Recently I have been reflecting on how much in my working life I have relied on other people’s positive feedback as a sign that I’m ‘good enough’.
Now that I am a priest as well as a coach, and having to preach sermons – for which you sometimes get feedback afterwards and sometimes you don’t – I realise how much I have needed people to validate what I am doing, and it’s not healthy.
You know how it goes – you have to do a scary thing: deliver an important presentation, chair a meeting, speak in public. Beforehand you are nervous and wonder if you have it within you to do the thing.
And afterwards, you are desperate for someone to say you did a great job.
It’s easy to get dependent upon receiving positive feedback as a sign that we are OK, when in fact it has nothing to do with our intrinsic worth or value.
That’s not to say that we don’t need connection with other people and healthy affirmation. We do. It only becomes an issue when we make it mean more about us than it actually does. And as we become more senior in role, we often receive less and less feedback, so it’s good not to be relying on it!
The praise (or criticism) we receive does not define us, but we can get hooked into thinking so. What can we do about this?
One thing that can be helpful is rather than asking myself ‘How did I do?’ is to ask ‘What impact did that have? How did that land with people?’ The focus goes onto the overall purpose rather than your individual performance. It stops being all about you, and becomes something bigger.
Then you can ask people for feedback and it doesn’t feel so personal. It’s about a fact-finding mission rather than an assessment of your worth.
Another helpful way to think about it is consider that any negative feedback you receive says more about the person giving it than it does about you. It is showing their preferences and perspectives and giving you data about how they see the world. It does not necessarily mean anything about you.
There is an excellent chapter in Tara Mohr’s book, Playing Big, on unhooking from praise and criticism, which speaks to this.
Check it out… really helpful.
In what ways are you reliant upon the praise of others?
What have you made it mean about you?
What are you going to do about it?