That thing called recognition

That day, she finished her work day early and decided to take a walk back home. She had finally finished law school with good grades and was doing an internship at the legal department of a multinational company. She was very proud of herself and loved it every time someone asked her about her job. Her family was proud as well, and let her know every time they had a chance. There was an opportunity to remain in the company after her internship, and everything seemed to be going well.

However, that afternoon she was feeling extremely empty. Walking the streets with no destination and watching the people go by. “Why am I feeling this after having all I ever wanted?”, she asked herself. After recalling in her head all the things she really loved, she discovered that none of them were related to what she was doing at that company.

Looking for recognition

Since our childhood, getting external validation about everything we do makes us feel confident and contributes to a healthy development of our self esteem [??].

Hence, from the beginning we tend to look at our parents every time we learn something new, draw something or discover something exciting. For a parent, it can be repetitive to be constantly looking and complimenting every discovery from their children (specially because everything from them can be fascinating). However, this phase is fundamental for the development of a healthy, confident adult with a strong self esteem.

    After childhood, our social networks grow. We don’t care that much about what our parents might say, now our group of friends have our whole attention. In this phase, we’ll do what it takes to be accepted and to get that validation from our friends and acquaintances.

    As we are social beings, being accepted, respected or having a sense of belonging are some of our basic needs. Therefore, we slowly descend into a spiral of continuous attempts to fit within the norm. Become the best student, be accepted at a prestigious university, get a job at a well-established company, get married, start a family, get a house… and so on.

    Society imposes many rules that we must follow in order to meet the standards and be accepted. Have you ever felt like a failure for not achieving what is expected of you? Like the girl of the introduction who, even after achieving what she was asked, there was still a feeling of emptiness. This is why we’ve been taught to achieve certain goals, and we’re made to believe that once they’re achieved, we’ll be happy.

    However, what happens when we discover that those goals are being imposed on us? It can happen that we find that out early on, and then decide to have a unique life, away from any norms and expectations and not caring if we’ll be accepted or not. On the other hand, there might be people that will experience discontent, frustration or a crisis about a life that is not aligned with their desires.

    Reaching self-recognition

    The first step would be to find our real motivation. Asking where our decisions come from will help us to know whether we’re aligned or not with our values or inner desires. Seems like an easy thing, but sometimes the limited power of decision is disguised as freedom. We think that because we have options we’re free, and freedom is not about that.

    Basically, our actions come from two types of motivations: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation is the one that comes from our own good, satisfaction, vocation or pleasure.

    Recognition belongs to the extrinsic motivators. This recognition can come in different forms. From a simple nice comment about our work, or a simple like on a social media post, to a job promotion or an award at a contest. What do these seemingly different forms of recognition have in common? The feeling of satisfaction when someone else values our actions.

    It’s ok to have others recognizing a job well done, and it’s great to get awards, but what would happen if we didn’t get that recognition? Would we still be pleased with the job or would we be frustrated? 

    An honest answer to that question will reveal us to what extent external recognition is or is not important to us. When we seek validation for everything we do to the point that the opinion of others could make our day miserable, we could be hiding a lack of self-esteem or self-confidence. This insecurity is sometimes accompanied by a fear of failure.

    What to do when this happens?

    Sometimes, when we seek that external recognition it is because we ourselves do not value our work. We need that approval to make sure we’re getting it right. Despite having dedicated hours and hours to a project, according to our own opinion, it seems that it is not enough. Does it sound familiar to you?

    Well, this is a common situation, so here are some tips to start valuing yourself more:

    • Stop for a bit and look around you: remember when you wanted what you currently have? Acknowledge your own successes, no matter how small they are, since only you know how hard it has been for you to achieve them.


    • Make a list of the attributes you like about yourself. Sometimes we are so focused on our flaws that we forget about our strengths!


    • Do you have hobbies? If the answer is no, I invite you to discover what you like to do, in addition to your work. This will help you increase your self-esteem and well-being.


    • Learn to receive constructive criticism. It is important to internalize that it is not about you, but about that specific job. Not taking it personally and understanding that we can always be 1% better every day will take away that weight of having to do everything right.

    By this we do not mean that recognizing or valuing our colleagues/teams is not important. In fact, we know that feeling valued within the company is considered almost more important than a salary, as confirmed by several surveys. Learning to value the efforts of our colleagues will help create happier and safer work environments. One of the practices we have at Fuckup Inc is called “Give a Fuck”, a slack channel expressly dedicated to recognizing our colleagues when they have done something worth mentioning.

    The truth is that recognizing a good job is a very nice activity that helps others to realize their own value.

    At the end of the day, the most valuable recognition will always come from oneself, and this will always depend on our own personal definitions of success, happiness, and failure.

    Marta Cabañas

    Marta Cabañas

    Enterprise Account Manager | Europe HQ