SALT LAKE CITY — After 25 years in the personal development industry, it is my strongly held belief that every human being on the planet struggles with the fear that they might not be good enough, to some degree, every day.
One of the common ways we humans counter that fear is by seeking attention and validation from other people. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it can come across as needy and insecure and may cause other people to lose respect for us. It is not the behavior of a strong, confident, balanced person who feels secure about and knows who they are, which is truly who we want to be.
Here are some common behaviors that are signs that you may need some attention or validation from others:
Talking about yourself — a lot
When someone tells a story about something they have done, you feel the need to tell your story — especially if it's a better story. We all do this on occasion, but if you do it often it can be annoying. Instead, try to catch yourself and quietly decide you know your story and that's enough; you don't need to tell it and can allow the other person to shine here.
When you feel a need to talk a great deal about your accomplishments or experiences, this can also signal a need for attention or validation. Sharing what you've done isn't necessarily bad, but doing it often because you need the validation that comes when you are listened to could be a sign that you have a self-esteem problem.
When you feel the desire to tell about an experience, just pause and ask yourself why you want to talk about this out loud. Do you really need to? There is an amazing feeling of strength and wisdom that comes when you have the power to not need to talk about yourself and your accomplishments.
When someone says or does something that isn't accurate or right, you feel the need to correct them and say, "Actually that's not right. The truth is….". Again, this behavior might not be a problem if it happens only rarely; but if you do it all the time, it could come from a subconscious need to feel smarter or more knowledgeable than other people.
When you correct others, you feel better than others and safer in the world. Instead, practice allowing other people to be wrong sometimes. Does it really matter if they don't have their facts right? Would it do any harm to let this be and walk away? Do you really have to say something? Why?
Do you judge other people and gossip about them? Gossip is actually a sign of low self-esteem or the need to see yourself as better than or above others. Your ego thinks if it can point out ways that other people are worse than you, that makes you better and validates your worth.
The truth is, though the ego gets a little boost from judging other people, you will also see yourself as flawed and unworthy as often as you judge others. Instead, catch your desire to comment on others' flaws and choose to practice seeing the goodness in them. This will help you to see your own goodness.
Using social media for attention
Do you post attention or validation-seeking things on social media like "having a terrible day over here" or "worst week ever!" hoping others will ask what's wrong? Maybe you're hoping they will at least leave positive, loving comments.
The desire to post anything about our lives on social media is, at some level, based on the need to get attention, so we all do this one. But, do you need to post pictures of everything you do on social media?
Instead, could you pause and ask yourself why you want to share this picture with the world? Is it inspiring, helpful, interesting or educational? Would friends and family really enjoy seeing this, or is your desire to post about looking cool or getting attention? Just ask yourself, on occasion, if you could just have this experience without the need to show it off.
Discussing your feelings too much
Do you need to mention how you are feeling and/or what you think about most situations? Sometimes wanting to talk about what you are feeling or thinking is healthy; but if you do it almost constantly, you may need the validation that comes when other people listen to you.
If you have the desire to share a thought, pause and ask yourself why you want or need to share it out loud. What would happen if you just kept this one to yourself? Would you survive and be OK if you didn't talk about it? Sometimes you need to share in order to process ideas or emotions; other times you need attention. Which is this one?
A need to look good
Excessively stressing over your outfit and how you look can be a sign of neediness for validation. Do you have to look really good when you see people because you are afraid you aren't good enough and need the validation that comes from knowing you look amazing? I am not saying there is anything wrong with trying to look your best; it's only a problem if you are stressing and in fear about it because you believe your worth as a person is at stake.
Instead, get cleaned up and find a good outfit. But understand that no matter how you look, you have the same value as every other human being. There is nothing gained by looking better than anyone else. Go out there are get them with your love instead.
Giving in hopes of gaining recognition
Doing something nice for another person and needing others to know about it. Instead, when you do an act of service consider doing it in secret and no letting anyone know. Then you will know you are truly doing it for the other person, not for the sense of validation.
Working on your self-esteem
Again, none of the above behaviors is inherently bad. But if they happen a lot, they are a sign of a fear of failure (self-esteem) problem that prevents you from being the highest, best you. Being more consciously aware of the ways you are behaving and why can help you to choose behavior that is love-motivated, not fear-motivated, which is more aligned with the person you want to be.
I wrote an article in March about how to improve your self-esteem in healthy ways. It would be worth reading. Practice those tips to lessen your fear of failure. Then start pausing before you say or do something. Ask yourself: What is motivating or driving this behavior? Why do I need to say this? What would happen if I didn't say or do this?
With time and practice, you can show up as someone who doesn't need anything from others — someone who has more to give.
You can do this.