Giving the Gift of Validation

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.

embersHe gave a gift I’ll never forget: Validation.

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)

photo credit: dav via photopin cc


  1. I’m so glad you experienced having an authentically validating manager. I agree it makes a huge difference and it is SOOOO often neglected.
    I’ve discovered that most forms of thanks are still fairly empty. “Thank you” “Good job” and “I like that” are all empty. The person being thanked still has no idea how they made a difference. The key is to describe exactly how their contribution made a difference to us. That’s how they’ll know that they matter.
    Thanks Steve for bringing up such an important topic. I feel validated!

    • Val, I think one of the most important ways for people to discover their strengths and professional purpose is through this sort of validation. When an outside voice says that we do something particularly well, and encourages our growth, we operate with 10 times more confidence. I have to wonder how many teachers have profoundly impacted their young students with validating words…

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