Women tell Women

Should professional achievements define your self-worth?

— Karen Azoulay

It’s a mistake to conflate career accomplishments with self-worth. If you seek accolades or riches to determine your personal value, you’ll be on an insatiable quest. Goal posts tend to shift indefinitely. There will never be enough. In truth, plenty of people with extremely successful careers are miserable. 

For many of us, our careers are an important part of our identity, but who we are is bigger than what we do. Those who find themselves entwined with their ambitions might benefit from questioning their true motivations. Ideally, what is your work in service of? Is it to educate? heal? Bring joy? It may be less quantifiable, but I suggest focusing on how you are contributing, even in subtle ways, to the people and community around you. If your labor made somebody’s day a little bit better, I think that is something to feel great about. 

Building the architecture of my own self-worth is an ongoing project, but I’ve found that my creative and emotional connection with others, as well as pushing myself beyond my self-perceived limitations have been sustainable sources.

This is not to negate ambition. Of course, I hope that my projects will be well received and lead to bigger opportunities. I do think it’s important to celebrate the wins, big and small. A victory might help provide financial sustenance, and access to more opportunities to create and share. We all crave validation, but external markers of success can’t be where we look for a sense of dignity. 

Karen Azoulay –
Visual Artist

Karen Azoulay is a Canadian born, Brooklyn-based artist and author. Inspired by “feminine” motifs, Azoulay explores cultural phenomenons that have historically been overlooked with the purpose of recontextualizing and championing them. She has a fascination with floral symbolism and secret messages are often embedded in her work. These ideas are explored in her forthcoming book Flowers and Their Meanings: The Secret Language and History of Over 600 Blooms.