Episode 9: Overcoming My Addiction to Praise and Constant Need for Validation


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Hi. I'm Victoria Hefty, and welcome to Activate Purpose, where I talk about finding purpose through action, while balancing motherhood and career. Today I'm going to be talking about my journey to overcoming an addiction to praise, or validation. And learning how to become more confident by trusting myself. While some people seriously hate New Year's resolutions, I personally love them, and I'll share my reasons why.

So over the holiday break, I was listening to a podcast episode by Myleik Teele. I don't know if I'm pronouncing her name right, but if you go on my show notes I'll talk about later, you can find out her podcast, and all that information. But she has a podcast called, "My Taught You," and actually during the one I was listening to, she was responding to a question that one of her listeners had. Essentially the listener was in a loving relationship with her boyfriend, but the boyfriends sister didn't like her. She wrote Myleik about how to handle that, any tips and advice.

One of the things that Myleik asked was, "Well why are you so desperately seeking approval from your boyfriends sister? Your boyfriend loves you, so in the end what difference does it matter if the sister likes you or not?" Then she actually talked about how Myleik herself, had to learn to stop being addicted to praise. When I heard this, so my heart kind of skipped a beat. I was listening on the couch while I was watching my daughter, because I know that feeling all too well. I'm guessing if you're listening to this, you probably have had this moment, or at least many of you have.

As I was listening I was replaying all the moments over the course of my life, and how in many ways I've been addicted to praise, but also constantly seeking approval or validation. Particularly for anything career related. One of the advantages when I was thinking about it was, working with other people in a corporate like environment that I was used to, is that you rarely get the opportunity to just go from idea to execution, right? There are usually layers of meetings, documents, planning sessions, you know it. That force you to seek approval for your ideas, good or bad.

Or for example, these annual performance reviews, right? They're so cliché, but one, they cause way too much stress for the average payout or pay increase that you're going to get as a result of your rating. And another person, in essence, gets to validate your worth. Yes, performance reviews can be awful if they don't go well, but if you do get a glowing report, you feel good. And honestly, you should feel good. But the problem is, what happens when that environment goes away.

For me, when I left my corporate gig or my full time corporate gig I should say, since now I do independent consultant work. But before I started taking on this type of consultant work, I was worth of in this weird limbo state of creating, but not really getting the type of approval or validation that I was used to getting. There was no boss to quote/unquote, "Approve," my blog article before I press publish. Or, I didn't have a co-worker to validate my projects and say, "Wow, this is a great idea." And that was really difficult for me. Even, without even realizing, I turned to my husband. I would ask him to read every blog post change I made, or I would ask him a million times if he thought my book was a good idea. "Should I write it, should I not? How should I approach it? What should I do?" Or I would ask if I was going in the right direction.

Even my friends, so especially my close girlfriends, were there to offer feedback. But you know, after the second or third time, I was asking them sort of either the same question, or the same iteration of a question. I feel like I'd kind of used up all of my good will, and I really hesitated to reach out some more. Even though they gave good advice, but you know, someone can't be there to answer all my questions all day long.

So then I started to, as in good old Victoria sense, I started to get sort of irrationally upset at my husband for not understanding my vision, or I'd get upset if I'd disagreed with his feedback. I'd be like, "Well that's not ... You're not getting it right." Or I remember, he would read and push me on something I wrote and I'd be like, "No, you just don't understand. This is what I meant." And I would actually get upset. Until one day I read this article that said, "Female entrepreneurs ..." Or I think females in general maybe, I hate to generalize. But I'm just going to go with that. We often get stuck because we tend to seek validation more than our male counterparts.

I realized, that is exactly what I was doing with my husband. He was not my target audience, which was new or expected moms working in professional careers. He's none of those things, so why was I getting so upset that he didn't understand my vision? It was completely irrational.

From then on, I really started to be more focused, and starting taking baby steps to trust myself more. I'll give you an example. After that, I was very specific in the type of feedback that I would ask him, or one of my girlfriends. I would end up being less of a, "Do you think this is a great idea type of question ending statement?" To more of a, "What can I do to make this a better idea? Here are three things that I'm thinking about, which two resonate with you, or which ones should I eliminate and why?"

It's a slight nuance, but for me it made a really big difference, because again, it wasn't seeking validation for this bigger idea or concept that I was excited about. But it was more about really critical feedback that you can get in sort of a corporate environment, but I was missing, but didn't distract or tap into any emotion that I really didn't need to give the problem that I was facing.

I hadn't actually really thought about this whole thing again, until I heard Myleik talking about this seeking constant validation. Actually, I realized as I was replaying my memories like I said, that how far I had actually progressed over the last two years. Yes, I still love sharing my ideas with people, and of course it feels great when people love something that I've worked on. But it's no longer the primary motivator or factor for why I share ideas.

I've also realized that I've actually grown more confident as a result of not waiting for approval to do something. It's almost like a muscle, at least I think so. Every time I trust my instinct, and sure I get feedback from someone, but I don't let it ultimately determined whether or not I pursue an idea the more confident I feel, and the more confident I feel, I think it allows me to make better decisions about pursuing certain ideas, or trusting myself to make even bigger decisions without constantly having to second guess myself, or again, seek that validation.

It's something I've really had to learn. I think that if that's something that you struggle with, understand that at least it's not like this big leap of faith, or a big jump where you go from having this structure, being programmed. To seek certain things, to just kind of being on your own, and just immediately trusting yourself. That is not how it worked for me.

I think it's very easy for anyone, especially for me, when I had a title, office, nice income, great MBA degree, all of these things. But, the real turning point was what happened when it was just me, and my crazy projects, you know? That no one really understood or believed in, and all the sort of outward facing things were gone, you know? Then what happens? I would say, "Well then, it's just you. What do you believe about your idea? Do you think it's a good idea or worth pursuing?" Sure you should do your research and everything, but ultimately if you're still thinking about this thing weeks later, then go ahead and do it. Stop waiting for that validation to pursue what you want.

Which actually brings me to New Year's resolutions, which for some reason people really hate. Or, either they love to hate on. I feel like I've read at least three or four anti New Year's resolution articles over the holiday break. On the whole, yes. I know most people stop working on their goal by February, so the argument is, "Why create these goals?" But I don't know, maybe it's just where my positivity trait comes in, and for those who are curious, I talked about that in episode two where I talk about strengths, it's called, "StrengthsFinders," or, "CliftonFinders," it's really hard to say.

But, one of my traits or strengths that came up was positivity, and it's always about looking for the positive in all types of situations. My response to the critics is, well, at least in my view, I look at it as that's one month that, that person actively tried to better themselves, or reach a goal. How can that be such a bad thing? I feel like not doing something because you're worried you're going to fail or not complete it, or not achieve it, is what stops so many people from even starting something. I feel like that just makes me ... That's unnecessarily discouraging, and it's kind of sad. I don't believe that anyone has a right to knock down someone's goal, even if that person lasted one day. That one day is better than most people have done, and maybe they just needed to hear that little bit of extra encouragement that will make them get up the next day, or make them try a week later.

I think it's much easier to critique someone, than to do it yourself. I would say for the people that who have either slowed down on their New Year's resolutions, or things aren't going quite the way you anticipated, or maybe you were hesitant to even try and list down some goals because you were feeling kind of bad about your ability to do that. I would say, tomorrow's a new day, and then a new day after that. While nothing is guaranteed, but I think that you should really actively try, and pursue what you want. I think while it's important to find a tribe, or a group or people that support you, even if it's just one person. Honestly, you have to believe in yourself first. You have to trust yourself first. You may not always make the right decisions, but there is power, at least I think, in owning that decision.

My challenge for you today, is to take an honest look at all of the different facets of your life. Whether it's personal, professional, both, and ask yourself if there are any areas where you may be seeking approval, or even addicted to praise without realizing. The issues can run deep, so for example the cliché sort of, "Seeking your parents approval," which is something I've had to deal with. Or, they may just be conditioned by things like corporate, or traditional jobs. Either way, take some time to reflect on that, and challenge yourself to be more aware of when those situations arise.

I'd like to sort of I think end the show by saying, it's actually become one of my favorite pieces of advice. It's not like as eloquent as some other people, but it's something that I always like to either tell myself, or tell other people. I always say, "Not knowing what you want is completely okay, but failing to do anything about that is not okay." Take that first step, and just I think, become more aware about some of the blocks that may be holding you back.

And that's the end of the show, so if you have any questions at all, feel free to email me at Victoria@ActivatePurpose.com. I love reading all the emails and messages that come my way. If you want show notes to anything I've talked about, just visit ActivatePurpose.com/Episode9.

Lastly, I always like to ask if you love the show, I would really love and appreciate a review. Just go onto the show notes and you'll find a click there, and make sure to subscribe to receive next weeks episodes. Which actually, speaking of New Year's resolutions, in my next episode, so that will be episode number 10, I'm going to share three of my New Year's resolutions, and the actual steps I'm taking to make them happen.

Until next time.

I'm Victoria, your host.jpg
Activate Purpose