“I just want to be acknowledged for what I have done” – oh the amount of times I’ve heard this sentence from my clients and caught myself thinking it in previous jobs!
Isn’t it fascinating that so many of us seek acknowledgement from other people, rather than being satisfied with our own judgement? Many of us are familiar with this urge to be appreciated by our bosses for the work we do. It is almost as if our work is only great when someone else says it is. That becomes a hopeless pursuit though, as it is not within our control what others say ( though they may well be thinking it). So how can we get rid of this need for outside validation and become an ambassador of ourselves?
Seeking praise through others is a way of our mind telling us that something bigger in life isn’t quite right. It goes back to how fulfilled we are at work or personally, how confident we feel in ourselves or how balanced our work and life is. Our mind translates this nagging feeling into a story that we keep telling ourselves until we believe it. “You’re not good enough” or “the others are all further in life than you are”, or whatever the story is.
The good news
Firstly, I want to reassure you that so many of us (!!!) have periods of self-doubt or sadness. When going through a break-up, losing a job or experiencing another life-changing event, it is only natural to feel emotional and this may well impact our confidence at work or other areas of life. Important here is to distinguish between periods of this feeling and constant unhappiness, which could hint to depression (in which case one should seek professional help in form of a therapist).
Secondly, we can train our minds to become more positive. I read about the Hebb’s rule, which suggests that “neurons that fire together, wire together”, which means the more we do something, the more it become hard wired in our brain. And while lots of us experience this phenomenon with negative thoughts, we can make a conscious effort to fire positive thoughts instead and through that, train our mind and create a mental shift.
Here are some ideas on how to feed your brain with positivity
These are suggestions and you can pick one or two to start with. Small steps will eventually lead to a healthier and more stable mindset that doesn’t seek outside validation so desperately anymore.
This may make some of you cringe, but practicing gratitude is actually an incredibly powerful tool to retrain our minds. It can come in the very conscious form of writing a journey with everything you’re grateful for or a lighter version, such as giving it a minute before falling asleep to reflect on the day and what you enjoyed most about it.
Taking stock of the things you’re proud of
This is an exercise I do with some of my career coaching clients. They reflect on achievements and recognitions they’re proud of, both in a work context and personally. This helps build our neurons to remember the positive times and consciously helps to strengthen our confidence.
Do something nice for someone else
We all feel good about doing good for others. So why not kill two birds with one stone and consciously do something that makes you feel good and at the same time help someone out? This could be going the extra mile for a friend who needs you, having a chat with someone on the streets, or sending flowers to someone you love.
Become aware of your inner critic
When feeling insecure, our inner critic becomes very loud and gives us all sorts of tips what we should do in order to protect ourselves. While all of this is comfortable in the short term, it actually doesn’t serve us in respect to having a healthy and confident mindset. It keeps us nice and cozy in our little comfort zone.
Becoming aware of our inner critic doesn’t make it go away, but we can learn to manage it better. And a first step towards this is noticing when it appears. Here is a whole article I’ve written on this subject.
With our busy lives and the constant exposure to noise, stress and exuberant media, there is hardly space for our mind to process. Meditation is an incredibly powerful tool that teaches us to distinguish thoughts (or the stories we tell ourselves) from real presence. I personally like headspace for a guided meditation, but there are lots of different ways to meditate.