Beans & Rice for the Soul

teaching, learning and living around the world

What fuels self-worth? 691st place, that’s what.


During my senior year of high school, I distinctly remember having a conversation with one of my closest friends about how we weren’t really ‘great’ at anything.

I was pretty good at school- got a mix of As and Bs.
I was pretty good at music- played the piano but wasn’t particularly ‘advanced.’
I was pretty good at soccer- was on the team but didn’t ‘start.’
I did pretty good on my SATs- got a 1290 but so badly wished I’d broken 1300.
I did pretty good at girl scouting- got my gold award but not with a ‘stand out’ project.

14 years later I’ve begun to realize that I’m very proud to have been pretty good at all those things.  My collection of pretty good achievements have fueled my self-worth.

A colleague of mine recently told me that I do not appear to have one ounce of imposter syndrome, which is found more often in women than in men. “High-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a fraud.”

I think I don’t appear to have imposter syndrome for three reasons:


I don’t think of myself as high-achieving in the first place. I’m much more of a pretty good achiever.  My most recent pretty good achievement was finishing my first half marathon!

In a race with 710 people I finished 691st!

I’m so proud of that stat.  I’m not afraid of being exposed as a fraud because I’m never striving to be the best, I’m aiming for personal-pretty-good. I deserved to be at that race and achieve my pretty good goal of finishing just as much as anybody else who paid their 75 bucks!



I think aiming for pretty good on a regular basis allows me to do things with so much more joy because I feel proud of accomplishments and am humbled by the room for improvement- all in one fell swoop.


Before I finished 691st, Beefy ran back from the finish line she’d already crossed and jogged next to me for the last quarter mile, cheering me on.  How about that?!

My family, friends and colleagues, for my entire life, have encouraged me to speak up, to go for it, to lean in and lean out and do what I want 24 x 7.  They’re also not afraid to give me real talk feedback.

When I first moved to Boston, my boss and my boss’s boss encouraged me to share my ideas.  They thanked me when I did and if ever I sat through a long meeting without contributing they’d ask, “Sara, what do you think?”  When they noticed me using language to undercut myself- like saying, “I have no idea how to even start doing xyz,” they called me out and taught me how to instead lead with, “I think I could start by doing x and y but I’m not sure what the next step after that should be.”  They cheered me on. They kept it real.

I’ve chosen to hang around the friends and colleagues who like to cheer and like to be real.  I was lucky enough to be born into a family who does the same.

Planning a wedding requires all kinds of real talk feedback. And walking down the aisle and seeing a sanctuary filled with our people… cheering us on… feeling worthy of all that love was a serious boost.


Last weekend when Anga and I drove up to New Hampshire for a lobster feast with family I hadn’t seen in a long time- I turned completely introspective.  The entire hour long car ride I was silent.  Thinking, visualizing, practicing conversations in my head. Preparing.

I very consciously prepare-  I visualize myself being confident right before situations where I’m worried that I won’t be.  Although I mostly appear confident on the outside, I get plenty nervous about plenty of situations.

A few weeks ago I gave myself lots of pep talks before a big meeting at work.

I watched this clip like 5 times and repeated after Michelle Obama, first lady full of grace-

if I want to keep my sanity there’s only one thing I can do
have faith in god’s plan for me
ignore all of the noise and be true to myself
and the rest will work itself out

I channelled my inner Shonda Rhimes by doing lots of Amy Cuddy superwoman poses.
I planned to wear orange just so I could feel more like Angela Merkel in this photo.


So now you know all my secrets.

1. I aim for personal-pretty-goods. I remember I am worthy of achieving whatever goals I define for myself.
2. I surround myself with people who both cheerlead and keep it real. I remember I am worthy of love and criticism.
3. I prepare to be confident. I picture it, I pose, I practice.  I remember I am worthy of the space I occupy.

The more I do these three things, the more my self-worth grows.  That doesn’t mean the doubt and anxiety goes away though. Like so many women, I’m still afraid!  Afraid of ambition, afraid to ask for what I need, afraid of criticism, afraid of occupying too much space.  I myself still say ‘sorry’ when other people bump into me on the T.  What am I apologizing for?! Existing?!

The more my self-worth grows, the better I become at ignoring those noisy inner fears.
The more my self-worth grows, the greater my pretty-goods become.

My greatest hope is that over the course of my life, all of my pretty-goods and preparation will add up to a nobel-prize worthy career in education.  And just in the past year I’ve realized that growing my own self-worth is an important part of that journey.

This article reminds me of that journey.”When you have a big love for your country or a cause, you are loving something that transcends a lifetime. You are pursuing some universal ideal and seeking excellence. A big love involves using power well, seeking honor and glory and being worthy of them.”

It’s not about the nobel prize,
it’s about the worthiness.



5 comments on “What fuels self-worth? 691st place, that’s what.

  1. Lonnie Rich
    May 31, 2016

    Very good.

  2. Sally (Mom)
    June 1, 2016

    Love your blog Sara, I’d say it’s more than a ‘pretty good’ blog, you can put it on the list of things you’re ‘great’ at. Your writing ability is good, but more important is what you choose to write about and share! Another great blog piece here. Also, all those things you think you are pretty good at – there are a lot of people who wish they could be even half that good at those things!.

    No matter the person and no matter the person’s visible and notable achievements, self worth is a very individualized and internalized thing (as you have described). What’s pretty good to one may be great to another, and what’s great to one may only be pretty good to another.

    You’re a great blogger. Congratulations on being 691st. 🏅

  3. Nancy Rowe
    June 1, 2016

    You are so much more than you know! I love who you are becoming! I look forward to continue following your growth and hope to see you the next time we visit Daniel in Boston! Congratulations on your win! I believe determination is the key to all good things and you have it! ☺️

    • Sara Rich
      June 1, 2016

      Thanks so much Nancy! I’d love to see you the next time you’re here!!

  4. Susan Gustafson
    June 2, 2016

    Sarah, I like your honesty. That is the only thing that we can hold up for ourselves. This integrity of person becomes evident to all we come in contact with.

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This entry was posted on May 31, 2016 by in Uncategorized.
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