Praise. Appreciation. Recognition. Admiration. Kudos.
Whatever you want to call it, most of us enjoy these things – and there’s nothing wrong with that at all.
But what if praise is not forthcoming, particularly when we expect it? That can be hard to handle and leave us feeling a bit adrift. It doesn’t mean you’re a needy narcissist who needs to be showered with compliments for everything you do. It just means that, like all of us, you want to be recognised, and it can feel anything from mildly disappointing to really hurtful if it doesn’t happen.
But regularly fretting that we haven’t received recognition can be an indicator of a deeper issue
Feeling the absence of praise can become problematic when it starts to affect how we view ourselves. Sometimes, when we’re hoping for a bit of recognition, and it doesn’t come – particularly if you’ve been used to it in the past – those mind gremlins can start to whisper in your ear.
…Maybe you’re not as good as you thought you were.
…Maybe you didn’t meet their expectations.
…You used to get praise regularly – now you don’t. You must be losing your edge.
And the classic…
…If you’d genuinely done a good job, people would tell you, wouldn’t they?
Well, no actually. While in an ideal world we’d all get the kudos we deserve, every time, in reality that doesn’t always happen.
And here’s the secret. It’s not about you – it’s about them!
If someone hasn’t praised you for doing good work, it doesn’t mean you didn’t do good work. IT JUST MEANS THEY DIDN’T TELL YOU THAT YOU DID.
There could be a whole host of reasons for that. They’re busy. They thought it was obvious they were pleased. They forgot. You could spend ages wondering why they didn’t say anything, and it doesn’t actually matter.
What’s important is that you don’t inextricably link your self-belief and your self-confidence to what others say about you. Because if they don’t reward you with the praise, then you will start to deduce that you’re a failure, when you’re not.
The cake…or the icing on the cake?
Now, I’m not telling you to stop caring about what other people think – that would be unrealistic, because most of us do care – that’s human nature. But you can learn to see praise as the pleasure that comes with a job well done, rather than the validation of it – the icing on the cake, if you will.
Consider the things that you just intuitively know, without question, that you are good at. Does praise matter to you so much with those things? Probably not, because you already have that self-confidence, that belief – you’ve validated yourself.
Let’s say you know you’re a great presenter. After a really successful presentation, you might not mind if nobody says ‘well done, great job’ – because you already know your presentation was great. Yes, it feels nice if someone says that. But you’ve still got your own personal sense of satisfaction and you know you did well, even if nobody comments on it.
But let’s say you don’t feel particularly good about presenting. After your debrief, if nobody compliments you, you start to wonder… Was I rubbish? They think I didn’t do a good job. BECAUSE IF I DID A GOOD JOB, THEY WOULD HAVE SAID SOMETHING, WOULDN’T THEY?
This links to the fact that the praise we want the most – and therefore miss the most when it’s absent – is the praise that reflects what we most want to confirm about ourselves, or the areas where we have the greatest insecurities.
Desperately craving recognition for your presentation skills? Ask yourself honestly what doubt it is that you have that you’re trying to validate, and then work on resolving it.
And also, try getting some perspective by asking yourself this – what’s more important to me in this instance than praise? Is it the fact that you delivered what your client needed? That you saved a last minute disaster from happening? That you came up with a new idea that will benefit the whole team? Spending some time reflecting on what you’ve actually achieved can really help you validate yourself and take the sting out of the absence of praise.
It’s important to stress that I’m not advocating putting up with a situation where you continually feel undervalued, underappreciated or overlooked. But if your need for praise is linked to your self-confidence, then maybe it’s time to look within, work out what’s going on, address it and start validating yourself. You’ll then find the praise will come naturally…and then it really will feel like the icing on the cake!