“I put in a request for my annual review three weeks ago,” a friend told me. “I’ve reminded my supervisor about it, but she still hasn’t scheduled it.”
It’s bad enough to worry about whether or not you’ll get a raise or a promotion, but now my friend is left feeling like she doesn’t even matter. Work for her has meant lots of unexpected travel and many weekends on the job. None of these were part of her job description, and yet…
Now those late nights at the office and weekends spent traveling to meet with clients is going to be more difficult than it was in the past. All that time spent away from friends and family — now she feels her sacrifice means very little to her higher-ups.
With job insecurity as high as it is, you’d think we’d start teaching millennials self-validation in school. Why self-validation? Because there’s no guarantee you’ll find it anywhere else.
Many people work hard but that isn’t always reflected in how they are regarded or paid. Underemployment was at nearly 14 percent as of May, and that degrades mental health. According to former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, “the notion that you’re paid what you’re ‘worth’ is by now so deeply ingrained in the public consciousness that many who earn very little assume it’s their own fault. They feel ashamed of what they see as a personal failure — a lack of brains or a deficiency of character.”
You can begin a job search. You can vent to your friends or your therapist. But wouldn’t you also like to begin giving yourself the validation you long for? When you learn to self-validate, you become a part of your own support system. You begin to manage yourself without having to rely on external evaluations.
1. Accept your feelings without judgment.
When you’re frustrated and angry about something not going your way, take a step back and avoid judging yourself for those feelings. Sit with your emotions without reacting to them. Don’t tell yourself how you should feel. Accept how you do feel in the moment because you always have a right to feel. Comfort yourself the way a concerned and compassionate parent would.
2. Don’t let your frustration feed into shame.
Often when you feel down you become part of a shame spiral: “I’m a failure. This always happens. I don’t know why I try. I’m bound to lose. I set myself up for it.” Shame is learned from the moment you’re born, and you may become so well-versed at shaming that you feel fundamentally flawed and less than everyone else around you.
Struggling to find or maintain work or make a decent wage feeds into that toxic shame. It tells says, “You’re right, you’re defective.” You might also feed this shame after a breakup, after losing a friendship, when turned down for a date, etc.
But this is simply beating yourself up. This only leads to depression, perfectionism, and a discounting of all your successes.
3. Know your strengths.
Maybe you’re not sure what they are — especially if you’re feeling unsure of your skills at the moment. The VIA Institute on Character has a free survey on their website that ranks your character strengths including humor, curiosity, bravery, social intelligence, and leadership.
Research shows that when you use your strengths it boosts self-esteem and mitigates stress. Not only can it help you guide your career into a more fulfilling direction, it can help you embrace the real you — the you that is invaluable, the you that no one can put a price-tag on.
4. Practice positive self-talk.
Think of at least one thing about yourself that you’re proud of. It can be one of your strengths, something you accomplished in college, something you helped someone else do, whatever. Show yourself gratitude, instead of glossing over everything you’ve done right. You’re an accomplished and resilient person.
Everyone wants a fulfilling life and lucrative job, but it’s easier said than done. Perhaps the first place to start is inside yourself.
“The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance. The wise grows it under his feet.” — James Oppenheim