From a young age we are taught the value of recognition. With acknowledgement of our own validity we are more likely to repeat the acts that allowed us to be recognized in the first place; therefore feeling more appreciated for our efforts. As we move from interdependence to independence, we begin to learn how to act on our own. Our ego no longer needs to be primarily fed by those around us because we begin to find ways to feed our own egos. This shift in behavior is a part of the process that builds a healthy self-esteem which is not enhanced by the recognition of others, but by the internal satisfaction and joy we derive from our own existence.
Eventually we realize that perception matters once again and lose the same traits that made us independent and go back towards interdependence. We begin to understand that with promotion, recognition must come first and our ego shifts from competition to winning. Our evaluation of success is no longer related to our ability to feel good about what we do, but it becomes about how others see what we do.
It is this point when we revert back to our early developmental stages and take a “look at me approach” to participation. At work we want everyone to see how much effort we put in and the results we generate, socially we thrive off of others looking at our possessions with a tinge of jealousy, and recreationally we gain enjoyment by others recognizing how much weight we have lost or how many personal bests we have achieved. Within this process we lose touch with ourselves and now act on what others expect from us instead of what we expect from ourselves. We convince ourselves that we are acting internally until something happens where we can no longer lose any more weight, gain any more personal bests, afford luxury items, or generate the same results, ultimately realizing that without continual acknowledgement we are no longer balanced or whole, leaving a huge void in our ability to feed our hungry ego.
In youth sports, the number reason for participation in both boys and girls is simply to have fun. In education, children learn better and faster when they are having fun learning. Socially, kids adapt better when they are positively stimulated within their environment; hence having fun. When we make the shift from being able to find recognition within and relying on recognition from an external source, we no longer allow ourselves to have fun. Continually having to please others in order to find pleasure in ourselves is not only work, but work in which we have no significant amount of control in the outcome we seek. In doing this, we take away our ability to enjoy what we do and lose touch with why we started what we do in the first place.
Once we have lost touch with ourselves, with the reason we chose to align our pursuits with our passions, we no longer have purpose in our actions. In acting without purpose we negate the meaning of our intentions. Without meaningful intent, we are merely existing, not living.
If we are to live our best life it is up to us to dictate what we feed our ego, how we feed it, and when we feed it. To primarily count on the recognition of others in order to feel self worth we are dangerously tiptoeing a path that will strip us of not only our validity, but of our ability to appreciate as well a be appreciated.