Sunday, September 27, 2020
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Defining Self-Worth

The COVID-19 pandemic has confined us into our homes. Though we still have professional and academic responsibilities to fulfill, the extra time at home may make it easier to communicate with friends more frequently through quick texts and calls. It is always a joy to connect with quality friends, especially since speaking with them can make social distancing more bearable. However, individuals with little to no social networks may not have this positive outlet. If you fall into this category and feel inadequate or frustrated, it is important to remember that the amount of friends you have does not bestow individual self-worth.

Friends are fun to spend time with, to share personal accomplishments with and are a breath of fresh air during troubling times. However, these social networks can only do so much. They cannot, and should not, serve as a measurement of self-worth. Personal value and our self-worth are determined by our actions.

Do we treat others with kindness and respect? Do we, at times, practice generosity and support for those in need? Do we actively and consciously make a genuine effort in professional and academic circles? These factors measure our self-worth and symbolize who we are as people.

Spreading kindness and positivity not only demonstrates the content of our character but also can improve our moods and benefit the people around us. Before I transferred to UCI, I helped my fellow classmates navigate complex college applications, connected them with valuable campus resources, and remedied any academic perplexities and insecurities they possessed. This provided me with profound fulfillment and helped my classmates meet their academic goals. Engaging in altruistic behavior can create immense joy and show our true colors.

Performance in professional and academic settings can also unveil important traits. The level of effort we pour into these areas, for example, illustrates our work ethic. Do we go the extra mile to produce quality work and a respectable GPA? Or are we careless, lazy individuals with a substandard portfolio and academic performance? This displays how hard we work and how far we’re willing to go to make something of ourselves.

Recent UCI MD/MBA graduate Oscar Hernandez is a prime example of work ethic and kindness. Hernandez is an undocumented student and after completing his undergraduate education, he wanted to give back by attending medical school and business school. 

“When I started getting older, I realized that the best way to give back would be if I pursued medicine and one day became a doctor to help communities just like my own,” Hernandez said in an interview with UCI School of Business.

Completing these degrees was by no means an easy feat. Being undocumented, Hernandez faced more obstacles than other students pursuing the same education. Unlike most of his peers, Hernandez was unable to pull out loans to pay tuition fees, so he had to find a new way to pay for his pursuit in MD and MBA programs. He managed to do it through fellowships, scholarships and crowdfunding. 

Dr. Hernandez overcame adversity and became the first UCI DACA student to graduate in the MD/MBA program. His resiliency, altruistic motivations, hard work and a litany of other commendable qualities paints a strong picture of who he is.

The way we treat people as well as our work ethic in professional and academic arenas are a reflection of who we are. Friendships are powerful and influential, but they do not indicate what we’re worth. Only kindness and hard work can do that. We are the ones who create our own value. Our friends, family and peers can never take that away from us.

Thomas Solano is an Opinion Intern for the 2020 spring quarter. He can be reached at twsolano@uci.edu.