What I share with these posts is both timely and timeless. They act as a diary of where I’m at in my process and the lessons last forever. I hope in my struggles and triumphs you can find similarities and encouragement for your journey.
As I discussed in All it Takes is One and Cultivating Inner Abundance, I’ve been growing my mindfulness education business. I offer staff training, student assemblies, and weekly classes. The student assemblies took the longest to manifest, and it wasn’t until recently I received the opportunity to give my first one — make that my first four — which I was set to conduct all in the same week.
I put over 20 hours of preparation into the first program and was confident about what I had to offer. The Tuesday of that week, I performed my first two and felt good about doing my best. However, as I hung around waiting for the response, my jovial feeling subsided. The teachers and principal did not give me the positive feedback I anticipated. They left without giving any evaluation at all. To me, the lack of comments meant, “Your presentation is not so good after all.” This belief led me down a road of self-doubt and darkness. I got home that afternoon, went in my bed, and curled up in a fetal position.
As is always the case, a restful night’s sleep provided the best medicine. I awoke Wednesday feeling better and back to my standard lens of optimism. I didn’t have the time or energy to change the presentation, so all I could do was wait and see. Thursday afforded me another chance.
I gave an identical talk, but this time the teachers and the principal commended me. Hearing this praise made me feel great. Maybe I’m not so bad after all! I left full of energy and enthusiasm. In a flash, my self-doubt transformed into self-confidence. What the heck happened!? It was the same content, same delivery, same school district. What changed?
I continue to struggle with validation with everything I do. With every speech, class, and meditation, I hang on the reviews and allow them to influence the way I feel. Instead of saying, “How do I think I did?” it’s, “I’m only as good as they say I am.”
Why do we feel this way?
I shared a shorter version of this post on social media and asked people why they think we are so in need of validation. One person noted education’s reinforcement. For years we are trained to do things for the approval of others: get a good grade to make our parents happy, be attentive in class so teachers will like us, dress a particular way to be accepted. After formal schooling, we carry this desire into our careers, relationships, and creative endeavors. I understand recognition is important. At a profoundly human level, we all need to be seen and appreciated. Too often though — as in my case — even when we know we did our best, we give away our power to the crowd and let it dictate how we feel.
How can we transform this? It’s not an easy task. However, through our meditation practice, we can realize real validation never comes from an external source. We can cultivate the feeling from within and in doing so build healthy self-esteem — one that is enduring and won’t crack at the lack of praise. We can also take both praise and criticism with a grain of salt. I like something Tim Ferris says: “You’re never as bad as they say you are, and you’re never as good as they say you are.” This reminder helps us let go of the crowd, and instead focus on our process. If we trust our effort and intention, we can validate ourselves no matter what happens.
Cultivating validation from within helps me see everything as a practice, no matter how important it may feel. Each time we practice what we do, we get better. The compound effect is real. Week after week, drip by drip, progress happens. Validation becomes born out of sheer experience. The key is to just stay in the game.
Stop Seeking Validation is a practice that will help you embody the validation inwardly, and give you the confidence to keep moving forward on your path.