You’re Worth More Than Your Successes And Failures


By Lindsey Ellefson

The other day on my way to work, I got an email back from an editor who liked an application I submitted to write for her site… a year ago.

I laughed out loud but it wasn’t that funny.

See, a year ago, I was a wreck. I was 23, out of college, and trying to get articles placed in any outlet that would take them on top of managing a spa and doing freelance massage therapy and English tutoring. All I wanted was to be a full-time reporter and that was all my parents – who texted me every morning with some variation of, “Job?” – wanted, too.

After being a razzle-dazzle overachiever through high school, getting a scholarship to a prestigious university in New York, leaving my small hometown at 18, and graduating college a year early, my inability to secure a full-time reporting job seemed to make just about everyone around me surprised and uncomfortable.

Around this time last year, my boyfriend suggested that I buy a one-way ticket home to North Dakota for Christmas, then come back when I had a real job offer. Though I was depressed and sleeping until noon every day, I was indignant, even offended. I applied to perhaps 30 jobs that week, heard back from an extremely promising one, did a phone interview from my parents’ couch on Christmas Eve, and was back in New York three days later, sprinting from the airport to a cab, praying it could get me to my second interview on time.

I got the job.

My parents were happy.

I was happy.

After a year of doing what I want to do, though, I’ve realized that neither my experiences as a full-time writer nor my experiences as a downtrodden, degree-holding job-seeker really define or even scratch the surface of who I am.

Let me explain.

When I got that email the other day, I laughed because of course they want me now. Of course I’d be a hot commodity after sludging through the saddest months of my life and being haunted by the fear that I was disappointing my parents in ways that no other child in history could have executed. A year ago, I wouldn’t have minded if someone dragged their feet when getting back to me about a job, but it’s amazing how quickly reaching a goal, which for me was getting a salary, can make a person aware of her value.

Still, I need to point out that the salary is not my whole value, or even any of it at all. Having the “real job” I’ve always wanted doesn’t make me more or less worthy of anything. I’m still the same woman with the same values, the same style, the same sense of humor, and the same worth that I had at this time last year.

Only 12 months ago, I was so caught up in the fear that I would never amount to anything and the fear that my parents would be disappointed by me for the rest of their lives that I couldn’t see that I was more than my struggle to find the employment I wanted. I couldn’t see how impressive it was that I had money coming in from all over the place or that I was still trying, still pitching pieces, and still sending out my resume. I couldn’t see that 23 is definitely not the age by which most people achieve their long-term goals, let alone most of their short-term ones. I couldn’t see that when I emailed someone, I deserved to be responded to in a timely manner and treated like someone important because I was – I am – someone important.

Moreover, while finally getting firm footing on the path to my dreams has felt good, I’ve become aware in recent months that anything can happen and I could find myself back in a similar situation. I don’t see myself losing my footing and falling off of the path, but does anyone ever see that happening before it does?

I’ve realized now that it would be foolish to tie my self-worth to my job or, more broadly, to my ability to achieve success. I did that through high school and college only to find that when I wasn’t able to immediately succeed, I lost myself completely and became miserable in spite of the fact that I had money, friends, an apartment, a solid relationship, and parents who love me. (Granted, the last two on the list were stressing me out with their job talk at the time, but they meant well.)

That period of sadness doesn’t define me, but if I should ever somehow find myself in a situation where I’m not meeting my own expectations again, I won’t let myself become that miserable a second time. My success doesn’t define me, either.

As trite as this is, life is about ups and downs, about good and bad. It’s also about a bunch of other things, like mediocre first dates, spending the occasional Friday night in doing face masks and wearing sweatpants, choosing to walk instead of taking the subway, voting in local elections, and millions of other unique experiences that don’t fit fully into the “good” or “bad” category.

Ultimately, I won’t be remembered for all of the bad times in my life just like Ben Affleck won’t be remembered for Gigli or Batman v. Superman. I won’t be remembered for only the good stuff, either, like Princess Di isn’t remembered just for her philanthropy.

You won’t be remembered only for the good or the bad, the successes or failures, either; don’t stress yourself trying to be hyper-successful or to stay out of the doldrums. Just take things one day at a time. You’re not just the woman who didn’t get her dream role or the woman who just got a patent; you’re the woman who loves Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and still thinks it’s fun to do the Cupid Shuffle at wedding dances. Maybe you’re not. I don’t know! I do know that you’re so much more than whether you win or lose on any given day, so don’t get too wrapped up in it all.

Lindsey is part of the Contributing Writer Network at Thirty On Tap. To apply to become a Contributing Writer, please click HERE.

{featured image via pexels}

7 thoughts on “You’re Worth More Than Your Successes And Failures

  1. mrst123 says:

    Wonderful article! It’s so easy to get down on yourself and get discouraged. I quit my job in March and then fell into the deepest depression I’ve ever had. I made the decision to return to college full time and just received my first semester grades, 4.0! Whaaat?! How did I accomplish that while being in the darkest point of my life so far? Also, the Cupid Shuffle is the best. I will never stop doing that.


  2. cynthiahm says:

    Life is so full of ups and downs. Self belief gets us through the tough parts. Good for you for appreciating the little things that make you unique. Thanks for sharing.


  3. theteachersdiaries says:

    “Just take things one day at a time.”

    I need to be reminded by this everyday. Such a wonderful post! Thank you for sharing! 🙂


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