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Stop chasing external validation

A recovering perfectionist's guide to self-worth

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Do you ever feel like other people don’t value you or that they undervalue you? That they just don’t appreciate all that you do or who you are?

I know I feel that way. Sometimes I’m one of those other people because I’m not valuing myself.

For most of my life, I have chased achievements, craving external measures of success. I believed that once I had straight A’s or got into that great college, or earned more degrees, THEN I would feel valuable. THEN I would be worthy of my dreams. THEN I would matter. 

I’ll let you in on a secret. Three degrees and countless awards and certifications later, and I still found myself feeling just as unworthy as I did 20+ years ago.

Here’s why: we define our worth. Chasing external validation won’t pay off because until you believe that you’re good enough, no amount of — pick your poison: praise, diplomas, followers, etc. — will convince you.

Being able to validate myself is one of the biggest and most persistent lessons I’ve ever had to learn (and, let’s be honest – continue to learn). Validating yourself means not relying on the external validation of a certification or other people saying you’re great. 

Validating yourself is internally knowing that you are amazing just as you are. No proof necessary.

If you aren’t feeling valued in your life – the first place you should look to remedy the issue is within.

People are mirrors. We pull out of people how we feel about ourselves. 

If other people aren’t taking you seriously, if they feel reluctant to pay your fees or they don’t appreciate all that you do, check yourself: 

  • Is there a part of you that isn’t valuing, appreciating, or owning your worth? 
  • Is there some piece of you that doesn’t think you deserve what you want?
  • Are you scared to play big? 

A lot of times, the true answer to at least one of those questions is yes.

Don’t beat yourself up about it  — self-worth is a muscle you can build. Here’s how:

Do your inner work. Hit that self-care so that you feel recharged and centered. Journal or talk it out to get to the root of your fears and insecurities. But most importantly, take stock of, and honor all that you’ve achieved.

Back when I was in graduate school, my therapist Ron had me do an exercise that I feel is transformative to this day. He asked me to write 10 things I liked about myself. It was this exercise that made me realize: wow, I don’t value myself at all. 

It felt damn near impossible to list 10 things. 

As a recovering perfectionist, I find that anything important I’ve accomplished, or attributes about myself that are unique, are things I completely write off. I don’t give myself credit for any of that. Or if I do, I give myself credit in the moment and then promptly forget about it within ten minutes (metaphorically speaking). When it comes to the amazing things about me, it’s like I have amnesia. I can, however, remember every failure, no matter how small. 

When you are a high achiever or have perfectionistic tendencies, your accomplishments or assets can become normalized. Like, “Oh, well, that’s just me. So typical that I do a really great job at this.” 

When things we do are normalized or seem easy to us because they’re natural gifts, we tend to devalue them. It feels like we don’t have a lot to bring to the table. And so, you have to relentlessly remind yourself of what is great about you. Make a list, and keep it close.

Once you recognize your value, you have to act in alignment with it. That means letting go of the relationships and situations that no longer serve you. 

I was talking to one of my friends the other week, and he was reflecting on one of the first jobs that he had coming out of school. He shared how he eventually left the company he was working for because no matter how much additional education he got or how he moved up in the ranks, they never saw him as anything other than that low, entry-level job that he started with. He had leveled-up and become an expert in the field, but nobody could see it. 

This is something that resonated with me.

Over the past 5 years since graduating school and starting my company, I have regularly outgrown situations because the people I’m working with had an outdated perception of me. Evolving from someone who didn’t value themselves to someone who does changes things. Suddenly, instead of this insecure girl who was still finding her footing, I asserted my needs and value. That can be frustrating to people who are used to pushing you around.

When you start to assert your worth actively, you’ll see changes in your life. At first, this may look like space. When you get rid of things that no longer serve you, sometimes there’s a void. While that can be uncomfortable to sit with, in my opinion, it pays off in the long run. You will attract different people and opportunities, and they will reflect your high value.

When you’re asserting your worth either by asking for more and leaving bad situations, it’s normal for doubt to come up. 

Keep the list of what makes you great close to remind yourself that you’re inherently worthy of whatever it is you desire. That’s the goal: to believe to your core that you are worthy. No external validation required.

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