The Slippery Slope of External Validation

Episode Transcript

Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of if I'm honest with Julia Landauer, I hope you are doing well today. So when I was planning this podcast and thinking about the audience I hope to reach or the types of people I wanted to reach, it got me thinking back to my speaking career. And you know how lucky I feel that my stories and my vulnerability and the themes that I discussed, are relevant to a pretty diverse group. I've spoken with tech companies, universities, women's groups, financial organizations, I was even brought in to speak at an asphalt Association Conference. And I talked about some of the more, you know, motivational themes, but I also talked about the differences of racing on asphalt versus concrete and showed some fun asphalt surface pictures that I had raced on that year. So it was really interesting. And, you know, I was thinking more about how over the eight or so years that I've been speaking, I've really only had two talks that to me landed super flat. And let me tell you, it was it was rough to go through this. The first one was a few years into my speaking, I was hired to speak at a university for their orientation week, and I kid you not eight people showed up for this, this talk that was in an 150 or 200 person room auditorium. So they had the lights on in the auditorium, I'm standing on stage, it was also the first time I was giving a particular talk on personal branding. And you know, the, the lights were on. So I got to see every person in the audience and bless these people who showed up and were engaged. So they were okay. But it was just, it was so hard to only speak to that small audience group. And it was also a blow to my ego. Because I was like, I flew all the way out here, you've been publicizing it, and only eight people showed up like it was just it, it hurt, it hurt. And so if I'm honest, I never gave that talk again. But that's neither here nor there. The second one that was much more nerve wracking for me was I was speaking to a group of bankers in New York, the woman who had hired me warned me that, you know, they had been out late the night before, but my keynote was at 8:30 or so in the morning on a Friday. And it was a bunch of, you know, upper middle age, guys, primarily, there were a few women in the room. But I'm enthusiastically going through my talk. And, you know, no one laughed at the places where people normally laughed. I didn't see anyone really like engaged in the subject matter or thinking it was just it was so rough, and I had to go through the 45 minutes, there were very few questions during the q&a. And I felt awful because there was no external validation in terms of how I was doing. And I was really nervous that the person who hired me was going to be really upset that she hired me. Luckily, she loved it. She just said, Look, these guys were probably hungover, but I thought you did a great job. And I say all of this to introduce the topic that I want to talk about today, which is external validation. Because for certain things, like, like keynotes, or any performance that you're hired for, or you know, work, some level of external validation is kind of important. We need to know that we're doing our job properly. We you know, as someone who's growing her client base, and you know, people who need referrals, or have repeat clients, knowing that you've done well is really important. So on the one hand, external validation is good. But I found that if we if we start to rely on that external validation, and if we start to place our own sense of worth the value in other people's reactions, that's when external validation can become a double edged sword. Like on the one hand, we all feel good when people applaud us, right? That's always great. But on the other hand, are we are we really digging into the process? Are we doing things for the process and the journey and the result? Or because it looks good? And there's no right or wrong answer, and it's going to be a balance for everyone. But I'll never forget, throughout college, I was pursuing racing, I was trying to get PR where I could, I was on survivor, all this stuff. And I was seeing this guy at one point, and he legitimately said to me, you just you just like the notoriety, you're not doing it for a passion. Cue the "she was too stunned to speak" tiktok sound. But I was flabbergasted. I was so shocked that he would have the audacity to make all the assumptions but then also that he was shaming me for it. And it really got me thinking it's kind of the first time I was really thinking about okay, well, what if I do like the notoriety? What if I do like being applauded and being recognized and, and being able to promote what I'm doing? I don't think there's anything wrong with that. So needless to say, we didn't keep seeing each other very long after that. I don't I don't need that energy in my close circle. But it was an interesting perspective on people who seek out fame or notoriety as being lesser than others. I think that's really inaccurate. But I do think it's important to think about external validation in a way that we don't limit ourselves or let ourselves feel bad or lesser than because we don't get that external validation. And if I'm honest, I love getting this kind of, you know, external support and validation, it makes me feel good. I think by nature of being a young teenager racing cars and winning, you know, I got a lot of positive feedback early on and through my teenage and early 20s years. So I feel like part of me kind of got used to being applauded for doing what I was doing just because I was doing it. And don't get me wrong, that felt great in the time, I will be the first to admit that I will let my ego get blown up and that I enjoy it. But I look back and I do realize that that probably set some unrealistic standards for kind of how I viewed myself and, you know, if I started not getting that external validation, or that unsolicited applause, if you will, I sometimes would question like, Well, okay, well, what am I doing wrong? Or am I losing my edge? Or am I less exciting, because there's less of this external validation? And that brings me back to you know, the slippery slope. And this isn't to say that I always got what I wanted and always did this. You know, there are plenty of things like schools I didn't get into teams that didn't want to work with me. I mean, when I was 12, I talked about this in a previous episode, but no teams on the national go karting level wanted to work with me. So there were things that I didn't get and back to external validation, I, I really did enjoy this. And then on top of that, I I've always felt that I've been a bit of a people pleaser, I like people to receive me Well, I like to make people feel comfortable, it's something that I'm working on. Because if we put too much stock in other people's reactions, it can negatively impact us. And when I was working on this, trying to be less of a people pleaser, I looked into some of the reasons it's bad for us. And you know, the more that we try to please other people, you know, before we work on ourselves, we're more likely to have a fear of rejection and disappointing others. And that can lead to different types of paralysis in terms of what we try to do and what we don't, it can lead to, like having really low self esteem, and also can make it harder for us to make our own decisions based on our own gut feelings. And it just, it's, it's rough all around, and it makes it hard to set healthy boundaries. So learning that there are definitely some downsides to being a people pleaser. Although we might get that little short term kick of, okay, I appreciate you, if that's our goal, we're likely to do ourselves more harm than good. And it's really powerful and empowering to become comfortable with not prioritizing, putting other people's needs and happiness above our own. So all this is to say that, you know, in my my late teens, early 20s, I feel like I had this potent combination of feeding off of the validation I got from others, while also you know, having this internal need to try to please people, this was all well and good while I was climbing while things were going really well, while there was constantly stuff going on between racing and survivor, and you know, different press that I was getting. But the issue is if you slow down, or if you stop, or if you are accomplishing less, or if you're just the less unique because there are other people coming up and they're new. If you've assessed your self worth based on this external validation, we can lose a lot of confidence and start feeling kind of bad about ourselves. And if I'm totally real with you, I started feeling this over the last few years, you know, back when I was racing regularly and making the Forbes 30 under 30 list, although I'm quite proud, I'm one of the Forbes 30 under 30 People who has not gone to jail. So that's pretty cool. And anyway, a lot of times if I had this idea, or if I had a podcast I wanted to be on or something that I want to explore. I had enough momentum behind me that I could pitch myself or have my manager at the time pitch. And I kind of got it. So whether that was I want to be on Jonathan Van Ness getting curious podcast. And that was so much fun. And they said yes, and there was excitement. And I want to speak at fortune's Most Powerful Women next gen and I got to do that, which I'm really grateful for. But these were all forms of external validation. And I undoubtedly put some of my own sense of self worth and value and importance in the world based on that, and let me tell you, it has messed with me as as I've been racing less and as I've been figuring out what else I want to do. And as I've dealt with just the realities of getting older and having these these shifts in these identity shifts, it's been really challenging. And to add to that ebbing and flowing of external validation, something that I have found personally makes Things hard, I'm sure a lot of you can relate to this is that our society puts a huge value on likes and views and subscribes and follower counts. And so there's literal financial value in being externally validated, there is value in being able to make people applaud you and compliment you or comment on what you're doing. And yet, we also know that that's not necessarily the most healthy way to have a relationship with ourselves, by basing value and worth on other people's opinions. So as a person trying to figure out okay, how do I have a nice balance of external validation and internal validation? In additional that I then have to balance Okay, well, what do I have to do that will allow me to continue growing my career, my business, whatever I'm working on, and it's really damn hard, it is super, super challenging, and ever evolving to try to find that balance. And man adulting is just so hard. You know, it really is, I want to now transition more to talking about what I have done to work on internal validation and hope that it's helpful for you. And my own journey here has been about trying to reframe the narrative in my own head with with two main things. The first thing that was really liberating, again, as a former diehard people pleaser, who also loved the external validation. It was really powerful for me, when I realized that not everyone is going to understand why we're choosing our pas why we're doing what we're doing. And it's not our job to make them understand or agree with us. And the first time I really experienced this was when I was about to graduate college. So when you're a senior in college, or whatever, you're when you're graduating, you know, people naturally start asking you, what are you going to do? What do you do after graduation? And I would be very quick to say, I'm moving to Charlotte, North Carolina, and I'm gonna go be a NASCAR driver. And a lot of people in the more academic setting and in the tech bubble that was there, a bunch of people's reaction was, okay, well, what are you going to do with your degree? Or why did you come to college in the first place, if you're just going to go be a NASCAR driver, I put quotes around just going to be a NASCAR driver, because obviously, it's a lot harder than that. But this whole interchange that I had with a handful of people really opened my eyes to the fact that they didn't get it, they didn't see how all the classes I took in the people I met and the personal development I did at school helped me as I set up to go move to Charlotte and everything, like they didn't get that. And that was okay, you know, I didn't have to explain, I don't have to get everyone to buy in. And it's protecting my peace a little bit to just have that confidence in myself. But I did have to work up to it, I did have to work up to understanding that I could make decisions that people were not going to agree with. And that was okay, if I was rooting those decisions in and stuff that I was passionate about in strategy and preparing that I had done. So being okay with that became really, really liberating. And the second part of focusing on internal validation is that there are plenty of people that I don't care for, and that I don't like. So therefore, it makes total sense that plenty of people won't care for me and won't like me. And that mindset shift was so powerful, I would take it personally if people didn't like me, or if I go on dates, and guys weren't intuitive, or try to make friends or try to small talk and people aren't into it, I would take it very personally. And realizing that I don't like everyone was really helpful, because it kind of normalized that whole feeling. And it made it a little less personal. And that's been a helpful reminder. For myself. This has been a loaded episode, I almost feel like this is a little therapy session. So thank you for being on this journey with me. Everything relating to external validation and internal validation is something I'm still working on. And I'm well aware that ego is a big part of this. And putting my ego aside is a big journey that I've personally been on recently. And it is not always easy, but that is okay. As a quick summary, I think it's really natural to want that external support and validation and to get a confidence boost from it. And I think that's totally healthy. But I've realized that, you know, our long term satisfaction and sanity will be much more reliably achieved if we can learn to be our own internal validators. And it's not always easy, right? But we will most likely be more fulfilled and satisfied if we can do things for ourselves and give ourselves that validation. And remember that it is everything will ebb and flow we will have moments where we're accomplishing a lot and then we'll have moments where we're not doing that. But we have to remember what our goals are and what we're striving for and to recognize that there are some things that we have to work with like social media. Like all of that, but then also really dig deep and figure out what it is it's going to bring us that joy and satisfaction. And so for some things that I like I think about doing, I regularly acknowledge to myself when I'm proud, I think that that's a big boost. And being proud of myself is a really, really satisfying feeling that I'm learning as I get older is something I'm striving for. It's also really important to practice saying no to things to protect your own sanity and to have confidence in yourself that you don't need to do everything, especially if you do tend to want to please people. And the last little bit I think about is trying to be strategic and who you do seek validation from, right? Is it someone you admire? Or is it someone who helps you live the best life that you can, then I think it's good. But if you're seeking validation from someone who you have beef with, or for someone you're trying to one up, that's where I think it can get a little toxic for ourselves. And so we need to make sure we're careful about who we're getting, getting the feedback from who we seek advice from all of those things. Team. That is our show. If you liked this episode, if you found it helpful, I hope you'll share it with someone who might also benefit. If you could please subscribe to the podcast, rate the podcast, follow it. That'd be super helpful for me. Thank you so much for letting me be honest with you again, and I look forward to seeing you next week.