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BMBL Podcast 010: Attachment to Getting Praise at Work

Welcome to Episode 010 of the Busy Mum. Balanced Life. podcast.

This episode is about how to lose the attachment to getting praise at work. This is Jim Fortin’s podcast.

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This is episode ten of the Busy Mum. Balanced Life. podcast.

This is something I’ve really wanted to talk about for a little and I have a personal story to share about this as well.

It’s about attachment and acceptance. Maybe I’ll just share my experience to put this in perspective. I’ve come to realize recently just how much importance I put on getting acceptance from others. And I’m not here to say I’m cured and am now super confident but in a couple of areas of my life, that is true. One, in particular, is work.

What I’ve realized is that I was really dependent on getting a ‘thank you’, a ‘well done’, a ‘great job’ or pat on the head when it came to doing things for somebody else, particularly at work.

This has gone on for years, it isn’t just a recent event. I’ve really put a lot of importance and emphasis on getting other people’s acceptance and the attachment that I put on that is if they don’t tell me I’ve done a great job or thank me or say, well done, or credit me or praise me in some way, I have turned that into a story in my head that it’s because either I haven’t done a good job and in which case I felt pretty crap about myself. Or, they are not a nice person because they don’t credit me or appreciate me or they’re taking me for granted. I could literally take this to extremes in a couple of examples, I think.

I realised I was putting so much importance on getting the acceptance of the wrong people because it’s only my opinion that matters, isn’t it?

It’s only your opinion if you do a great job for someone and you’re happy with the work that you’ve done, only you need to be aware of that. Only YOU need to pat yourself on the head. You don’t need others to be proud of you. And of course it’s nice when people say well done and they praise you or you move up the chain in terms of pay rises and promotion. Obviously those things are important to a lot of us but it’s the attachment that I particularly was putting on it.

I’ve always taken huge pride in the world at do for others, I know I’ve got a great work ethic. I take my job very seriously because I absolutely love it. I only take on work that I really love and enjoy and I do a good job. But there have been certain times in my life where I’ve probably gone too far and delivered too much, and that’s on me. No one’s ever had a gun against my head and made me work longer hours etc. I’ll do more than I need to do and I’ve chosen to do that, but I have put too much importance on what others then do in return for me.

And you know what that’s resulted in, and I think you’ll relate to this as well, when you put expectations on other people, whether it’s work or any kind of relationship or even transaction, but when you put expectations on them that are too high, obviously we’re always going to be really disappointed. And that’s the way I felt time and time again. You know, I’ve put so much importance on them delivering back to me things in a certain way that they’ve constantly fallen short and that isn’t fair to them, is it? You know, people can’t get into our heads and work out what we really want unless we tell them. And just because I wanted to have certain credit or praise, that doesn’t mean I’m necessarily entitled to it either.

I’m not always entitled to be promoted etc. And there’s always office politics and other situations that can skew all of those things anyway. But I just came to realize that this error was really on my part and what actually made me think about it in the first place is a podcast episode (links above). In fact, there’s a few episodes, but one in particular was from Jim Fortin, who’s also my coach. It was episode 15 and episode 28 that I really enjoyed on this subject, episode 15 in particular. The title is “the greatest cause of your suffering is attachment”.

This episode is so life-changing, not just about the subject I’m talking about today but in terms of the attachment that we place on things when we don’t realize we are doing it.

I think that he quoted the Buddha in “your greatest cause of suffering is attachment”. When I listened to that and had a conversation with my coaching group, I was like, you know, I realize now this is my issue. For years, I can think of examples in the workplace where I’ve been really pissed off that someone hasn’t given me the credit I think I deserve or hasn’t promoted me or praised me.

If any ex-colleagues or bosses are listening to this, I think you’ll know! And don’t get me wrong, I’m a good employee: I get results. I don’t cause too much trouble! But this is just something I know that I’ve had that thing within the past and this is why I wanted to share it today because I actually found a way to get over it and I’m going to tell you what it is. And it’s really super simple but it’s worked for me.

There is no benefit to having attachment to other people giving you praise and credit for something that you’ve done at work. It’s only going to result in negative stories and feeling shit about yourself or about other people. And I don’t want that! I’m sure you don’t either.

So, I’ve written this mantra down and I’ve stuck it on my monitor. It’s about how I’m now going to deal with things in the workplace going forward. So whether I’m in a job or whether I’m doing a piece of work. I’m a freelancer, so I work for lots of different people.

Are you ready? Brace yourself! And this is very personal to me so you could take this or you could write something that pertains to you and your thoughts.

“I take pride in doing great job and delivering excellent work for my clients. The only validation I need is from myself in knowing that I delivered why I said I would. And then I move on.”

Life-changing! It’s very factual and it just sums everything up for me. If somebody else says ‘thank you’, ‘well done’ or raves about how the great work I’ve done, that’s really nice but it’s not going to change the way I feel in the work I do anyway.

And that means if they don’t say anything or if they’re miserable or critical or like I say, just don’t give any credit whatsoever, that’s fine too. I’ve put this into practice in the last few months and it works. It doesn’t bother me anymore. In fact, as time goes on, I’m almost recognizing less and less when people do rave or don’t say anything because it doesn’t matter to me anymore. And then the final part of that little mantra is, “and then I move on”. And that was the biggest thing that I wasn’t doing before. I was really holding onto resentment about why they haven’t said something or what that said or how the power situation had played out or how I felt slighted in some way. And it was really making me miserable. You know when you’re really down about something, even if it’s only in one aspect of your life, like work or relationship or health or whatever, it completely clouds your thoughts on everything else as well. So, I was kind of walking around with this resentment over the years, every now and again. And it was clouding how happy I was in other areas of my life and I didn’t want that. You don’t want that either, I’m sure! We want to feel as happy as we can. When things are in our control and attachments is 100% in our control.

We get to decide how other people make us think. I am not a victim. I was putting myself in the “oh, poor me, it’s not fair” position and I felt like a victim. Not because of what other people were doing, but because I was making myself feel like one which is clearly not very happy and healthy! Let’s be real though – obviously when people tell me I’ve done a good job or praise me or give me some positive encouragement, I really like that. Of course I do. That’s great. I guess it’s motivating. But I now don’t now rely on it and I don’t feel resentment when I don’t get it. And I hope that that’s always the way I feel because  it seems a much healthier way for me to go about my business and my day.

Does this resonate with you? Can you look back on occasions, especially in the workplace, where you know you’ve been pissed off if you feel you’ve been overlooked for promotion or you haven’t had a thank you or someone has been critical about your work or you think you’ve done something exceptional and no one really says anything. Can you think of examples like that? And can you now think of a way that you might tell yourself a story differently so that it doesn’t matter what other people think? You did a great job, you know that and that’s all matters. And then you can move on, draw a line under it, move on and do the next piece of great work. And I hope that it’s as simple for you to start thinking that way as it has been for me.

It did take this realization that I can’t keep blaming others for how I feel about this kind of thing. I’ve got to take responsibility for myself and I do now and it makes me feel a lot better. I’ve made some big changes in work recently because of that and it just feels like everything is now falling much more into place. So long may that continue!

Let me know if any of this is resonating with you as well?

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I acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land I work and live on, the Awabakal peoples, and pay my respects to Elders past and present.
I thank them wholeheartedly and express my love and gratitude for the privilege to live and work in such a beautiful part of the world and for the opportunity for my family to be part of this vibrant and supportive community.