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The Importance of Your Sense of Self

Harrison Barnes
By Apr 24,2024
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A powerful sense of self will make all the difference in your life. You must understand that your sense of yourself and your capabilities come from inside of you, not from the external forces that have brought you to your current place in life. What you feel internally might be completely different from what the world is telling you, and you must learn to focus on the former rather than the latter.

Once, when I was around 17 years old, I was sitting in a car with a friend of mine, waiting for another group of kids. My friend was very wealthy and by this age had already inherited several million dollars–and he was very arrogant about this. In addition, he had been raised to think very highly of himself. He seemed to believe he had done the absolute best in everything he did. Even though he was not a great student, he reasoned that this did not matter, since the best students would one day be working for him. He had an incredible level of self-confidence, and people around him could never shake this, even if they tried. He had been beaten up at least a few times that I could remember, but he never seemed to care. His tremendous sense of self was internal to him and was unwavering. Everyone who knew this particular guy thought he would one day be extremely successful. His self-belief set him apart on so many levels from all other kids.

As we sat there in the car, we discussed our futures. He had big plans for himself, which included heading an investment bank in New York, going to a major business school, and generally taking on the world. When it came time for me to share my plans for the future, I still remember quite well what I said:

“I will be very happy if I get a three-bedroom house in a friendly neighborhood and can at least afford to travel once in a while,” I told him. “I really hope I can get a decent job when I get out of college.”

“It’s tough out there, but I am sure you will manage to get something,” he said.

I never forgot this particular conversation because at that time in my life this was all I expected for myself:

  • I thought my biggest challenge would be finding a job when I got out of college.
  • I never thought I would be an attorney.
  • I never thought I would even go to a good college.
  • I never thought I would leave Detroit–and I never really had big plans for myself.

My sense of who I was and what I could achieve was simply not at a high level. At some point, however, based on encouragement from my father, teachers, and others, I began to develop a stronger sense of self–a sense of self that encouraged me to aim high in my life and to believe that I was capable of incredible things. Over time, this sense of self began to stick, and it continued to grow for me. A strong sense of self is the most important possible thing you can possess, and developing a strong sense of self will change your life.

Do you think the close friends I had when I was 17 would have helped me develop this strong sense of self? In most cases, it is not our friends who will encourage and push us. It is not that our friends are trying to hurt us; it is just that, as much as they like us, they may not want us to change. For example, my friend at the time enjoyed being around people who looked up to him, and he avoided people who looked down on him. If I had changed then, the dynamic between us would have changed (and it eventually did, when I changed). People around you may want a certain level of control over their relationship with you in your career and life, and they want whatever makes them look and feel the best. While they may like it if you do well, their doing well is their priority. Please understand this: If you have a strong sense of self, this will alter the power balance in your relationships with many people around you. Therefore, so many people never change and reach their full potential.

Many children develop a strong sense of self, starting from the moment they are born, from their parents, who encourage them and help push them to do better and better. But it is not just parents who help us develop a strong sense of self. A strong sense of self comes from many areas in our lives and from the feedback we receive from the world:

  • Our Recognized Abilities Give Us a Sense of Self–If we are very intelligent and test well, we may feel smart, and this may contribute to a strong sense of self. If we are considered interesting or funny by others, or have been called industrious, inventive, and so forth, this may contribute to a strong sense of self.
  • Our Various Affiliations Give Us a Sense of Self–We may be members of a certain sports team, college, or other group that is interested in particular things.
  • Our Religion Gives Us a Sense of Self—If we are members of a certain religious group, this will give us a sense of self related to the religion.
  • Our Social Standing and Relationships Give Us a Sense of Self--We have a sense of self based on the people we are friends with and how we are regarded by others.
  • Our Occupation Gives Us a Sense of Self—Our jobs and what we do for a living give us a sense of self.
  • Our Families and Family Relationships Give Us a Sense of Self--Our wives or husbands, our parents and other relatives, all contribute to our sense of self.
  • Our Past Gives Us a Sense of Self—Things that have happened to us in the past and things that people may have said about us in the past may contribute to our sense of self.

When you get to know people, they will constantly tell you about themselves and various things they have done. I have heard people brag about being the best free-thrower on their basketball team, setting local records for shot put, getting the best score in their school on a standardized test, dating the homecoming queen, and more—often forty or more years after all this occurred. Why? These people’s sense of self is intertwined with things that they achieved decades ago. It is who they are and who they consider themselves to be.

Most of us rarely develop our sense of self deliberately. As children, we may further develop the characteristics for which our parents give us positive feedback, because we naturally seek acceptance, love, and protection from the people who provide us care. As we grow older, we do the same thing with the schools we attend and within our peer groups, where we also seek acceptance and protection. We may have different senses of self with our peers than we have at home. We may have a different sense of self on the athletic field than we have off the athletic field. In addition, our motivation may be affected by our sense of self. If we are told we are very smart by others, we may study more and work harder in school, because of having a sense of self that is strongly related to our academic skills. If we are given the impression that a certain behavior will improve our sense of self then we will probably engage in this behavior.

Recently my wife and I have watched a television show called Bait Car. The show is about the police parking a nice car in a poor neighborhood with the keys in it. The car always gets stolen on the show, and the police have a method for turning off the car as the car thieves are speeding away. In most instances, there is over one person involved in the theft, and sometimes kids talk other kids into stealing the car. The kid that ultimately steals the car usually does so because he wants to be accepted by the other kids. In some neighborhoods and around certain people, our sense of self might be related to committing crimes in order to be accepted.

What is inside of you, what you feel and believe, may be entirely different from what the rest of the world is telling you. If you have a strong sense of self, you can overcome nearly any obstacle out there without being concerned with anything—except for what is inside of you, what you feel, and what you believe. We all think about ourselves and our lives in a certain way, and this ultimately ends up controlling the future of our lives. Our beliefs about ourselves have a tremendous amount to do with what ends up happening to us, what we accomplish, and the quality of our life.

Inside each and every one of us, there needs to be an understanding of who we are. Our sense of self underlies our internal strength as human beings, and it enables us to accomplish what we desire. Our sense of self needs to give us the ability to power through–no matter what others may say about us, and no matter what sort of feedback we may get from the world.

Developing a strong sense of self enables us to be happier and more successful and to live better lives. Unfortunately, most of us do not live our lives in accordance with our own sense of self and, instead, our sense of self is based too much on what others are doing out in the world, what others have, and what others say about us–these are externals that are irrelevant to what is really inside of us. If you have a strong sense of self, then what you do for a living, your past, your religion, your parents, your affiliations, your recognized abilities, and more should not affect your thoughts about what you can accomplish.

Having a powerful sense of self is going to make all the difference in your life. You need to understand that your thoughts about yourself and your capabilities need to come from what is inside of you, not from societal structures that may have led you to believe who you are.


A powerful sense of self will make all the difference in your life. You understand that your sense of yourself and your capabilities come from inside of you, not from the external forces that have brought you to your current place in life. What you feel internally might differ completely from what the world is telling you, and you must learn to focus on the former rather than the latter.

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About Harrison Barnes

Harrison Barnes is the Founder of BCG Attorney Search and a successful legal recruiter himself. Harrison is extremely committed to and passionate about the profession of legal placement. His firm BCG Attorney Search has placed thousands of attorneys. BCG Attorney Search works with attorneys to dramatically improve their careers by leaving no stone unturned in a search and bringing out the very best in them. Harrison has placed the leaders of the nation’s top law firms, and countless associates who have gone on to lead the nation’s top law firms. There are very few firms Harrison has not made placements with. Harrison’s writings about attorney careers and placements attract millions of reads each year. He coaches and consults with law firms about how to dramatically improve their recruiting and retention efforts. His company LawCrossing has been ranked on the Inc. 500 twice. For more information, please visit Harrison Barnes’ bio.

About BCG Attorney Search

BCG Attorney Search matches attorneys and law firms with unparalleled expertise and drive that gets results. Known globally for its success in locating and placing attorneys in law firms of all sizes, BCG Attorney Search has placed thousands of attorneys in law firms in thousands of different law firms around the country. Unlike other legal placement firms, BCG Attorney Search brings massive resources of over 150 employees to its placement efforts locating positions and opportunities that its competitors simply cannot. Every legal recruiter at BCG Attorney Search is a former successful attorney who attended a top law school, worked in top law firms and brought massive drive and commitment to their work. BCG Attorney Search legal recruiters take your legal career seriously and understand attorneys. For more information, please visit www.BCGSearch.com.

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23 Responses to “ The Importance of Your Sense of Self”
  1. Avatar Mamunul says:

    This post is some learning things. By reading this one can know about the inside of feelings, sense. One of the sentence which is very important is Having a powerful sense of self is going to make all the difference in your life.

  2. Avatar Anchul says:

    Sound like you were very lucky to have a supportive father. I agree that friends during the teen years and later on usually pretend to be supportive but only if they feel superior.

  3. Avatar kusanag1 says:

    nice post this post fery helpfull to me to carefully to find a job ,and how to come at peopple , nice review my friend wish you success do not ever get bored of writing my friend

  4. Avatar M. Fazid says:

    we must have a big dream, to be able to increase self-awareness of our own inner. besides that, neighborhood greatly affects your sense of self. if our neighborhood does not support us, then we will experience a crisis of self-awareness.

  5. Avatar Bris says:

    Great review.I think this article should be read by every father,It may help to widen their mind towards children

  6. Avatar Larry Berman says:

    As usual, Harrison Barnes provides a very relevant and important realization about the importance of self awareness and self-development—understanding one’s inner self. However, its not always an easy process. Parents who focus on their own needs, denying their children’s sense of self, and societal forces that demand acceptance and conformance often conflict with one’s one self awareness and sense of self-purpose. However, grasping and keeping one’s sense of self is extremely important as we forge through life—seeking a sense of self-satisfaction and accomplishment in our life’s work.

  7. Avatar alex says:

    Many years ago, when I was still in junior high school, my project partner and I decided to be different and submit a self constructed electric bell for our Science project. We were both excited and expected good grades for that assignment. To our disappointment, not only did we nearly flunked it, we were accused of passing off someone else’s project as ours because it looked “too ancient”. Of course it looked old. We made it using some recycled materials found in our backyard!

  8. Avatar mikemac says:

    A sense of self does not close a person off to the opinions of others. Suggestions and insights, especially from those who know us well and whom we trust, are valuable for our personal growth. What a sense of self does is steel us against the unnecessary suffering criticism and feedback often cause. While we all thought well of Mauricio, I doubt it would have bothered him the least if one of us had been critical of him. He might have benefited from some instruction offered, but his feelings wouldn’t have been hurt.

  9. Avatar jimketty says:

    I had never thought about sense of self that way. The concept became real to me in Mauricio. He moved as someone supremely confident in himself and his abilities, but he was never cocky or superior. Mauricio knew himself and his abilities and that was enough for him. He seemed completely comfortable with his life and surroundings and exhibited a kind of centeredness that I have seldom seen since.

  10. Avatar Hasib Ahmed says:

    Your father is very supportive. To say truly, my parents is not like your father. In my life i saw a very few people have the mentality like your father. Thanks for sharing this.

  11. Avatar Stewart says:

    This may sound sexist but my intent is to explain my own experiences and the differences between the needs of a yound man versus a young woman in their teens. I too was surrounded by a wide variety of friends in high school ranging from the Ivy League bound to high school drop-outs. My father avoided contact with me and I don’t understand why even a couple of decades. I do know that his lack of support or interest in my life caused me to look to my peers for male bonding. More often than not, I found most acceptance in the drop-out street crowd. They provided the male bonding and sense of family that I lacked at home (I didn’t have any brothers). I have no doubt that my peer crowd shaped my youthful charatcer and adult perspectives. If only my dad even attempted to be a positive part of my life I am certain that I could have avoided much of my problems in later life. Parental relations are never perfect, but I hope that live in gratitude that you had a degree of paternal support. As a current father, I now know that the greatest joy is to be a supportive parent and watch my children grow. It is an experience that can never be replaced by money, possessions or the phantom prestige should my children enter a “top” school. If your dad is still alive, I hope that your relationship continues to florish. A parent’s deepest and most pure joy is to know that they have done well by their children.

    God Bless Harrison.

  12. Avatar Ayesha says:

    You are a great writer, inspirational. Thanks for the affirmations and reminders.

  13. Avatar Margo Sarvari says:

    Dear Mr. Barnes: I have never provided commentary on anything that I have read on the internet; until now, that is.
    Your written words enveloped much of what is covered in a “psychology, 101” class, yet, the “feeling” that jumps off the platform and into the readers heart (at least reader’s heart) is stirring; both in a good way and in a poking way.
    You could have simply stated: “You are what you think you are.” This, however, would have meant nothing.
    Thanks for helping me to “revisit” where my true sense of self be derived from.
    Great job!

  14. Avatar David S says:

    This is a very thoughtful and timely piece. Thank you for sharing.

  15. Avatar Scott Hesse says:

    Nice article. In the last seven months I have gone through more personal and professional disasters than anyone should have to endure. Two weeks ago I decided to quit feeling sorry for myself, quit whining and be “Scott” again. My attitude immediately changed. I got a good nights sleep for the first time in months. I have landed a good client and I am doing good work again. Self worth makes a huge difference.

  16. Avatar How to be self employed says:

    Interesting Post , Many thanks. Staying in The Highlands of Scotland it’s great to stumble upon a useful sitelike yours, especially with useful posts like the one above. Many thanks and keep up the great work.

  17. Avatar Nick Empson says:

    I really enjoyed this article. It is very powerful and gives one a lot to think on. N

  18. Avatar Kavitha says:

    That was a provoking piece of writing. It gave me positive energy. Thanks for writing

  19. Avatar GT Curtis says:

    Thank You, I needed that!

  20. Avatar GT Curtis says:

    Thank You, I needed that!

  21. Avatar Paolo Arao says:

    Very insightful. Excellent article to reflect on. Just a thought, is there any difference between Sense of Self, Self-Worth and Self Esteem?

  22. Avatar Emm says:

    I don’t think you can ever get a true sense of self from anything external. Those are just attachments that come and go. I think a true sense of self comes from within.

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