I’m not a big TV watcher but a friend had said something about the show The Voice and I thought I would check it out. I pulled up a random episode and began watching. It was enjoyable watching so many talented people perform, I’m always interested in excellence, but what stuck with me was a comment that one of the contestants made before going onstage.
I don’t recall the exact words but it was pretty close to, “I have always dreamed of being a singer and if one of the judges turns around for me that would really validate my dream.” And my response in my head was “Why would you let a group of 4 strangers determine the validity of your dreams?”
As I pondered this I realized very quickly that I let all kinds of people determine the validity of my own dreams. I suspect most of us do. We may not think of it in those words but most of us give other people a lot of sway over our lives. We do this by giving too much weight to the opinions of other people.
When is the last time you either did or did not do something because of what someone else would think of you? When is the last time you said something you didn’t mean because of how you wanted to be perceived? When is the last time you agreed or disagreed with something someone said not because you truly felt or thought in common, but because you wanted someone to think well of you?
I’m not thrilled to admit it but I know that for me I probably don’t have to go back more than a week to find the answers to those questions.
This kind of behavior can seem harmless. It can seem like simple social protocol. It can even seem helpful because we see some benefit to fitting in or getting people to think of us in a certain way.
But this kind of crowd pleasing is a leadership killer. As a leader you will be challenged. You will be misunderstood. You will be doubted. You will be feared. There will be times, probably many of them, where you will have to choose between popular and right, between being yourself and being what someone else wants you to be. But you will never reach your leadership potential trying to please others.
One of the first battles you will fight as a leader will be over your dreams. When you share and pursue your dreams you will hopefully have lots of support and encouragement from family, teachers, coaches, and friends. You will most likely find some opposition too. People will belittle your dreams and doubt your ability. They will tell you that your dreams are impossible or that they aren’t worth it. They will question the very value of your dreams. They will not validate you.
As a leader, you must be able to stand firm. You must be able to tune out the negativity and affirm yourself. You must be the first and the loudest to stand up for yourself and cheer yourself on. You must be confident. Your own validation is what counts. You can only lead effectively when you lead as yourself and out of your own passion. Be proud of who you are, of your dreams and your goals. When it comes to your dreams, you are the only one who gets to decide how valuable, how achievable, how exciting your dreams are.
Other people’s opinions are none of your business.
It can be hard to do this especially in a culture so driven by social media. We live in a society where people are constantly seeking validation through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. How do we combat this? I suggest making a list of the best things about yourself or the strengths that you bring to your goals. Post it somewhere you will see it regularly. Once you are in the habit of believing in yourself you will be able to step up and press on to new heights regardless of the opinions of others.
Who validates you? We all need support from others at times in our lives but the the first answer to that question should always be looking at you in the mirror.
I don’t know what happened to the contestant on the Voice. I don’t recall if the judges turned around or not. But I hope that no matter what happens she chooses to believe in herself and keep pursuing her passion and dreams. There are very few obstacles in this world that can stand up to belief, persistence, and passion.
I want to leave you with a video of a woman who did just that. This woman had auditioned and been rejected on The Voice. She didn’t let that stop her though. She believed in herself, in her dreams. She persisted. She found another opportunity to sing for people on Britian’s Got Talent. This is her audition and it is AMAZING.