As makers and artists, we look to other people for validation that we’re doing a good job. Every order we get is validation that someone thinks we’re good enough. The money they give us tells us that we have WORTH to them. It’s a pretty intoxicating feeling. When we post pictures in a cake group and everyone tells us how awesome we are and how beautiful our work is, that’s validation too. It’s almost worth MORE to us because it’s our peers saying it – and we think they know good work when they see it. There are two problems with this validation. One, as soon as someone says something negative, it can drop us into a spiral of self loathing, depression and frustration. In extreme cases it makes us give up altogether. We all remember that one teacher, customer or one boss who said something awful to us, right? Sometimes those words stay with us for a very long time, often to devastating effect.
The second problem with seeking validation is when we get TOO MUCH of it, so we pour more and more effort into getting it. Like drug addicts after their next fix, we go to further and further lengths to get people to tell us we’re wonderful, we’re talented, we’re brave and amazing. I see this happen a lot on social media, where small businesses kinda let it all hang out (tears and all) to share their struggles. I’m all for authenticity, but for me when I see someone (a business) doing this same thing over, and over and over, I find myself wondering what the value for them is. Rather then expend energy on creating new products, working on the business and finding other ways to get validation – they spend more and more and MORE time on letting it all hang out on social media, getting validation for their feelings. I’d rather get validation from orders, from a financially successful business, from my customers loving what I do for them. Look, everyone is different but to me, this kind of validation would quickly become a burden more than a benefit.
That being said, do we even NEED validation? I mean does it matter at all what our peers think, what our family thinks, what our friends think, what strangers on the internet think? I really REALLY want to say that NO, it doesn’t matter at all – the only thing that matters is what your customers think. However, that’s a really bullshit answer, a kind of rose-coloured glasses answer which implies we are all somehow magically good at filtering out feedback from people who don’t matter. Truth is, validation matters, from people who don’t matter. As humans we all want to be accepted and loved and we don’t care too much about the source of that acceptance and love (unless we’re talking about stalkers, in which case please go away thank you very much.)
My advice on this is pretty simple – once the need for that validation starts to either destroy you or consume you, it’s time to re-evaluate if it’s really worth it. If every not-so-positive comment you get in a cake group has the power to make you cry, feel horrible about yourself, or make you doubt your awesomeness, it’s time to stop going into those groups. If you find yourself addicted to sharing your stories of trouble on social media (to the degree you’re not having time to actually RUN YOUR BUSINESS) then it’s time to ask yourself if it’s really worth that precious time.
You are accepted.
You are loved.
You are enough.
You don’t need to chase down attention.
By doing good work and being a good human, positive validation will COME TO YOU. You can stop chasing it like a person on a diet chases carbs.