External Validation and Remembering That You’re Good Enough

Nubby Twiglet | External Validation and Remembering That You’re Good Enough

I’ve been thinking a lot about the intense pull of external validation. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the adrenaline rush of flattering comments and likes…but what impact does that actually have on our daily lives and well-being?

I’ve been on social media a lot less over the last month and the initial pang of guilt has broken through to feeling more content. The premise behind the shift is simple: if you’re not constantly peering into the lives of others, it’s easier to focus on your own.

Gratitude feels intensified when you cut out the noise. When you’re not being bombarded with things you probably don’t need, places you’ve never been and people you’ve never even met, it’s possible to focus on the here and now and feel really good about where YOU are at. Of course, the internet and social media have immense benefits but I’m also aware that too much time immersed outside of reality can have negative effects.

It’s so funny to think back to the much more quaint times of the 90s. I’ve always been a magazine junkie and I remember constantly hearing that the imagery in fashion magazines could have a drastically negative effect on teen girls. I always laughed it off because I never thought of the editorials I was seeing as “real life.” It was a fantasy world created within the confines of a set. Its felt very glamorous…and very distant.

Nubby Twiglet | External Validation and Remembering That You’re Good Enough

Now though, things are different. The effects from platforms like Instagram feel intensified because we’re not just peering into curated content from a media outlet — these are real images being posted by real folks, often in somewhat real time so the FOMO (fear of missing out) hits harder. This isn’t some fantasy world but something we can internalize as feeling that if we had the right [talent, looks, house, location, bank account, whatever] that we could achieve the same outcome, as well.

After pulling back and spending more time in reality, here’s what I realized: I really like my life the way it is. I’m happy and comfortable and know what I was put on this earth to do. There’s not much I would ever consider changing. So…why is the need for external validation still there?

Sometimes, when I start scrolling through Instagram, my contentment fades away to envy. It’s uncomfortable. Last week, I discovered a brilliant designer on Instagram. I scrolled and scrolled and instead of closing out the app on a high note, I was left with the dreaded feeling of wanting to redo my entire portfolio.

These feelings suck because they take us further away from what we’re meant to do and instead, deeper into the abyss of thinking about what we could do instead. Isn’t internal validation much more fulfilling, though? The feeling of creating for creation’s sake is so much more powerful than a bunch of likes.

The way I’d been feeling was confirmed when I saw this tweet from GOMisakiGO:

“I just sat back and suddenly thought, how ridiculous it is to go through lengths and hard work just to make someone hit ‘like’.”

Nubby Twiglet | External Validation and Remembering That You’re Good Enough

If you’re fighting those “I’m not good enough” feelings, here are 5 tips:

1. Examine what’s going on in your own world

This is pretty simple: when you’re fixated on something, ask yourself why. When I discover someone’s design portfolio and then feel terrible about my own work, it’s because I wish I had more time to share my own projects. Remember, it’s never really about them. It’s all about you and your projections.

2. Extreme curation isn’t real life

Everyone has problems. Everyone has bad days. This is common sense but when you’re scrolling through a highlight reel of their best moments, it’s easy to forget. Nobody wants to share the dirty details of getting fired, getting into fights, bad friendship fall-outs…it’s personal and it’s not pretty.

3. Realign negative energy to fuel a positive outcome

When you truly want to achieve something, seeing other people that have already made it can inspire you to make it happen. Complement them on their achievements and use their successes as motivation for your own. That feels so much better.

4. Detox by unfollowing

Are you following people you’re endlessly curious about for all the wrong reasons? Unfollow, once and for all. Forgot about it and move on. You have a limited amount of time on this planet so make the most of it.

5. Immerse yourself in time with family and friends

Last night, I went out for a drink with my dad and as we sat in a beautiful, mostly empty bar having a great conversation, I thought about how great it was to be out in the world interacting and exploring versus hiding behind a phone or computer, peeking into someone else’s world. Life is for living, not perfecting and curating.

The Bottom Line

Achieving something on your own terms and creating for the sake of being creative hold so much more potency than racking up likes. That hit of validation wears off 10 seconds later but what you’ve created has lasting positive effects.

What about you? I’d love to hear your thoughts about external validation.

13 Responses to External Validation and Remembering That You’re Good Enough

  1. Corina Nika says:

    This is such a great post, and can relate so much. I’ve taken the last couple of months off and taking it slowly for personal reasons. On one hand, it’s an absolutely perfect feeling to feel disconnected – it’s like you start noticing things and appreciate what is around you. On the other hand, doing the profession we’re doing it’s kinda stressful as well. I guess like with everything, there needs to be a good balance!

  2. This post is so good. I’m truly feeling it right now too. I’ve been putting my blinders on so much more in the past few months. Between launching a new business and working on refining/relaunch my own website/portfolio, it’s hard to feel good enough scrolling through everyone else’s work/life. It does make it fun though, after taking a break, “catching up” on other people’s lives. It helps me so much to create some awesome stuff or have an awesome time of my own. Then once I’m happy with myself, I can look at what others are doing. If I’m already in that mindset that I’m good enough, seeing other’s success only gives reason to celebrate with them too.

  3. NatashaDeVil says:

    I really needed this today. I’ve been trying to focus more on quality than quantity when it comes to work and stuff but some days you need someone to remind you it’s not about the number of likes you get!

  4. Misaki Shimizu says:

    Omg, my heart skipped a bit when I saw you mentioning my tweet!
    I am so honored, thank you so much!

    You know, I fully agree with you, and you are dead right, lately I leave much more positive feedback on people’s work and the response is very positive.
    So instead of putting myself down, I try to lift us both up haha.

    I really love the imagery you used for this post, btw ♡

    See you soon!

  5. Marilyn says:

    I’ve loved your advice posts for years and I really appreciate you writing these thoughts and sharing them. I really needed to see this and I look forward to more. Thank you for content! <3

    • Shauna says:

      Marilyn, thank you so much! I’m glad you found it helpful! I’ve been struggling with this topic a lot this year and only recently pinpointed what was causing these feelings…we’re all in this together. xo

  6. Daniela says:

    What if it’s a person that is making you feel like you are not good enough? I’m 23 and after graduating, I moved out and left Canada to give Europe a shot. I have been here for 7 months – 3 monthhs learning Spanish and 4 months working where I can. It’s not easy and my prospects are better back home… sure I can have a great job and better flat but I’m really happy here. My mother however calls me regularly to tell me I’m wasting my time, I am betraying her, as a good daughter I should be close to my family, and my peers back home are doing better than me – and I should too.
    This makes me feel guilty and now I’m considering to go back, for her, although it’s not what I really want. How do I handle this?

    • Shauna says:

      Aww, Daniela. I am so sorry to hear you’re going through this! You are very strong for stepping outside of what’s expected of you and making your own way and I find that to be so admirable. It’s never going to be easy….but you have to make yourself happy. I used to be such a people pleaser when it came to my family…until I was left feeling really unhappy. Now, I know that by doing what makes me happy, in the long run I know that will make them happy. Life is for living and exploring. I hope everything works out!

  7. Jessica says:

    Thank you for sharing this! I’ve had similar feelings recently with falling into the comparison trap when on social media and it’s definitely not a good or useful place to be. Thank you for sharing so openly and honestly. I found your words very helpful. :)

  8. Jenn says:

    This post was perfect and exactly what I needed to hear. I’ve been struggling with the “not good enough” feelings after making a drastic career change and going down the rabbit hole of comparing my work to amazing designers I find online. I was losing faith in myself until I read your post. Thank you so much for sharing – it literally has changed the way I plan on approaching 2017. You’re amazing!

    • Shauna says:

      Jenn, ahhhh, I’ve been there. We all have! Stopping the comparison game is so tough. I still struggle with it on a near-daily basis but now I’m more aware when it’s happening. Hope you’re feeling better.

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