It was fairly early in my sales and marketing career – within the first decade – and while I was succeeding to some extent, I was also floundering in a lack of self-confidence.
The marketplace was quite technical, and I had no real background in it. I didn’t really enjoy the sales process that much and constantly felt like an impostor. And, my bosses were far better at dispensing criticism than encouragement.
Then, for one amazing year, a new manager was brought on. He saw the real strengths in a handful of us. He endorsed us, in our own minds and in the presence of the company’s owners. He saw potential greatness and encouraged its development. He took smoldering embers and breathed fresh life into them, until the flame of confidence was reborn.
From what I’ve seen over the years, many (even very successful) people operate behind a facade of success, while still struggling with self-confidence. Validation can be hard to come by, in a world beset by competition, envy, and self-centeredness.
We are often starving to be told that what we do is significant, and that we are making unique contributions to others. Even more: that we have inherent value – that who we are is important.
When feelings of depression reach their tentacles back up into my soul, it is always accompanied by a sense of worthlessness. Empty pat-on-the-head-by-Barney self-affirmations don’t get through the grey fog. Specific, caring validation by others is what lifts that cloud.
You may feel that you have little to offer others. Actually, you have one of the most powerful tools to liberate and encourage the people around you, right on the tip of your tongue.
Notice. Appreciate. And validate. Those written or spoken words may very well make another’s gloomy day very bright.
In fact, you may never know just how far that gift will carry along someone else.
See also: On Being a Fraud (Impostor Syndrome)