We all need to feel affirmed and validated. Daily in fact. However, affirmation and validation are not the same as recognition. One of the lies we believe is that recognition is the source of affirmation and validation, which really point to a need for identity and belonging. And when it comes to success and fulfillment, in actuality, obscurity, or complete lack of short-term recognition, is the best way to gain true identity and belonging.
“I should be recognized by everybody.”
Everybody jokes about how Millennials need to be treated as the “special” generation and gain trophies or special titles for just “showing up.” It’s not about winning or losing any more. In our politically correct outrage-ready world, everybody needs to be a winner and be recognized as such.
This actually points to a deeper need for identity and belonging. We are starved for the affirmation and validation that form our identities and create a sense of belonging. Nobody wants to be identified as a loser. We want to belong with the winners.
Yet recognition can create a false sense of identity and belonging. In other words, we only have an identity and belong when there is recognition. Unfortunately, we then only perform for recognition in the form of some sort of extrinsic motivation. If you follow MDNA, you know that extrinsic motivation, such as rewards and compensation, actually demotivate in the long run. The reality is, identity and belonging are intrinsic motivators that must come from within.
What if we could be affirmed and validated, despite external recognition? What if people told us that our true identities matter most and that we belong simply for the fact that we can just “be” together? Being together becomes truly validating and affirming versus doing things just for recognition. How would that sound?
This is where obscurity helps us with intrinsically motivated character. If you can learn to pursue professional success and personal fulfillment, without short term recognition, long-term, nothing can stop you. Think about great leaders like Nelson Mandela that spent a better part of a lifetime in prison, developing the character to lead a nation. What about professional athletes? The hours of grueling conditioning and practice drills don’t make it onto television for the big game. For every home run there have been hundreds of misses swung in total obscurity.
Needing recognition from everybody is a lie. Don’t believe and fall for it. Embrace obscurity and you will find true identity and belonging that will affirm and validate you regardless of any challenge or circumstance. Try it.