Is a need for External Validation affecting your Performance?

Question: What is currently defining your Self-Esteem? 

(In other words what is currently affecting how you feel about yourself)?

When I put this question to a group, the answers I get include: my achievements, what others think of me, good results, my weight, how successful I am, how I look…

Pretty relatable? Agreed? 

The fact is, many of us allow external factors to define how we feel about ourselves. In other words, it is often factors OUT of our control that are determining our self-esteem. 

For example: A child may feel inadequate until their teacher tells them they’re ‘doing well’ at school (that teacher’s actions are inevitably out of their control); a teenager may feel low about themselves if few people ‘like’ their latest insta post; a salesperson may feel demotivated until they make a sale; perceived negative feedback in a person’s Year-end review may knock their confidence… 

Are you starting to realise that you may also be quite dependant on these outside, uncontrollable factors to ‘pick you up’ and make you feel good? If so, alarm bells may start to faintly ring as the penny drops as to the compromising and vulnerable position this puts so many of us in.

So how does all this relate to performance?…(performance after all is my passion)

To perform well we need to be feeling Powerful, on the top of our game, confident…agreed? After all, achieving high performance – whether this be at work (as a colleague or leader), at home (as a parent or partner), or in sport – requires stretching ourselves to achieve our goals. Given that goals and objectives can rarely be achieved by plodding along at the ‘average rate’, a ‘step up’ is required to challenge our ‘normal’ way of thinking and behaving. We need to step out of our comfort zone. 

But…how can we tolerate, let alone ‘embrace’ stepping out of our comfort zone, if we don’t have the confidence and self-belief that we are able to do so? Cue the necessity for high-self esteem and self-belief when it comes to high performance. 

Imagine self-esteem represents your own personal fuel tank… 

Needless to say self-esteem is a fundamental component of your overall mental health and so if that tank is running low, you’ll feel demotivated and low about yourself. As a result, the imposter syndrome kicks in – that often familiar self-doubt and fear of judgement – which at it’s worse can lead to over-thinking, anxiety and even avoidance of situations as a result of feeling incapable. When your tank is running low or even empty, performance suffers big time as you’re just not able to reach your potential. You simply don’t believe you can… and so you don’t. 

On the contrary, if we have a full (self-esteem) tank, then we feel empowered, confident, motivated, ready to embrace a challenge and able to cope well out of our comfort zone. In fact, we handle all situations in life more calmly and powerfully. Our performance rockets!

Now I don’t know about you, but now having had my eyes opened to this, I don’t want the state of my self-esteem tank to be at the mercy of outside factors – external validation, holidays, good results, completed tasks and achievements. For if these ‘uncontrollables’ don’t deliver, then that’s it, my tank empties and my mood, my self-belief and my performance suffer!

Unsurprisingly, a number of my clients have recognised their self-esteem as being like a rollercoaster ride, up and down from day to day or even hour to hour, dependant on what’s going on around them. One client, Claire, asked me why it was that she was able to deal well with a curve ball at work on one particular day, yet she struggled with a very similar scenario on a different day. I responded with ‘the day you bossed it, your self-esteem was at a peak, maybe you were an 9/10 so you feel more confident and capable. However, the day you struggled, you were in a trough – maybe a 3/10. Predictably, your tank was low on fuel and so your performance suffered’, 

And herein lies the true value in turning that ‘outside in’ approach, ‘inside out’. If I can show you how to build high self-esteem from WITHIN (the ‘inside out’ approach), then you’ll have the key not only to creating high, stable, self-esteem but the key to consistent and predictable levels of mood, response and performance. 

Ready to bite my arm off?…

Well here is the opportunity to make the SWITCH… From outside – in to inside -out.

From external validation to internal self-belief!

Get ready to put in a small amount of effort a day for transformational results…

Introducing the ‘Evidence List’ – an ever-rolling list that you will endeavour to manage of positive evidence of things you have done well each day. The key to topping up that fuel-tank YOURSELF.

Just follow these simple steps…


STEP 1Write a list of 5x things you have done well over the past 2 weeks (I’d recommend using the notes section of your phone)

(NB Be sure to look for the small things as well as the bigger ones – we need to over-ride any perfectionism here or tendencies to see what wasn’t good enough. You are not compiling a list of completed tasks and great achievements. Instead, look for the more qualitative things… signs of patience, gratitude, self-motivation, tolerance, progress. 

For example, you may have made time to be present with the kids. Maybe you managed to motivate yourself to go to the gym. Perhaps you received some good feedback at work.

If you’re there thinking these things aren’t worth noting…then this’ll be a reason why your tank runs often runs low, as you’re simply missing the opportunity to ‘process’ the small wins that you really do deserve the credit for.


At the top of your list write the following question as a prompt: ‘What does this say about me?’

For each piece of evidence, write a brief answer to this question starting with ‘I’ (i.e. ‘I am’, ‘I can’, ‘I do’…)

For example:

  • (Present with kids) I am a good Mum
  • (Went to the gym) I am motivated
  • (Good feedback at work) I am good at my job 

Let me be clear when I say, this is not a gratitude list. A gratitude list (as valuable as they are) won’t influence your confidence level. 


3 x a day read and ‘process’ this list, focusing on the ‘I’ part (the answer to that second step question). 

NB: ‘Processing’ refers to digesting the evidence in order to lock the learnings in to your short-term memory. 

The repetition of reflecting on the same piece of evidence helps over time to build the belief that you really are ‘a good mum’ for example. 

Starting to see how this list will be your way of ‘refuelling’?…regularly…?


At the end of each day, spend 5 minutes reflecting on ‘What have I done well TODAY?’

From the day, choose 1 piece of evidence (the answer to this question) to your list of 5 knocking an old one off, meaning you have a rolling Evidence list of 5 each day. 

Step 4 is incredibly valuable as too many people (especially those with a perfectionist mindset), focus on what they didn’t do well enough that day as opposed to what they did do well. This is one of the best habits you can get into!


A final and important point to make… 

Be clear that through the rolling Evidence List exercise – which I encourage you to adopt for at least 6-10 weeks in order to form a new habit (i.e. in the way you think about yourself)- I am willing you to no longer depend on external validation (we’re moving away from the outside-in approach to feeling good). However, you may notice that with the last example I gave above (‘I got good feedback at work’), this is actually an ‘outside’ factor. Let me explain…

If you do receive good feedback, a compliment, a great result, achieve a weight loss goal…absolutely milk that evidence ‘internally’ by reflecting on what this says about you. Enjoy it. The difference will be that you no longer depend on such external validation. Outside factors will be additional ‘bonuses’ that reinforce the number of helpful thoughts that you already have in your head generated by processing things you’re doing well that are within your control (guaranteeing that full tank!). 

By embracing this exercise, you will have hugely influenced how you think about yourself and are set to see your self-belief and performance improve dramatically. 

Switching from outside-in, to inside-out, from external validation to internal self-belief…the Power now lies with you. With high, stable, self-esteem, you are performance focused and able to apply your true potential with confidence.

Happy Switching!

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