One of the most challenging aspects of personal development is detaching from the need for validation from others. Of course, the double-edged sword is that high achievers can be driven to succeed through this take action/be rewarded cycle that we are taught from our earliest days. Some people have strong feelings about reward systems and whether or not we should use them. Personally, I don't think reward systems are inherently bad. When humans are young, using a system of rewards can help teach and reinforce in some powerful ways. The challenge is that once the lessons are learned, we continue to operate in that primitive way, long after it's outlived its usefulness.
Because we crave the approval of others, we can default to a mode of operation where we seek it at the expense of ourselves. Think of the person who continues to pursue climbing the ladder professionally, even if ascending the ladder creates more stress and overwhelm, less time with family, poorer health, etc. Why does this happen? Perhaps the story they tell themselves is that it's the price they pay (see the dread blog) in order to have the other things they want. Even worse, maybe it stems from believing there is no choice. That to stop ascending, to stop gaining reward through recognition, promotion, and more pay is the path to irrelevance.
Consider that for a moment. If you stop "ascending" in the framework of this very restrictive definition, you're irrelevant? All is for naught? Just because no one is tangibly reinforcing your value externally?
Dude. That's. Fucked. Up.
This is why it's so important that you know and appreciate your intrinsic value internally. I have to admit, as the date of my book launch draws closer, I'm starting to freak out a little bit. I wonder, "What if no one likes it?" When that thought pops up, I remind myself that I wrote this book for me. Because I felt called to do so. I accomplished something very personally important to me. I remind myself that I know it will provide value to others, which is my ultimate goal. And some people will hate it. And they'll let me know they hate it. I'll have to stay centered in my internal sense of self. I'll weather it and come out better off on the other side not despite of, but because of the test and having to make it through with my sense of self-worth intact no matter what anyone else says.
Are there areas of your life where you hold yourself back because you aren't sure people will like what you have to say, what you've created, or what you want to stop chasing? Identify those areas. Get clear on what you believe the consequences of taking/not taking action in those areas are. Identify when it's the reactions of others that have a strong influence on what you have prioritized. Then, start making decisions that are about YOU and not them.