In a world profiting off of quick self-help remedies, one saying that gets thrown around a lot is to not pay any attention to what other people think of you. Usually, what they mean is to say screw the haters and focus on the lovers. But what they don’t tell you is that this mindset can, and technically should, also apply to compliments too. I’m not saying you have to be rude to anyone who makes a comment toward you, but I am saying to be aware of your reactions to them. Feeling confident enough in yourself to dismiss any negative talk about you is great, but know that over-relying on compliments from others can still be as bad as taking the insults to heart.
Any form of needing external validation is harmful because you put your self-worth in other people’s hands. Before I had realized this, I would gush at any compliment someone gave me. I’d think about it for the rest of the day and let it fuel an entire bout of confidence about whatever they complimented me on. This isn’t necessarily a bad way to react every now and then but once you do this with every compliment, it is a slippery slope to needing more.
I realized that in training my brain to only feel proud when someone else told me I should be, I was diminishing my own self-worth. I didn’t give myself any agency in my actions or my own thoughts. How I thought or worried about myself came second to how everyone else seemed to see me. I’d think I was only funny if someone else laughed, or I was only a good writer if a professor said so, or I was only a great student once I got a good grade. This constant delay in allowing myself to feel confident until someone else gave me a reason to really hurt me in the long run. I ended up subconsciously teaching myself to chase external factors to prove that I deserved them. Then, of course, if the specific external factor I wanted didn’t happen, I’d feel like my intentions or actions were for nothing. Now I see that this is the farthest thing from the truth, my intentions and actions do matter, to me. I set out to accomplish goals and be a good person for me, not for anyone else. The only person we can successfully prove things to is ourselves.
The reason why not caring about other people’s opinions, good or bad, is only half the battle is because the other half is prioritizing caring about your own opinions more. We could not care about others all day long but if we still don’t take the time to see ourselves in a good light, then we won’t believe it any other way. It is up to us to take the time to praise ourselves and accept ourselves. We have to care what we think and trust it because our values are most important to us and no one else. No one can validate us the way we can ourselves because they can’t read our minds. So, the next time you are secretly hoping to receive a compliment or recognition from someone else, look in the mirror and tell yourself what you want to hear. Then, do whatever you need to do to truly believe it.