Updated: Apr 16, 2020
If you find yourself spinning your wheels, trying to get somewhere but going nowhere fast, it could be that you’re an approval-seeker (a.k.a. Validation Junkie). I get you because I am a recovering Validation Junkie. I spent my entire life needing endless validation, constant approval, and unfortunately not getting anywhere. Why? Because people are not going to approve of every single thing you do - ESPECIALLY if you’re going against the grain, building your own business, parenting in a different way than others are used to, or simply trying to follow your bliss! Our bliss often takes us in NEW directions, through UNCHARTERED TERRITORY - and this isn’t something that often gets praised or approved of, simply because it’s different than the norm. And different is scary to the vast majority of people.
Here’s the thing - nobody knows what’s best for you except for you. Intellectually you may agree, but if you are also a validation junkie, a person who craves approval and recognition and feels lost without it, you may not know how to get to where you want to be WITHOUT the approval of others. Don’t worry, boo - I got you!
The first thing to recognize is that this way of thinking, this constant need for approval - this is how society has shaped us to be. From the time we’re little, we get rewarded for being better than others, for thinking INSIDE the box, for our achievements rather than our efforts. We were conditioned to perform FOR the grade, FOR the approval, FOR the pat on the back. We were pitted against our classmates, our siblings, our teammates and told to be better, to be smarter, to be faster, and only to do the things our teachers asked us to do - not the things we truly wanted to do. Our life was split up into periods of math, science, english, french, history - and we did what we were told so that we could get our grade. If we got a “good” grade, we were praised and felt worthy or smart or superior. If we got a bad grade, we felt stupid, we decided we were “bad” at the subject, we tried to avoid it at all costs. Of course I’m completely overgeneralizing and you may not have had this experience at all, but maybe aspects of this story speak to you.
In short, society doesn’t start telling you to “trust yourself” and “follow your bliss” until you’re an adult - and by that time, you’ve already been conditioned to follow OTHER people’s bliss, to do what others decide you’re good at rather than that seemingly impossible (but oh so deliciously exciting) feat that your instinct tells you to pursue.
So you go out and try to follow your bliss, only to find that you’re paralyzed when it comes to actually taking action on the things you truly want to do. Maybe you long to be a writer, but every time you sit down to write, you can’t seem to get any words on paper without second-guessing yourself. Maybe you long to be a dancer but you’re too scared to sign up for lessons because you know you won’t be very good. Maybe you dream of becoming a doctor but you feel like you’re too old to start over, and what will people think?
You may be in this state of being paralyzed by fear, of taking uncertain steps and then backing up before anyone else can judge you.
So, how do you get past it and start actually doing things you WANT to do, rather than doing things you think you SHOULD be doing? It’s simple (but not necessarily easy). You develop a GROWTH MINDSET (read about it here). You do the hard work of becoming brave, of putting yourself out there in small (or big, if that’s your style) ways, until it becomes a habit. You start to truly believe and LIVE the adage “enjoy the journey”. You take your focus OFF of the end goal completely, and just start relishing the process.
You do this simple step by simple step. First, discover what a growth mindset is (again, the article for that is linked here). Second, decide what you truly want to do, what you would have already started doing if you weren’t worried about the approval of others. Third, take away ANY expectations of success - the most successful people just got there by doing work they loved anyway. Whether you succeed or fail is ultimately a matter of when you decide to give up - if you give up before you succeed, you will have failed. If giving up isn’t an option, you’ll always be on your way to greater success.
And frankly, the only reason we give up is because we worry we’re not good enough, that we’ll never “get there”, that it’s taking too long. If we no longer have expectations for where “there” is, there will be no need to give up - unless something more joyful catches our attention, and even then, we will continue to do joyful thing after joyful thing. That can hardly be considered a failure!
The fourth and most important thing, though, is to start to enjoy the challenge of starting where you are and getting better. Criticism? Take what you can from it, discard what doesn’t fit for you, and continue getting better! Give yourself permission to let your best be good enough for now, knowing you can only improve with time. And jump in!
I’d love to see what you’re up to! Leave a comment below, send a message through the form on my website jenatharani.com, or tag me on Instagram @jenatharani. I can’t wait to cheer your on as you continue your incredible journey!