There is a difference between the things we do and who we are. When written like this, it’s easy to agree.
However, we often use shortcuts which lead to confusion.
Take for example the expression of emotions. Using English it’s quite natural to say “I’m happy” instead of “I’m feeling happy” which is a more appropriate description of one’s state.
We’ll also use roles or titles to describe ourselves. We’ll say “I am a blogger” or “he is the cycling world champion” or “she is an Instagram superstar”.
These shortcuts to identifying ourselves easily play a role when people seek to describe how they relate to society. That’s when self-worth suddenly becomes a concept, one people will find no other means to describe than using what they do.
It’s a consequence of how important success and status have become in our societies as well as how we believe that they can be achieved.
The industrial revolution has a big part in this. The assembly lines are not far away as they established a definition for individual productivity. Generations have been told, that if they work hard enough, they’ll be successful. That makes productivity the means to being successful.
Naturally, people take this up. In doing this they also find themselves searching for a way to deal with the other side of the medal. What is, if they are not perceived as successful, or don’t perceive themselves as successful?
It leads to comparing oneself with others.
It is an invitation to attribute ourselves some “worth” and establishing a measure that doesn’t exist.
We can’t create value with who we are. We can create value with what we do.
We are a member of society. Belonging is a given.
As a member of society, we contribute to society. That’s what we seek to do through our actions.
What people struggle with, when they think about self-worth, is not knowing when enough is enough.