I recently wrote a blog about taking in constructive feedback as information, similar to a GPS. This information can help us understand if we strayed from our path and how we can navigate our way back to it. Constructive criticism can be challenging for many people as we unconsciously tie many things to our identity, including our jobs. We often need praise to feel like we’re making a difference.

Interestingly, this identity hook can also show up in praise

I work with several clients who show up as very outwardly confident individuals. They outwardly believe in themselves, the quality of their work, and the value they bring to their organizations.

Internally, though, that belief may be shakier. They receive constructive criticism as an opportunity for improvement. They want to continue to grow and develop. However, they also seek external validation that they are doing a good job.

They are hooked on the distinction. However, as they rise to higher levels within the organization, the feedback in the form of praise doesn’t always come as readily.

New roles, new styles, less recognition

With these new roles usually come more voices disagreeing with their vision/plans, displeasure with some of the actions, and contradictory opinions. Yet, they are left seeking that praise. So, what can you do to unhook from praise?

  • Remember that feedback, whether praise or criticism, is information. It does not mean that you are more worthy or less worthy. Also, it’s important to remember the feedback, whether praise or criticism, is given through the lens of the person giving it. They may or may have only some of the information. Or they may or may not have the same goals, values, or perspectives as you. 
  • Anchor yourself to the broader goal – not the specific project or step. Be clear on where you are headed, your purpose, and the impact you want to have. The feedback may help you adjust your path toward that broader goal.
  • Digging deeper, gain awareness of the purpose praise serves in your life. Ask yourself, what praise do you most want to hear? From who? Explore the answer. It may tell you where you have some limiting beliefs or identity hooks showing up.
  • Begin to look into self-compassion practices. Your value as a human is not determined by receiving praise or the lack of recognition. Self-compassion practices may help you transition from seeking credit to valuing yourself without critical praise.

Understand your relationship with praise

We often focus on our reaction to receiving constructive feedback. However, being hooked on receiving external praise can also lead to a host of issues. It can shift our behaviors, demotivate us, or leave us unworthy. Understanding your relationship with recognition is the first step in unhooking from that need.