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Jamie Kern Lima Says This Is the One Thing You Need to Change Your Life

Jamie Kern Lima Says This Is the One Thing You Need to Change Your Life

By Stacey Lindsay
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For most of her adult life, Jamie Kern Lima believed that if she kept achieving success, she'd quell the empty feeling inside her. But she learned that her approach was wrong. "I spent decades believing that. But I didn't realize there was a difference between self-confidence and self-worth," she says. 

The self-worth part changed her life. Kern Lima saw that no matter how successful she was—and she is uber-successful, with a resumé that includes TV journalist, entrepreneur, and founder of the L'Oréal-acquired IT Cosmetics—she still didn't feel worthy. She didn't have, as she says, a "deep inner knowing" that she deserved good things because of who she is as a person and not what she does. Once realized, Kern Lima's world turned Technicolor. 

Now, she wants every person to see that self-worth is one of the most vital pieces to living a whole, authentic life. The question is: How do we lean into our self-worth and grab life with both hands? Thankfully, Kern Lima paves the way in her new aptly book, Worthy: How to Believe You Are Enough and Transform Your Life—and she chats with The Sunday Paper to offer us her wisdom.


Jamie, how are you seeing people lack self-worth today?

So many of us don't believe we're enough. So many of us are walking around not feeling enough, and we keep trying to fix the problem with things that often build self-confidence but don't build self-worth. We have big goals in life. We think, once I get that fitness score, once I get those six-pack abs, once I get that dream job, or once I get married and have kids, then I will be fulfilled and happy. So, we do things to get there that might build self-confidence, which is great, and we often grow from it and contribute to something bigger than ourselves, but when we arrive at the goal, we still feel like something's missing or that we're not enough. Then, we think the solution is to achieve more and to level up. 

I did that for decades—always thinking something was missing, and I needed to do more and please more people. It was a pursuit of external things—and it was because I didn't feel worthy.  

What is the difference between self-confidence and self-worth, and why is this so critical?

Self-confidence is based on what's going on for us on the outside. 

Self-worth is the deep internal knowing that we're worthy of love and belonging exactly as we are.

Many people may not realize there's a difference. And they may wonder, Why should I care about it? But when you realize that a lack of self-worth is why you are perpetually unfulfilled and feel like you're not enough, you see how important self-worth is. Our self-worth is our feelings in every area of life. We often see amazing people in bad relationships or situations where people mistreat them, and we think, how can that be? And then you see it's because of a lack of self-worth. So many people in all types of roles are crushing it. These people have self-confidence but still live their lives hiding in plain sight. What I mean by that is they're not showing up—in a room, in their career, in their relationship, in their friendships—as the fullest expression of who they are. They're showing up as their representatives and dimming their own light. The main underlying reason we do that is if we don't believe we are enough. We think that we should show up as the person we think will be loved and accepted because we believe deep down that we're unworthy of being who we really are. 

You are so raw about your journey in having self-confidence but lack in self-worth: You'd built a hugely successful cosmetics company, you landed on the Forbes list, you met Oprah and got her number, but through all of this, you didn't feel worthy. What was that like?

I remember sitting alone as a little girl watching Oprah in our living room, and I prayed and dared to believe that one day, I would meet her. And to have that happen 39 years later, I was meeting my hero! Then I got her cell number and did not call her for four years. In that four-year window, I told myself all the stories, like I'm sure so many people want something from her, so I'll prove that I don't need anything. Then, at the four-year mark, it hit me like a big aha moment. I realized I hadn't called her because, deep down inside, I didn't believe I was worthy of being her friend. 

I remember that day, turning down the volume of my doubting mind and turning up the volume of my knowing soul because my soul, my truth, my gut, my intuition, my deep knowing knows I'm a kick-ass friend. I had to lean on that to remind myself of my real identity and pick up the phone to call her for the first time. That's also why I became obsessed with studying self-worth. I realized how important it is. If you don't know about [low self-worth], it's probably ruining so much in your life. It's a big deal. 

How does low self-worth show up in our lives?

It shows up if we're stuck and don't know why. This could be when we know we're meant to write a book but don't know why we haven't done it. Or if we're working a job, we don't love knowing we're born to run our own company. Or we want to form adult friendships, but we're not getting online or getting out to meet people. We tell ourselves stories, like we have to get more experience and more skill sets. Sure, sometimes that's true, but people are usually stuck because they don't believe they're worthy.

Another way low to medium self-worth shows up is we will actually go for the things, put ourselves out there, write the book, get online, but then hit a ceiling or sabotage it. We never send the book out, or we bring a business to a certain level, but we can't level up to the next level, and we don't know why. When it comes to dating, we'll go on dating apps, meet people, connect with a great potential partner, and then put them in the friend zone. 

Another way, and this is for people pleasers and high achievers, is that we will go for the thing and make it all happen. It will look great on the outside, and everyone tells us ‘great job,’ but we still feel like it's not enough. We feel like something's missing when we reach the goal or next level. So, we perpetually continue to achieve more and more while always feeling like something's missing. 

As we grow older, often we may think that we have these things, like self-worth, dialed in. But the unfortunate truth is a lack of self-worth can plague us at any age, whether we're 18 or 75. 

Yes, for sure. But there is good news: You're never too young and never too old to start building your self-worth. Because here's the beautiful part about it: This is not something that you have to learn. This is a journey of unlearning all the lies that lead to self-doubt and igniting the truth that wakes up worthiness. 

The most beautiful thing is nobody can give us this worthiness, and no one can take it away. Every person is innately fully worthy. 

In your book, you write about labels and the meaning we attach to them. How can we reframe this?

So somebody may tell themselves I'm too old, or I'm too young. Well, what meaning are you attaching to that? And what is that idea or that lie costing you? As human beings, we're wired to avoid pain at all costs. We think we're too old, we'll be judged, fail, or don't have what it takes. We attach so much pain to things. But I write that it's important to reframe that and consider it as, What is believing that costing me? And what is it going to cost me if I keep believing that my age is somehow an issue for the next five years? When we reframe it that way, the pain of regret usually far outweighs what would happen if we really launched that business in our 70s and it failed or if we got on the dating app in our 80s. 

A lie I had to unlearn was that my weight determines my worth. For so much of my life, I was waiting on my weight to live my best life, and I was missing out on so many things. I finally overcame that by flipping the whole thing around, and instead of worrying about what I look like or who's judging me, I thought, Wait a minute, what is this costing me? And I realized it was costing me memories, saying yes to invitations, having fun at social events, and experiencing joy from swimming with people. So the pain of regret of missing out on life became far more important than whether someone judged my cellulite jiggling joyfully.

What are a few more tools for building self-worth?

You can start with awareness. Knowing that self-worth is the thing you haven't been able to solve because you've been trying to solve it the wrong way—that awareness is huge. 

Another one of my favorite self-worth shortcuts is for anyone who practices faith. Anytime you doubt you're enough, catch yourself and remind yourself of what God says about you: that you're fearfully and wonderfully made in his image. Of course, this is for whatever particular faith someone practices. Many women and men say they believe [in God] but walk around thinking they're not enough. But if you truly believe you're made in God's image but you doubt you have what it takes, you're trusting your own thoughts and doubting God's word. So, whenever I'm about to go into a room, walk on a set, whatever it might be, I stop and ask myself, Who am I doubting? And I decide to trust my creator over my own thoughts. 

I also love the idea of 'you're not crazy, you're just first, which I write about in chapter three. We think the things about us that are odd, strange, or quirky are what's wrong with us. But actually, those are the things that are most right with us. I love reminding everyone that you are the first and ever only you that has ever been created and existed. So, when you do show up as who you authentically are, don't be surprised if not everyone gets you. They've never seen another you before! I don't care how many other people have tried the same idea, made the same product, or written the same book, it's never been done by you before. 

I had this happen so many times when building a cosmetics brand. People didn't believe it was going to work. And I knew there were millions of foundations and concealers out there. I say this to help people remember not to be surprised if not everyone gets you immediately. If you show up as who you authentically are, in the fullness of who you are, there is nothing wrong with you. You are not crazy; you are first!

And lastly, focus on your good intentions. We inherently believe people with good intentions are worthy and deserving. So, when we start to focus on our own good intentions and really pay attention, no matter the outcome of what we do, our self-worth increases. 

Click here to get your copy!

Jamie Kern Lima is a self-made entrepreneur, champion of women, philanthropist, keynote speaker and Co-founder of IT Cosmetics, a company she started in her living room and sold to L’Oreal for $1.2 Billion. She is an active investor in more than 15 companies.

Stacey Lindsay

Stacey Lindsay is a journalist and Senior Editor at The Sunday Paper. A former news anchor and reporter, Stacey is passionate about covering women's issues. Learn more:

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