Cultivating Internal Self-Worth

I just got back from a 3-day cat-skiing trip at Baldface Lodge in British Columbia. It’s where I hurt my knee 2 years ago.

I came into this trip feeling like I had nothing to prove. Grateful for the healing my knee had undergone in the last few months. For the stability that had returned to it. For two years, I couldn’t ski powder. And here I am. Back in the place where I hurt my knee. Skiing. Powder. Again.

But how quickly my feelings shifted from gratitude to fear when I found myself on slope, afraid of skiing through tight trees, needing to change directions at the last second, or losing a ski beneath the snow. How quickly my thoughts moved from optimistic to critical when I found myself skiing like someone who wasn’t “me.”

Old habits die hard. Old belief systems die harder.

For 16 years I heard people talking positively about my skiing. Singing praises for my potential, for how great I would be, for how incredible I was... believing, the whole time, that this is what made me special, this was what gave me worth. 

Then came SILENCE.

The voices stopped when I stopped.

The songs of praise were no longer for me.

And I was left to find my self-worth elsewhere. Not from outside of me. Not from results, achievement, performance, or “success.”

Of all the challenges that retiring from professional skiing presented (loss of identity, community, income, direction, lifestyle, and purpose) finding self-worth outside of these things has been the hardest to figure out.

Every day I’m inching my way closer, but it’s the one piece of the puzzle that is persistently the wrong shade of blue or not quite the right shape or annoyingly slipping out of place. That said, I have found a few ways to keep myself in check so I can pull my head out of my proverbial ass and enjoy the magical unicorn glitter snow instead of feeling sorry for myself…

So, here’s a few ways to Start Cultivating Internal Self-Worth:

  1. Get curious.

    I asked myself if I thought people who had “achieved” less than me, were less valuable. My answer was always NO. These people are wonderful and valuable regardless of how they ski. What made them valuable? Could that be true for me too? What do you think?

  2. Recognize what’s truly in your control.

    If we base our self-worth solely on results, we’re setup for perpetual disappointment. When I was skiing, nearly everyone had the same goal - win X Games, win the Olympics. How could that singular success define a person’s worth when there’s not enough to go around? When all those people could put in the same work, the same effort, develop the same skills and yet most will fall short? The result you are chasing is simply a compass pointing you where you want to go. What you control is taking action TOWARD that goal, not arriving there.

  3. Focus on your enjoyment.

    If you could remove everyone’s ability to form an opinion of you, would you be enjoying yourself? Are you showing up in the world in a way that you intrinsically want to be? This is what matter’s, not other people’s opinions of you. So, stop worrying about it.

  4. Be kind to yourself.

    Recognize that inner critic and know that you don’t have to listen. It’s just a voice inside your head. It is NOT you. Thank it for trying to protect you and let it know you no longer need its help. Then, cultivate the voice of your inner mentor - the future version of you, who truly knows your worth. Speak to yourself from this voice.

How about you? What has helped you with self-worth? Let me know in the comments! And if you try one of these ideas when you catch yourself being hard on yourself, I’d love if you’d drop a note below!

Jennifer Hudak