Living in a world where everybody likes you and your choices is not ideal or realistic. Here’s an old story about myself that I wanted to re-post, as it taught me a very valuable lesson. Maybe someone else can learn from it.
There is a person at my job recently who disagreed with something I did in a very strong way. He basically yelled at me and told me how wrong I was for making the decision I made, partly because he felt like it affected him. This person is very experienced, and I work with him on a lot of different projects. Although he isn’t my manager, he has managed me through some projects. He is very well thought of in the organization and very well-respected. We have the same manager, and on most days, he is advising our manager. This person is intelligent, articulate and very careful when examining issues. To be honest, he is right most of the time.
When the “event” happened, I told my boss first. It involved an argument our company was having with a customer. I defended our company and actually felt good about the result. My manager was okay with it. I notified our corporate office and they were okay with it. So, it sort of surprised me when I called my colleague and he disagreed with me so vehemently. To be fair, I probably surprised him with what I told him. I tried to explain to him why I made the choice I made, but it didn’t matter. I tried to explain how my response to the customer would not change our status or put the contract in jeopardy. He didn’t agree or seem to care for my assessment. We got off the phone and I wouldn’t see him again for about 10 days due to schedule and travel. He was very angry.
I became so disturbed by his response that I started second guessing myself. I started to wonder what he was telling other people about me. I projected my career in my thoughts and saw promotions and opportunity slip away. I lost confidence and actually became afraid to make decisions.
I started to launch preemptive strikes for others in our organization who would hear the story of when he “yelled” at me. They had to know my side. I told myself that it was damage control and I deserved to defend myself. This was not a good place to be. I was really distraught over our conversation. I went to my manager and he reassured me several times that I was okay and made a good choice. He told me not to worry about it. I actually got that response from every person I told. Coincidence? Or was I telling those I knew would validate me? Maybe…. To be honest, nothing satisfied me. I needed for EVERYONE to agree with me, and that wasn’t happening.
Then, I realized something. What I was doing was something I had been doing for a long time and it hit me like a ton of bricks…. I was seeking approval from others so that I would feel good! I’m not even sure where this comes from and it may take a while to find out. It could be something in my childhood or some other trauma. Either way, I have to readjust my attitude immediately, if I want to grow as a person and as a leader. Truth is, people aren’t always going to agree with me, and no amount of damage control or people pleasing is going to help that. It actually makes you look weak.
When you feel good about yourself and your choices only when people agree with you or validate you or your choices, you become a slave to their opinions.
When they disagree and you do what you feel is necessary to gain their approval, the result is quite the opposite. In addition to this, people will begin to see your low self-esteem and low confidence. No one will respect or follow that type of person.
If someone disagrees or disapproves of you it’s one of two things, true or false. Only you will know the answer after close examination.
True – Learn from it and grow. Period. But don’t work to gain a person’s approval, work toward the truth of the situation. You don’t need to go back and show them what you did or show them the next time the situation comes up. Just do it and be it. You validate yourself and be happy that you learned something valuable.
False – It’s ok to let it be in the moment with a simple response. “Ok” or “thanks for the feedback” both work well. You don’t need to make others see or believe in your point of view in order for you to be right and you realistically cannot control what other people feel, you can only influence it. Most times, it takes so much energy physically, emotionally and spiritually, that it’s not worth it. The effort is futile and wasted. You could have been doing so much more. Let wrong people stay where they are, you and God will take care of the future. He will validate you.
This needs to be an area of life that you master.
Then and only then, can you live in a world where you will be able to progress and move forward, even when others are disapproving of you or your choices.
People give you genuine compliments and validation when you aren’t seeking it. You’ll know you have grown when you gain their approval and realize you don’t need it.
SO WHAT ULTIMATELY HAPPENED?
Nothing. This person never agreed with me and I still have a healthy working relationship with them. By the time I saw them the next time, we spoke about it for about 5 seconds and moved on. It really wasn’t that deep. I made the situation way worse in my head than it actually was. Maybe that’s the last part of this. Don’t take yourself so seriously.
Are you seeking approval or validation outside of yourself?
If you align yourself with God’s will, you won’t have to do that anymore.