ahead. You have to shine.

  • Feeling good about yourself requires consistent proof. When the glow of one accomplishment begins to dim, you are revisited by your quiet insecurity. You seek some form of recognition to prove that you indeed are worthy. This quest feeds into a tenacity to succeed, because you alone are never enough.

  • Self-worth requires feeling admired and loved. Love, adoration or approval from others enhances your feelings of worthiness. If you love and adore me, I must be worthy.

While low self-esteem can be a catalyst for success, it can also come at a high personal cost. It can spiral you down into feelings of anxiety and depression. If you are doing well on the outside but suffering on the inside, it’s important to recognize these five truths about self-worth.

5 truths about self-worth

  • You don’t have to prove your worthiness. YES, it’s a myth you have to earn your worthiness. The truth is that you were born worthy.

  • External measures do not add or take away from your worthiness. Since you are born worthy, successes and failures don’t add to or detract from your inherent worthiness.

  • Comparing yourself to others is a waste of time and energy. You don’t have to prove your worth. It’s already there, so it doesn’t matter how you compare to others.

  • YOU are enough just as you are. Right here. Right now.

  • A mental health professional can help. Working to improve your self-worth can require the help of a professional. It’s a valuable investment that can help you reclaim your self-worth.

Success can never cure low self-worth

In conclusion, sometimes the things you end up struggling with the most can turn out to be helpful in ways you would never expect. Setting goals and wanting to achieve success in life is admirable. Take care, though, that you don’t use it as a  measure of your self-worth. To live a happy and content life, you must learn how to recognize and embrace your worthiness regardless of what you accomplish.


Jamie Daniel LMFT

About the author

Jamie Daniel-Farrell is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with a practice in Westlake Village, CA. She is passionate about helping midlife women heal through the divorce process by providing counseling, workshops and divorce support groups. Jamie writes a popular blog, “A Whole New Word: Chronicles of a Midlife Divorce Survivor”. You can also find her on Facebook.





©2017 Jamie Daniel. All rights reserved.
Photo of Marilyn Monroe by 1950sUnlimited  via Flickr

Why Highly Successful People Struggle With Low Self-Worth (and How You Can Reclaim Your Self-Worth)

Sharon Martin, LCSW

Sharon Martin is a licensed psychotherapist and codependency expert practicing in San Jose, CA. She is the author of The CBT Workbook for Perfectionism: Evidence-Based Skills to Help You Let Go of Self-Criticism, Build Self-Esteem, and Find Balance and several ebooks including Navigating the Codependency Maze.  

To learn more, visit Sharon's website. And please sign-up for free access to her resource library HERE (worksheets, tips, meditations, and resources for healing codependency, perfectionism, anxiety and more).

2 comments: View Comments / Leave a Comment



APA Reference
Martin, S. (2017). Why Highly Successful People Struggle With Low Self-Worth (and How You Can Reclaim Your Self-Worth). Psych Central. Retrieved on September 27, 2020, from


Last updated: 29 Dec 2017
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network ( prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on All rights reserved.