I cried at the acknowledgment I received. Big sobs. Someone thought I counted, that I still had valuable work to do. It was a one-line comment on an email from someone I only know online, but the encouragement behind it was overwhelming. Why do we need recognition and who do we need it from?
We need recognition to feel we make a difference
At 81, I’m looking to see if I still have a purpose, and if so what it is. If I can’t figure out meaning for my life, why am I here? I’m here because there is still work to be done, lives to be changed, and contributions to be made – by me. They are gifts that only I can give. I’ve been redefining myself for five years and just recently figured out that all the lessons I’ve learned, mistakes I’ve made, successes I’ve had, and talents I’ve developed should still be in service because their collective wisdom has great value. I’m writing my heart out, having a great time with blog posts and books about the exact topics I want to incorporate into my life right now. I have an ever-deepening spiritual exploration going on that is changing my core. It’s a very intensive period of self-discovery.
However, for someone to tell me that I still have impact is overwhelmingly welcome. I want to be relevant. You want to be relevant. I’d like to know that someone gains a new insight from me. .And so do you. The only way we know if we are making a difference is to see results. We need someone to tell or show us how his or her lives have changed because of our presence. I’m writing what I am meant to write. I’m completing it, I’m publishing it. I keep finding questions I need to answer for myself and for those who choose to read what I write. I know the work has value to me because I’m making great personal changes as I absorb and apply these ideas. I think it will help others when they recognize they are always in a cycle of change and being more self-aware will make the experience more positive. However, the only way I’m going to know my work is effective is when someone acknowledges how my work affected them. I need recognition as a tool for measuring my impact.
Begin by acknowledging yourself
In a perfect world, simply knowing that you have made a difference should be enough. If we take time to notice what we have done and acknowledge ourselves for our accomplishments, we should start to own the fact that we are making a difference. Unless, of course, we don’t believe what we see for ourselves, or fail to notice the responses we get from others. Acknowledging yourself keeps you productive and helps you stay steady on your path even when it’s a big bumpy. I’m very self-reliant. I’m a major self-starter. Why then, does a caring, supportive comment from someone I only know online, turn my world around? I don’t know. We need to see and accept what is relevant in ourselves. What are our gifts? How do people feel when they are around us? What makes you unique? Describe yourself on paper. Watch how you sabotage yourself and make a shift. How do other people see you? Become your own cheerleading section and keep loving and appreciating your uniqueness.
We need recognition from people we see as knowing/doing more that we do
You want acknowledgement from someone whose opinion you value, a person you see as more knowledgeable, experienced or aware. The brief comment that so moved me came from someone I only know through his blog and a podcast we did together. It was unexpected. Most of all, because his comment helped me see something about myself I could not see, it created a core shift that I was ready to make. Why was his comment so impactful? The first realization was that he knows a great deal about the world we share so his opinion holds a lot of weight. I was not seeking his approval. I didn’t even expect an answer to my email because he’s a big player. I was humbled by two things – whatever I had emailed him was meaningful enough for him to answer and his response held recognition and appreciation. The more knowledgeable about the topic the person seems to you, the more weight and value the comment seems to have. We need to be recognized by people who have a strong frame of reference for their comment.
Why you are recognized makes a difference
Two things carry weight in our ability to feel and absorb the recognition that comes our way: the reason we are acknowledged and who does the acknowledging. If you are naturally attractive, then comments about your looks may not mean as much as a comment on something you’ve succeeded in doing through your own choices and efforts. A writer commenting on my writing is greatly encouraging on a professional level. A positive comment on what I wrote by anyone touches my heart.
Why we can’t feel, hear, or see the recognition
Many years ago in New York City, I went to an est seminar on communication. In one exercise, we paired off and sat opposite someone we didn’t know. One person began giving compliments to the other. The receiver could say nothing; just simply notice how they were feeling. Almost to a person, we discovered that we were blocking off the compliments because we didn’t believe we deserved them! Once I learned to accept a compliment, let it come clear into my body and into my core, I felt acknowledged and nourished by the experience.
I use to keep an Acknowledgement Book in which I wrote nice things people said about me along with their name and the date. When I felt down, I would look at the book. You’ll be amazed at what other people see in your that you don’t. In my business, I received testimonials that I put on my web pages. Since I have less active feedback since I’ve retired, I started my Acknowledgement Book again. We receive acknowledgement all the time if we simply notice it and accept it.
What kind of acknowledgement would feel most meaningful?
If you want recognition, what do you want to be recognized for? Sometimes I have been acknowledged for something that totally surprised me. That gives me a look at an aspect of myself that I may not have considered before. I know what I appreciate about myself: my curiosity, my spirituality, my love of learning, my ability to see the overview and express it so others get it. I’ve uncovered those qualities for myself and I appreciate those gifts. But how do I want others to see me? That’s an important question to ask yourself. If you don’t know what will make you feel appreciated or recognized, you won’t feel it, you won’t absorb it and you won’t own it enough to nourish you. I want to be acknowledged for my insights, my wisdom, my awareness and the fact that what I write makes other people think and make choices that change their lives. What do you want to be acknowledged for?
How do you offer recognition?
Years ago, when I discovered that my firstborn child was mentally challenged due to a forceps delivery, I immediately shifted my criteria of success. The path was no longer to do well in school, go to college, and have a normal life. My other children were very bright. I had to find other things to acknowledge in my daughter. It turns out that she is very good with people. I acknowledged her for that. I am grateful to her for helping me broaden my criteria for success and for finding new ways to acknowledge others. Being kind is a talent worthy of recognition. So is being joyous. Listening is a skill. Do we take time to look for those subtle traits and offer an acknowledgement of recognition?
The form of recognition
“Thank you” goes a long way. A few people I know always acknowledge my email even if it’s “Thanks.” I was brought up writing thank you notes to the hostess of a party or the giver of a gift. That doesn’t seem to be around so much anymore. Compliments are an easy form of recognition – for an outfit, or a haircut, or a thoughtful gesture. Hugs are great. As we get older, we have fewer people around to hug us so hugging is a very good thing.
As a writer, I could measure my recognition by the number of subscribers to my blog or the number of pages Google Analytics says were opened or the number of books downloaded. However, all I really need is for one person, besides me, to believe my work has value and that I need to keep doing it and let me know that. What form of recognition do you need? Who will it come from? What will it look like? How will it feel?
Recognition is encouragement
The words of encouragement I received from this particular internet friend propelled me into a completely new state of awareness, determination, and accomplishment. I am excited. I am productive. I am completing projects and creating new ones. It’s been years since I’ve been this constantly creative. The catalyst was because of short email that showed someone cared – about me, about my work, and about my contribution to the world.
Why do you need recognition? What will it look like when you get it? How do you give recognition?