How to Give Freely Without the Need for Praise

George J. Ziogas

The best way to get approval is not to need it

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Most people want to feel important. They want to know they matter and that others appreciate them. When they don’t think their behaviors and words count, some become depressed. Their mood takes a downturn, and they try to make people notice them.

One way they do so is to do things they imagine people will love them for doing, hoping for recognition and validation that ramps up their sense of worth. But when you increase self-value by working on inner appreciation, you need not get it from anywhere else. You can give and do things to help people without being thanked or held in high esteem.

Carrying out acts of kindness without taking credit for them can be a source of joy. You no longer consider how people view you because you don’t need their validation. You focus on how your behavior will boost their well-being or improve the world.

The satisfaction you gain transforms into more than it would have been if it were about adding to your self-esteem. Consequently, you still gain from your actions because you find meaning in what you do and bolster your sense of purpose while helping others. But how can you increase self-worth and stop striving for praise and recognition? First, it helps to understand why you crave credit and admiration.

People often crave recognition

Everyone is born with the need to be seen for survival. When you depend on people to feed and shelter you, you make sure they notice you exist. As an adult, your need for recognition doesn’t disappear. It’s helpful to bond with your community and make them see you as significant. You’re more likely to gain help when you need it and find companionship if people like and respect you.

It’s healthy to want the people you love to find you valuable. If your spouse or parents ignore you or don’t care for you, you’ll probably be unhappy. So, the need to be seen and cared for doesn’t stem from the ego. It’s normal and sometimes necessary, but it can create problems like disappointment and detract from well-being when it extends outside your close social circle. If you require acquaintances, and people you barely know, to think well of you, there’s trouble ahead.

The problem with needing recognition

Sometimes, you won’t perceive why your need for praise from others is a problem. Helping them makes them grateful, and why shouldn’t you lap up praise? There’s nothing inherently wrong with receiving thanks for good work.

When you rely on approval for self-esteem, though, you face potential unhappiness. Unless people place you on a pedestal and venerate your behavior, you’ll suffer. You depend on them to keep your self-worth afloat, and when they stop praising you, you’ll be miserable.

Also, you can’t tap into the pool of satisfaction from helping others when your concern is how they see you. Focusing on yourself dilutes the pleasure you could gather from being kind and helpful.

Other difficulties may arise if you long for praise. Along with the need to be recognized comes the urge to please. You’re in danger of being someone who can’t say no to requests you don’t want to undertake. Eventually, being a yes person can make you vulnerable and open to abuse as people see you as a soft touch. You want to please and need them to boost your sense of value and are willing to be their doormat.

How to recognize your significance

You’re significant because you exist, not because people like you. Their esteem for you doesn’t add to your worth since you’re always worthy. You might imagine you’re more valuable if they’re grateful for things you do, yet this is an illusion. They may develop attachments to you because they come to rely on you, but their need for your help isn’t a marker for your worthiness.

It’s helpful to look inside yourself for significance

When you crave recognition for acts of kindness, you look outside yourself for your value. Your actual value, though, exists within, so that’s where to seek it and work on making it grow. You receive a hit of the feel-good hormone dopamine when people praise you and venerate you, but you can get the same buzz from engaging in kind actions without praise when your self-esteem rises internally. Also, you can validate yourself rather than expect people to do it for you, which means you need not get upset when people don’t pay you attention or recognize your significance.

Your self-esteem will grow if you shift your focus

You can bolster recognition of your value by shifting your attention when you do good deeds. Instead of concentrating on their outcomes, focus on actions. Pour attention into the process of what you do, so the result isn’t the only part of your deed that counts.

You’ll train yourself to get dopamine hits from carrying out kind acts and enjoy them in the moment. If you need praise, you want to finish tasks and receive compliments, and you may not gain pleasure from them. When you stop focusing on outcomes, your joy stems from the act of doing things plus the results.

You’ll benefit from practicing mindfulness when you do chores and good deeds. Concentrate on your movements as you make your kids’ beds or shovel snow from your neighbor’s drive. Consider the pleasure of making the family dishes squeaky clean and shiny or clearing the driveway. Imagine how enjoyable it will be to eat from fresh plates or notice your neighbor can safely walk from their house to their car.

Shift your focus to connection, too. Think about the value of maintaining positive connectivity with people and how it benefits you and them. When you see the advantages your deeds bring, other than praise, your well-being will expand.

Focusing on your values helps

Everyone gains meaning in life from upholding their values and behaving in ways that match their moral code. You’ll benefit from paying attention to why you do things and how they correspond to your views. You might see helping your neighbor as a virtuous and decent act that contributes to your purpose.

Or you could recognize feeding a tree in your garden with fertilizer to help it grow fits your ethical worldview. Perhaps you know trees help the planet and contribute to a better world when you assist their growth. The tree won’t thank you, and it’s unlikely anyone will tap you on the shoulder to say you’re doing a good job. You can feel satisfied, though, simply because you follow your moral code.

Your feelings will change when you practice daily

It will take a while to change your mental wiring. At present, you might seek value from positive validation. Practice moving your focus daily when you carry out actions, whether for yourself or others’ benefit. If you desire praise from them, stop. Reconsider how you want to view the situation. Enjoy the process and consider how it improves circumstances.

Remember, it’s impossible to please everyone. People see from their view, and sometimes it’s negative. Nobody can accurately judge your value. You need only examine history to know plenty of respected and famous people who changed the world for the better were disliked in their time. Similarly, people will not always appreciate you and what you do. Only your values and what matters to you count. So, stop worrying about what people think about you and start enjoying being you.

The need for recognition for good deeds puts you at a disadvantage. It makes you dependent on others validating you and reduces your pleasure in life. Shift your focus. Make what you do more significant than how other people judge you for your actions, and your self-image will change. You’ll stop relying on people to determine your worthiness and acknowledge you’re valuable no matter what.

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