When you don’t reach your goals, does it change your self-image?

We often merge our self-worth and our goals. Saying I’ll be happy if I get the promotion. I’ll feel pretty if I lose 10 pounds. I’ll know I am smart if I get an A. I’ll be enough if they love me. Then we set out our plan by listing everything we must do to reach our goal. Believing that we would already have the goal if something were different, we apply self-development as part of this plan. Doing this tells our minds that “if we develop ourselves, we can be enough.” This is where the danger begins. We’ve now tied our self-belief to an external goal. The more we work on the plan, the more effort we put in and solidify this tie in our minds.

When we reach our goals

Interestingly, we will have a personal high when we reach our goal. We feel pride and recognition that our hard work paid off. However, this will usually last for only a short time. Once we have what we want, we may recognize that we don’t feel different. Then, we experience disappointment when our success doesn’t make us feel better about ourselves long term.

Accomplishment is like a drug; once we get that promotion, it doesn’t take long before we want the next one. 

When we miss our goals

Inevitably, if we don’t reach our goal, we blame ourselves instead of learning or asking for feedback. We feel bad about ourselves, disappointed that we have failed. Over time, these feelings result in a lowered self-image and depression.

Breaking the pattern

By separating our self-worth from our goals, we preserve our ability to know our self-worth exists independent of external goals. Here are three filters that have helped me with preventing this tie.

  • Review your goal action plan for personal development opportunities vs. actions or skill-building towards your goal.
  • Be clear on the goal you want and what will change. Is any of it described by how you will feel?
  • Ask yourself how you will feel if you do not reach this goal.

When your self-worth is independent of external goals

When your self-worth is based on how you treat yourself, how you’ve concurred challenges or how your perspective has grown, we are free from the rollercoaster of success. Imagine loving yourself for who you are today. Believing in yourself as a whole, unique person. You can wholly and authentically honor and accept yourself.

Our personal development is a lifelong pursuit and journey. As our beliefs and values change throughout our lives, this will challenge us to change our perspectives and learn. Each time this happens, imagine you are feeding your spirit. We get to be curious about ourselves and understand our thoughts and perspectives.


No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinicians.

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