Don't Sell Yourself Short: Definition, Meaning and Origin

Last Updated on
June 18, 2023

"Don't sell yourself short" is a well-known idiomatic phrase in English. It's a motivational injunction used to encourage individuals not to undervalue their abilities or accomplishments. It's often invoked when someone underestimates their potential or does not give themselves the credit they deserve for their skills, talents, or achievements. The essence of this idiom lies in its call for self-belief and the acknowledgment of one's worth. It's a reminder to recognize and honor one's value, even if others don't.

In short:

"Don't sell yourself short" means not to underestimate or undervalue one's abilities, talents, or achievements.

What Does "Don't Sell Yourself Short" Mean?

The idiom "Don't sell yourself short" carries a potent message of self-worth and empowerment. Expressions related to this idiom include "Believe in yourself," "Know your worth," and "Don't undersell yourself." These idioms likewise highlight the importance of self-belief and self-value.

  • Self-Value: The phrase encourages individuals to appreciate and value their unique abilities and accomplishments. It prompts us to have faith in our potential.
  • Positivity: This expression often serves as a reminder to maintain a positive self-perception, especially when faced with challenging situations or self-doubt.
  • Empowerment: Used in a supportive context, it acts as an empowering phrase, encouraging individuals to seize opportunities and believe in their capabilities.

Where Does "Don't Sell Yourself Short" Come From?

The phrase "Don't sell yourself short" is believed to have originated from the world of finance, specifically stock trading. The term "selling short" in the stock market refers to a strategy in which an investor sells shares that they do not yet own, anticipating a decrease in the share price. When you sell short, you're betting against yourself, hoping for failure rather than success. The financial practice of short-selling dates back to the 17th century. As per historical records, the first known instance of short selling occurred in the Dutch market in the early 1600s. In the context of the idiom "Don't sell yourself short", the transition from financial terminology to motivational language is not documented clearly. However, it has been adopted into general parlance sometime in the early 20th century.

Historical Example

"Don't sell yourself short. Your friends who know you will back you to the limit."

— from "Popular Science" magazine, 1940.

10 Examples of "Don't Sell Yourself Short" in Sentences

Here are some examples of how "Don't sell yourself short" can be used in various sentences and contexts:

  • After landing a new job offer, my friend reminded me, Don't sell yourself short; negotiate for the salary you deserve. As we parted ways, I waved and said, Till we meet again!
  • Don't sell yourself short; you're more than qualified for this job.
  • I know you're nervous about the competition, but don't sell yourself short you're a fantastic athlete.
  • Even though I long for a higher salary, I don't sell myself short by accepting a job that doesn't value my skills and experience.
  • You shouldn't sell yourself short. Your artwork is amazing!
  • He always sells himself short when it comes to his cooking skills, but he's an excellent chef.
  • When it comes to your accomplishments, please don't sell yourself short; you have no words for the pride I feel.
  • Don't sell yourself short on your college applications. Highlight all of your achievements and skills.
  • Don't sell yourself short; you've achieved so much at such a young age. It's only a quarter to one, and you've already accomplished great things today.
  • Don't sell yourself short; you're a brilliant musician, and your performances are always spectacular.

Examples of "Don't Sell Yourself Short" in Pop Culture

The idiom "Don't sell yourself short" has made its way into various aspects of pop culture.

Here are some examples:

  • In the film "The Pursuit of Happyness," the character Chris Gardner exemplifies the essence of "Don't sell yourself short" as he refuses to undervalue his potential despite numerous challenges.
  • The popular TV show "Friends" often showcases moments where characters are encouraged not to sell themselves short in their personal and professional lives.
  • Country artist Lee Ann Womack in her song "I Hope You Dance," lyrically advises her listeners to "never sell yourself short."
  • Author Stephen King in his book "On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft," advises aspiring writers not to sell themselves short.
  • The comic strip "Calvin and Hobbes" has moments where Calvin is urged not to sell himself short when he doubts his imaginative escapades.
  • The television series "Grey's Anatomy" often features characters reminding each other not to sell themselves short when facing self-doubt in their medical expertise.
  • In the animated film "Ratatouille," Remy, the rat chef, embodies the "Don't sell yourself short" spirit, refusing to undervalue his culinary skills due to his species.
  • Podcaster and author Tim Ferriss often encourages his listeners and readers to "never sell themselves short" on his popular podcast, "The Tim Ferriss Show."

Other Ways to Say "Don't Sell Yourself Short"

There are several alternative expressions that convey a similar meaning to "Don't sell yourself short."

Some of these include:

  • You undervalue your capabilities.
  • Don't underestimate yourself.
  • You're downplaying your talents.
  • Give yourself some credit.
  • Stop belittling your accomplishments.
  • Don't discount your achievements.
  • Stop minimizing your potential.
  • You're neglecting to recognize your own worth.
  • Don't overlook your skills.
  • Stop diminishing your success.

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Don't Sell Yourself Short"

  • What is the meaning of "Don't sell yourself short"?

This idiom means not to underestimate or undervalue your abilities, talents, or achievements.

  • Where does the idiom "Don't sell yourself short" come from?

It's believed to have originated from the stock market term "selling short".

  • How is the phrase "Don't sell yourself short" used?

It is used as a motivational phrase to encourage individuals not to underestimate their capabilities and potential.

  • Can "Don't sell yourself short" be used in a negative context?

Typically, this idiom is used in a positive and supportive context to uplift and motivate people.

  • Is "Don't sell yourself short" a commonly used idiom?

Yes, it is a commonly used idiom in the English language, particularly in contexts involving self-improvement and personal development.

  • What are some related expressions to "Don't sell yourself short"?

Expressions such as "Believe in yourself," "Know your worth," and "Don't undersell yourself" carry similar meanings.

  • Can this idiom be used in formal writing?

While it's primarily used in casual and motivational contexts, it can be used in formal writing if it fits the tone and subject of the piece.

  • Can this idiom be used universally in all English-speaking countries?

Yes, "Don't sell yourself short" is recognized and understood in English-speaking countries worldwide.

  • Are there any popular songs that use the phrase "Don't sell yourself short"?

Yes, there are several songs that incorporate this phrase. One example is Lee Ann Womack's "I Hope You Dance."

  • What is a simple synonym for "Don't sell yourself short"?

A simple synonym could be "Don't underestimate yourself."

Final Thoughts About "Don't Sell Yourself Short"

The idiom "Don't sell yourself short" offers a powerful reminder of the importance of self-value and self-belief. It urges us to acknowledge our potential and give ourselves the credit we deserve. This idiom can be a motivating mantra in our personal and professional lives, helping us to overcome self-doubt and seize opportunities with confidence.

  • "Don't sell yourself short" encourages self-value and self-belief.
  • It originated from the stock market term "selling short."
  • Related expressions include "Believe in yourself," "Know your worth," and "Don't undersell yourself."
  • This idiom is universally understood in English-speaking countries and is often used in motivational and personal development contexts.

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