How to Stop Selling Yourself Short and Start Owning Your Value

Recently, I received a LinkedIn message from someone who had read some of my work here on The Muse. “I really enjoyed your article about quitting your job with no back-up plan,” she said, “It was encouraging, insightful, and just what I needed to read right now. Thank you for sharing!”

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I smiled and began to type out a response to her compliment, and then stopped to glance back at what I’d written so far. My first sentence started with something like, “Thanks so much for reading my incessant ramblings about my career journey.”

Incessant ramblings? Why was I describing my own work like that? This was an article I had worked hard on—one I was actually quite proud of. So, why couldn’t I just accept her praise and well wishes? Why did I feel the need to self-deprecate and minimize my own success and accomplishments?

We all do it—sometimes even subconsciously. Even if you consider yourself to be a fairly confident and self-assured person, it’s all too easy to sell yourself short without even realizing it. After all, none of us want to seem overly aggressive or arrogant.

But, I think it’s time that we challenge that fallback behavior. That’s right, it’s time to pull your shoulders back, pick up your chin, and present yourself as the intelligent, qualified, and capable professional that you are.

As the old adage goes, the first step in solving a problem is recognizing it. So, here are five times when you’re selling yourself short—as well as some advice you can use to stop doing it right this very minute.

Do you have a hard time promoting your accomplishments and skills? Do you downplay your achievements or avoid challenges out of fear? If so, you may be selling yourself short.

Selling yourself short can sabotage your career growth and prevent you from reaching your full potential. But with some effort, you can break this detrimental habit.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore how to recognize times when you are undervaluing yourself and provide tips to help you start owning your worth. Read on to learn how to stop selling yourself short and start showcasing your true talents.

Signs You Are Selling Yourself Short

Here are some common ways you may be selling yourself short without even realizing it

  • Downplaying your accomplishments and strengths
  • Using minimizing language like “I think” or “maybe” when expressing ideas
  • Not applying for jobs unless you meet all the criteria
  • Accepting the first salary offer without negotiating
  • Saying no to challenges or opportunities to learn new skills
  • Letting others take credit for your work and ideas
  • Staying silent in meetings rather than voicing your opinion
  • Apologizing unnecessarily or frequently
  • Making self-deprecating jokes about your abilities
  • Assuming you’re not qualified or good enough

Selling yourself short stems from a lack of self-confidence. But with some effort, you can change this detrimental mindset.

Why You Should Stop Selling Yourself Short

Here are some of the reasons it’s critical to stop undervaluing yourself:

  • Restricts your career advancement and earnings potential
  • Prevents you from reaching your full potential
  • Causes others to underestimate your abilities
  • Diminishes your self-esteem and self-worth
  • Creates a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure or mediocrity
  • Causes you to miss out on exciting challenges and opportunities
  • Enables others to take advantage of your skills and talents

Owning your worth empowers you to achieve greater success and happiness. So let’s look at proven tactics to avoid selling yourself short.

How to Stop Selling Yourself Short

Here are effective strategies to stop undervaluing yourself and start owning your talents:

Celebrate Your Achievements

  • Make a list of your accomplishments, certifications, special projects, and key skills. Seeing it in writing reminds you of your capabilities.

  • Keep a file of positive feedback, kudos, thank you notes, and performance reviews. Refer to it when you need a confidence boost.

  • Mentally replay your proudest moments. Draw strength from times you excelled.

Adopt Empowering Language

  • Cut minimizing phrases like “I’m no expert, but…” from your vocabulary.

  • Use empowering language: “I successfully achieved [X] by doing [Y].”

  • Own your opinions: “In my experience, this approach works well because…”

Seek Constructive Feedback

  • Ask trusted advisors for honest input on your strengths.

  • Request feedback on areas for growth. Learning leads to confidence.

  • Let go of past criticism that was meant to tear you down, not build you up.

Challenge Yourself

  • Step outside your comfort zone. Approach new projects with a “learn as you go” mindset.

  • When an opportunity arises that excites you, go for it. The path of growth starts with discomfort.

  • Focus on acquiring skills and expanding your capabilities. Measure progress, not perfection.

Become Your Own Advocate

  • Prepare for interviews and reviews by practicing talking about your achievements.

  • When asked about yourself, confidently share your qualifications with pride.

  • Counter self-doubt with facts. Imposter syndrome diminishes when you tally tangible successes.

  • Remember that valuing your worth doesn’t make you arrogant. It makes you empowered.

Build Self-Efficacy

  • Identify barriers to self-confidence, like perfectionism. Work to overcome them.

  • Each small win builds your belief in yourself. Set manageable goals and celebrate progress.

  • Instead of negative self-talk, be your own encourager. “I’ve got this!”

  • Fake it until you make it. Act confident, even if you don’t always feel it. Perception drives reality.

Negotiate Job Offers

  • Research typical pay for your role. Benchmark yourself against industry ranges.

  • Prepare a script highlighting your value proposition.

  • Politely make a reasonable counteroffer instead of accepting the first figure.

  • Remember that the recruiter’s role is to get the best deal. You negotiating on your own behalf doesn’t make you pushy. It makes you worth your salt.

Putting It All Together

With consistent practice, you can retrain your brain to stop undervaluing yourself. Here are some final tips:

  • Make a commitment eac

how to avoid selling yourself short

When You Say “No” to New Opportunities

Believe me, I know how scary it can be to throw yourself into a new opportunity. I’m a total creature of habit. So, if I didn’t consciously push myself, I’d be perfectly content to just stay in my own little bubble where it’s safe and predictable.

However, if I stuck with my natural tendencies and was never willing to reach outside of my comfort zone, I know I’d have missed out on some awesome chances to grow and improve. For example, I wouldn’t be writing this article right now—that’s for sure.

You might think of saying “no” as a way to preserve your own ego. But, spending your entire life trying to tiptoe around possible disappointments is really only exhausting and counterproductive.

This one is simple! Just start saying yes—even if the very thought of it makes your mouth turn dry and your palms start to sweat. I know that sudden change in perspective can be a little (OK, a lot) terrifying. But, it’s also exciting! Plus, you’re sure to learn some valuable lessons along the way.

When You Play Down Your Own Accomplishments

Remember that LinkedIn user above that took time out of her day in order to send me an awesome compliment? My immediate inclination was to shoot down my own success, rather than simply own it, thank her, and move on.

I think this tendency is totally natural. Nobody wants to come off as self-righteous or egotistical. But, it’s important that you pay attention to those times when you tend to talk down your own accomplishments, and make every effort to cut yourself off. Just think—if you don’t think your own work is awesome, why should anybody else?

Accepting praise can be awkward. So, when in doubt, reply with a simple and heartfelt, “Thank you.” If you’re feeling extra brave, tack on a quick, “I worked really hard on that!”

Know Your Worth & Stop Selling Yourself Short


How do I stop selling myself short?

To keep from selling yourself short, it’s important to recognize your value and identify your positive traits. Here are several benefits of believing in your own value: Encourage others: By believing in yourself, you may be able to encourage individuals in your environment.

Why do I always sell myself short?

Consistently selling oneself short can result from staying within one’s comfort zone. By not taking risks or challenging ourselves, we remain in a space that’s familiar but not necessarily fulfilling. The lesson here is that growth requires discomfort.

How does one sell themselves short?

You assume all of your accomplishments happened by chance. – You brush off your accomplishments and assume you got lucky. You mistakenly think your skills are not valuable because you’re naturally good at them. You assume that because certain skills are easy for you, they’re not worth mentioning or celebrating.

What is it called when you sell yourself short?

To belittle oneself in judgment; to underestimate oneself and one’s abilities (and thus avoid being acknowledged to the deserved extent).

Why should you sell yourself short?

Being confident and honest about your skills will help others trust you and move your career forward. Selling yourself short is often a result of not believing that your skills, ideas, and experience is valuable.

Are You Selling Yourself Short in your career?

But, the reality is, whenever you sell yourself short, you’re subtly sabotaging your career opportunities and communicating to others that you don’t value yourself as much as you should. But, how do you stop if you don’t even realize you’re doing it? Here are 13 signs that you might be selling yourself short in your career:

How do I keep from selling myself short?

To keep from selling yourself short, it’s important to recognize your value and identify your positive traits. Here are several benefits of believing in your own value: Encourage others: By believing in yourself, you may be able to encourage individuals in your environment.

What is short selling & how does it work?

Short selling is a common tactic amongst stockbrokers. Basically, a trader will borrow and rapidly sell stock that they believe will decline in price. Once the stock price declines, they buy the stock back to replace what they borrowed — how much they make thus depends on how much the price has declined.

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