If at work you:
- ... Are easily offended by constructive criticism,
- Take someone disagreeing with you personally,
- Change your mind because someone’s opinion conflicts with yours,
- Are over-committed,
- Don’t stand up for yourself,
- Are afraid to ask questions,
- Act like you agree with someone, but really don’t,
- Fish for compliments,
- Are the first to apologize for the group project even when you’re not to blame,
- Behave contrary to your beliefs,
- Lack self-belief,
- Are self-critical,
- Or seek permission when it’s not necessary,
... then your need for validation is hurting your career.
It’s called self-esteem for a reason. You have to cultivate and practice it. No one can give it to you. As Wayne Dyer said, “People who want the most approval get the least and people who need approval the least get the most.”
Here are 5 ways to combat your need for affirmation:
1. Take time to reflect.
What’s the origin of this need? Could you never live up to your parents’ expectations, so now you're trying to make them proud? Was it hard to make friends in elementary school, so now you morph your personality to fit in? Did your heart get broken in college, and now you fear rejection? Identify where your need comes from so you can put it into perspective and move on. Come up with some personal affirmations to use when feeling insecure. Think like Stuart Smalley: “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.”
2. Study people you admire.
Most likely, the people you admire respect themselves. If it’s someone like Oprah Winfrey, read her book. If it’s a coworker you can personally connect with, find out how she bounces back from perceived slights or fixes her mistakes.
3. Set boundaries.
You can only be a doormat if you lay down. So stand up, sister! You’re the only one you have to answer to. If you don’t like the way you’re treated at work because you set yourself up poorly, only you can change it. Find your boundaries and learn to defend them. For example, if you took the entire office’s trash out a couple of times to be nice and now it’s become expected of you, you can choose to stop. If you don’t like it, stop doing it.
4. Make friends with rejection.
It’s going to happen. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Have you ever made a mistake that cost you an assignment you really wanted? How did you recover? What did you learn? Did you figure out how not to make the same mistake again? See, it was a good thing! Not the best thing, but a lesson from which you can grow.
5. Embrace constant improvement.
When you’re criticized, think of it as feedback. Use it to help you grow. Concentrate on the message, not the medium. Filter out non-verbals like facial expressions and tone of voice. What are the actual words being said? Write them down to read objectively later. Remember: If you’re constantly developing, you’re narrowing down the path to your full potential. Concentrate on what you can control, like process improvement. Keep track of your progress, because when you see evidence of your accomplishments, you feel good about yourself and others’ opinions mean less to you.
Everyone feels insecure sometimes. You have the power to validate yourself. All it takes is a little practice. Then, you can help someone else discover their inner strength.