How to fight the need to be validated at work and in life
The need for validation is one that many, if not most of us, experience in our work and life. After all, it feels good to be recognized and validated at work and in life by our friends, family, peers and others. In your career, this need for validation may express itself in your need to have your work and accomplishments recognized by your team, managers and others around you. In our personal lives, it comes most often as a need to have our choices, ideas and even personality accepted and validated by others, especially those who are closest to us.
However, this need of validation also comes at a cost, especially for us as working women. It makes us vulnerable to criticism, negative comments, and even jealousy and ill intentions from those around us. In the era of social media especially, where most people sometimes share the most intimate parts of their lives expecting clicks and comments signifying approval, admiration and even envy at times, it can be difficult to escape this need for validation. We feel like if our parents and siblings are not on board with our careers or our next entrepreneurial idea, that there must be something wrong with us. We think that because our personal lifestyle choices, from the way we dress to the relationships we choose to have, are not widely approved, they must not be that great.
As a working woman and a working mom, I’ve often struggled with this need for validation. I was born and raised in my beautiful home country of Senegal, where women unfortunately did not have much of a voice back then, pretty much like in the world. In addition to this, cultural values and traditions also imposed on many of us, from the right age to be married, to the right choice of work, to the right age to bear children and how to raise them, there were and still are many precepts according to which women are expected to live. I grew up then believing that there are right to do as a woman and other things to be avoided. Which is fine, until you start believing that the differentiator between these right and wrong things is rooted in other people’s opinions and validation.
As working women and mothers, it can be easy to fall into the validation trap. After all, it’s more comfortable to be validated and appreciated by those around us. It’s less demanding to do work that is likely to gain widespread approval than to stand behind a controversial piece of work. It’s easier to be the woman and mother that everyone expects to be rather than apply your own beliefs and opinions to your personal journey. Yet it is only easier on the surface. The cost of needing validation is letting go of your authenticity and of the limitless possibilities that lie ahead of you. It is abdicating your powers to shape your success the way you define it and understand it rather than to base it on external expectations.
So how do we rid ourselves of this need for validation as working women, without losing our sanity, our networks and our professional significance? How can you as a smart, ambitious and thriving working woman, preserve your right to do work and live a life that you truly enjoy without the pressure of seeking validation, is a question I have often asked myself. The truth is, striking out on your own and making peace with the fact that you will not have the comfort of external validation, is difficult. However, there are steps to empowering yourself and taking the right actions towards turning this need for validation most of us experience, into a powerful tool for self-development.
Always to knowledge the problem.
Look at the way you react in professional and personal settings. Are you the one waiting and looking for approval before you can add your own stamp of originality onto a given project? Does the sting of criticism pierce you so much that it paralyzes you to the point of lessening your powers of initiatives? At work and in life, are your relationships based on whether others approve of you are not? Are you unable to function when you face rejection and discipline?
This may translate into too much time seeking others’ approval, time that you can instead use to develop your own talents and abilities. If you answer yes to two or more of these questions, the need for validation is a real threat in your personal life. However, it is certainly not an insurmountable problem. What it does is teach you about some of the inaccurate and hurtful beliefs you may have about yourself. Beliefs such as “you are not enough“, “you can’t do it on your own”, or “you don’t have what it takes”. It is not so much the validation-seeking behavior that you should target, as the beliefs buried under this behavior. In order to change the way you approach your work and life in terms of seeking validation, you must learn to recognize these false beliefs first.
Change the way you see yourself.
Confidence, as I have learned, it’s not a skill you must be born with. It is one that you can acquire by challenging yourself to stretch beyond your own limitations and do those things that you don’t think you can or are not equipped to do, in order to reach the goals and objectives you have set for yourself. It is a process that involves taking action and growing by doing. When it comes to releasing your need to be validated others, it’s a matter of doing the inner work first..
I was recently listening to an episode of the Redefining Wealth with Patrice Washington podcast, more specifically to an episode in which she was interviewing Essence’s Senior Editor and author of Boss Bride Charreah Jackson, and discussing the concept of the “Crazy 8”. It’s the exercise of jotting down the eight craziest things you dream to have happened in your life and devising action steps to get there. It’s in my opinion such a powerful way to see yourself as a victor rather than a victim over your circumstances, in addition to speaking your own miracles into existence. There are other ways that you can learn to see yourself differently by projecting yourself into the future and actually devising and executing action steps to help you achieve your most ambitious goals and objectives. Allowing yourself to see yourself as this woman who can score the promotion, write the book, start the business, and achieve so many other great things, will help release you of the need to seek approval.
Understand that others are not required to support you.
Your ideas, personality, looks or vision were given to you for a reason. Most often, this result has nothing to do with what others think about you. Many will not like or support the person you are, or the ideas and vision that come from you, because they are not you. I have learned that acceptance and validation is not only an exercise in time-wasting, but is also one of the biggest deterrents of dreams and innovation.
If the idea were to be executed by everyone else, then it would’ve already been. If the product were to be created by everyone else, then it would’ve already been. If the job were for everyone else, then it would have already been as well. You are in this seat, this position, this business for a reason. You are faced with this opportunity, this challenge, because you are the right person entrusted to bring it to life. As such, you cannot demand or expect that others join your ranks and validate you in one form or the other, simply because it is not their responsibility to do so. Does it feel comforting to have the support and approval of those close to you? Certainly. Is it absolutely necessary for you to slay your goals and become the best version of yourself? No. The process of life and the journey of rising up to become the best version of ourselves is one that can be lonely, so pick your battles, do the work, and clap for yourself. The point is, validation is for parking tickets, not you.
Last but not least, step up to be the leader of your life.
Remember that this is your life, your career, and ultimately the decisions that lead to the best version of yourself. While well-meaning family and friends may also want the best for you, that is their version of what is best for you. As enticing as it may be, your version of what is best for you is based on who you are and what your dreams are, and is always best.
At work, managers and executives are not picked based on their ability to be validated, despite the sometimes negative impact of office politics. Their leadership is measured by their ability to stand up for the mission of the team, department and company as well as their own personal mission. It is this the ability to stand behind their work and at times challenge the status quo, as opposed to going the conventional route of popularity and public validation, that separates effective leaders from their wannabe counterparts.
In the same way, as you step up in your career, business and life, it’s crucial that you reject the idea that your best achievements are based on public validation. The need for validation has killed more dreams and held back too many successful careers. Remember the only validation you need is yours.
The Corporate Sis.