When I was 10 years old, I was already a hardcore addict.
Now, I’m not talking about alcohol, crack, or even poorly drawn tattoos.
My addiction was stickers. Every day I went to school aching for the next sticker high. Since I was an especially smart student (not bragging’, just sayin’), I would get high marks on all my assignments…and that meant my papers would be returned to me with bright, glossy stickers in the upper right corner.
Smiley faces, scratch ‘n’ sniff, “Good Job!”, “Outta Sight!”, and if I was really lucky, maybe a Lisa Frank one.
But the best of the best were the gold stars. Those beauties were reserved for truly exceptional work.
I would peel off all my stickers an re-stick them on my folders so I could ogle them all together like a museum collection.
And like most addicts, the thing I was addicted to wasn’t even the real thing I was craving.
What I wanted was attention. Attention for being good. I wanted people to recognize how special I was.
I mentioned in my review of Happier at Home that Gretchen Rubin sent all her “superfans” a sheet of perfect gold star stickers. Oh yeah, she totally gets us.
Strangely, in the real world, sticker rewards are few and far between. But I’m still addicted to my “gold stars.” I get such a burst of happiness when someone else tells me I’m doing a good job.
The problem with this is that relying on other people to justify your worth will only make you unhappy. No one should have their self-worth wrapped up in what someone else thinks.
What happens if other people don’t recognize your achievements? Will you give up? Probably, unless you find your own inner motivation.
I used to always want Chris to acknowledge when I did things around the house like fold the laundry and unload the dishwasher. But whenever he didn’t notice or was caught up in other things, I’d be disappointed.
Now that I realize I can’t wait for someone to pat me on the pack or give me a gold star, I’ve begun nurturing my “why.”
Why am I doing the things I do? It’s not for outside recognition—it’s so I can live in a clean house, or have a healthy body, or support my clients, or feel good about who I am.
Try to recognize the times in your life when you’re waiting for someone to give you a “gold star.” Do you withhold your energy or not take action if you’re expecting recognition?
The satisfaction that comes from following your inner motivation and reaching your goals is its own reward.
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