You Have Nothing to Prove

Individuality symbol and independent thinker concept and new leadership concept or individuality as a group of pigeon birds on a wire with one individual bird in the opposite direction as a business icon for new innovative thinking.

Why fit in when you could stand out?

Recently, during a speaking engagement, a woman in the audience asked me a question that would have been very difficult for me to answer a few years ago:

“On your positivity journey, what has been the one life lesson that has been the hardest for you to learn?”

Without any hesitation, I looked out at the audience and gave her my honest answer:

“Without question, the hardest life lesson that I’ve learned is that I have nothing to prove to anyone. Absolutely nothing.”

It took me a while (read: most of my adult life) to get to this point, but I’m here now and I cannot describe the amount of peace, freedom and happiness this simple lesson has given to me.

If you’re not there yet, I’m here to help you get there, today.

You have nothing to prove to anyone, and I’ll do everything in my power to convince you that it’s true.

Comparison = Death

Comparison is the thief of joy.” -Theodore Roosevelt

Okay, I’ll admit that the “comparison equals death” thing is a little dramatic, but I really want this point to hit home.

The truth is that there will always be people in this world who are smarter than us, better looking than us, wealthier than us, more influential than us, better writers than us (Can I stop now? I think you get the point.)

The problem is that I used to compare myself to these people constantly, and predictably, the outcome didn’t play out very well for me (because like most people, I would compare the worst of myself against the best of others.)

There are few things in this world that are more soul-destroying than the need to measure up to other people in order to validate your self-worth. Regardless of what you might believe, you don’t need to measure up, or prove your self-worth to anyone.

Your standards for your life are the only standards that matter. 

Once you soak in the simplicity of the previous sentence, you’ll experience more freedom than you ever have in your life.

One thing is for sure–if your life is centered on comparing yourself to others, one of two things will inevitably happen:

  1. You will be horribly depressed thinking about the amount of people who are “better” than you.
  2. You will end up acting like you’re superior to the people who you believe you’re “better” than.

Like I said, it took me a while to get to this point, but please take it from me: there is nothing to be gained from needing the praise, adoration, or acceptance of others in order to feel good about yourself.

I’m urging you to reject that hamster wheel and place all of your energy toward always remembering this instead:

Your life will positively transform the moment that you stop worrying about impressing other people (including your parents, your significant other, your friends, your coworkers, your neighbors, etc.) and start focusing on living authentically.

Two Simple Truths

If you still think that you have something to prove to other people, hopefully the two following truths will help. I cannot even express how much I wish that I learned these years ago:

1) People are going to judge you no matter what you do.

Yep, it doesn’t matter what you do, people are going to judge you for it.

  • If you choose to go to the gym consistently and drink kale smoothies all day long or if you stay at home and stuff Big Macs in your face for three meals a day, people will judge you either way.
  • If you choose to have kids or if you choose not to have kids, people will judge you either way.
  • If you choose to shop at Bloomingdale’s or if you choose to shop at Walmart, people will judge you either way.
  • If you choose to smile at strangers or if you choose to rock a “perma-scowl” on your face all day, people will judge you either way.

No matter what you do, judgment from others will always be an unavoidable part of life. And since that’s the case, there really is only one logical thing to do from this point forward:

Be real and live your truth.

You don’t need to prove to the world that you “made it” or act like someone who you’re not in hopes of impressing people who you probably don’t even give a damn about anyway. Chasing the approval of the people who will judge you regardless of what you do is complete insanity.

Just be authentically you, and more importantly–be okay with being authentically you.

2. No one really cares anyway.

This was the hardest lesson of all for me to believe, but it’s so true.

I know that this sounds like a contradiction to the first point, but it isn’t at all.

It’s true that people may judge you, but after spending 30-40 seconds doing it, they’re completely over it.

Most people don’t give any real energy to the clothes that you’re wearing, the person you’re dating, the business/blog that you’re starting, the diet you’re about to start, the car you drive, the way you’re raising your kids, etc. Sure, it’s a big deal to you, but after they’re done making a quick judgment about it, they go back to spending the other 99.8% of their days thinking thoughts like these:

  • “I have so much to do today!”
  • “I hate the way that I look in these pants.”
  • “I wonder what’s for dinner tonight?”
  • “Man, I’m so tired…”
  • “I can’t wait for my vacation to start!”
  • “Ugh, this job is driving me insane…”
  • “I really need to call the plumber about my leaky bathroom sink…”

Regardless of what the thoughts are, I can pretty much guarantee that majority of most people’s thoughts have very little to do with you.

I know that sounds a little harsh, but it’s actually a good thing.

It’s freeing because it shows how insane it is to prove our worth to people who are too caught up in their own to drama to care about whether we prove our worth to them or not.

Most importantly, there’s only one person who has the power to decide your worth, and that person is you.

Don’t put your happiness, inner peace, and sanity at risk by giving that power to anyone else.

Nothing to Prove to Anyone

Two years ago, I wrote a blog post called The Brilliance of Quitting that had the potential of being destroyed by my readers.

It’s slightly controversial, it’s not something that many people are comfortable saying publicly, and it flies in the face of conventional wisdom.

While that’s all true, I posted it anyway without even a millisecond of hesitation, and it’s still one of my favorite blog posts to date.

Why was it so easy to post it?

I did it because I remembered something very simple:

I have nothing to prove to anyone.

I don’t need to live up to anyone’s ideal of who I should be, what I should write about, how I should write it, or any other silliness. All that I have to do is be authentically me, and a huge part of that authenticity is writing about topics that I believe deeply in.

Now, it’s time for some tough questions for you:

What do you believe you’re capable of doing? What do you give a damn about more than anything? What do you value, really?

Once you answer those three questions, and as long as those answers don’t hurt you or anyone else, I’m urging you to honor those answers with every fiber of your being.

The truth is that we all only get one shot at this life, and it’s not worth wasting a minute of it chasing the approval of anyone outside of ourselves.

Instead, use your only shot at this life to bravely speak your truth before it’s too late.

After all, no one else can do it besides you.

Most importantly, commit to living authentically, reject the need to impress “the cool kids” of the world, and always remember this life-changing truth:

You have nothing to prove to anyone.

Your Turn

Do you feel a need to chase others approval and/or impress them? Do you feel like you have nothing to prove? Either way, jump into the comments below and make your voice heard!

Shola

Shola

Founder of The Positivity Solution
Author, keynote speaker, and kindness extremist who is committed to changing the world by helping as many people as possible to live and work with more positivity.
Shola
Shola

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Comments

  1. Happy Monday, Shola!

    Thank you for your continued positivity and guidance. I love this message. I would have to say that, in spite of knowing this for quite a while, I’m still learning it!!! I tell my teenagers this all the time…and then I quietly beat myself up for missing someone else’s mark, yet again. Why do I do that???

    We are all part of a great dance of relationships. As long as we try to remember your wise words, those relationships build us up. And those that don’t need to GO AWAY!!! As you have told us before, we need to keep our front row free from those who push/pull us down and keep ourselves surrounded by uplifters!

    Thank you, again, for keeping Mondays positive. It’s quite a challenging task!

    Kathy 🙂

    • You are so welcome, Kathy! Mondays are usually pretty brutal for most people, so that’s why I chose that day to post new articles. Someone has to give us something to look forward to on Mondays, right 😉

      I’m so glad that you can relate to the challenge of living like we have nothing to prove, because it is HARD! Just like you, I’ve been known to beat myself up unnecessarily for missing someone else’s mark (e.g., they didn’t relate to one of my blog posts, they think that I smile too much, or they think my mission is unrealistic, etc.), but it’s at that moment that I gently remind myself that I don’t have to prove my worth to them. As you know, it is easier said than done to stay true to this philosophy, but the rewards of doing so are incredibly worth it. Thanks for being on the path with me, my friend!

  2. IRL I don’t feel the need to chase the approval of others. But now that I’m back on facebook, after being off for almost 4 years, I do catch myself wondering how many likes I am going to get when I post a pic or type a thought. I find it frustrating because IRL I don’t care but I care when it comes to social media…it seem very silly and confusing, I don’t even understand it. I guess I could post and “not care” if people comment or “not care” if I don’t get any likes…but I think I would be lying to myself. Since I feel this way I don’t see myself being on FB much longer anyway because I really see it as an unnecessary distraction, and it breeds narcissism and the need for approval…I can’t believe how many selfies I see daily by the same people. Yes, I could unfollow people but then I start asking myself what’s the point of being on social media if I’m not going to be “social”….yeah I’ll be deactivating soon lol. Ok, I’m done rambling 🙂

    • Ha! Man, I SO feel you, PhillyL. I’ve noticed that the biggest challenge to living the “Nothing to Prove” lifestyle is on social media. I think you said it best–most social media platforms are a breeding ground for the “Hey! Look at me!” type of silliness that feeds the need to prove ourselves with every post that we publish. I have no problem admitting that it’s on social media that I struggle the most with reminding myself that I have nothing prove, but I’m getting better each and every day. Thanks for the excellent insight on this!

  3. Shola,

    I already feel better about myself no matter what you or your readers think of me. Lol..
    I have the habit of comparing myself to others, especially when I’m not sure how to move forward with something. Even though I have proven myself to myself over and over, habit has me looking for comparison. I have witnessed others destroy their dreams and happiness by comparing themselves. Thank you for bringing this idea into the light. Results matters.

    • You are very welcome, Ed! Comparison does destroy dreams and happiness like a sneaky (but devastating) plague. My hope in writing this was to remind ourselves that there’s an alternative to the struggle: stay true to our values and worry less about the opinions of others. Thanks for reading!

  4. I simply love this post, Shola! Totally hit home for me. I spent years looking for approval and acceptance from other people (My father, my ex boyfriend and love of my life, my friends, my family) and did many things that I regret now, because I was scared of being judged and end up alone. This was frustrating and draining, until I realized that I couldn’t continue trying to live up to someone else’s standards (It was depressing me and killing me inside).

    Eventually the people that I wanted to “impress” did end up leaving me alone, then I finally decided to just don’t give a damn about it. I changed my clothes, my hair and my way of thinking. After a while I gained true friends that love me for who I am now, I feel like I’m finally being genuine and authentically me! It took me years to understand that people will always talk and judge no matter what I do. My grandma used to say “Be worried when they don’t talk about you at all” and she was so right!

    I still struggle a bit and sometimes I do compare myself to others, but I keep reminding me that I have my own life, I created it, I can always make some adjustments to make it better and become a better version of myself ONLY because I feel like it, not because I want to be someone else. I set challenges and pursue new adventures for my own personal growth (Like my reading challenge to read 15 books this year, guess what? I have read 17!!!). If there is someone I need to impress, that will be me and only me, no one else 🙂

    Thank you for such a wonderful post Shola, blessings to you and your family!! 🙂

    • Well said, Sofia! Huge props to you for finding the courage to walk away from the people who you were trying to impress, because many people go to their graves without doing that. You clearly are one of those people who “gets it,” and the fact that you’re focused on your personal growth (which matters a TON) vs. chasing the approval of others (which doesn’t matter at all) is all the evidence that I need to know that you’re on the right track. Thanks for the love and blessings, and I’m sending them right back at you 🙂

  5. Happy Monday Shola. Wow, this is a great topic. I wasted so many years comparing myself and always making huge efforts to “prove” myself. This led to chronic feelings of dissatisfaction, jealousy, resentment, and finally, just this big wet, smothering blanket of hopelessness. I hate even writing and thinking about it, and what a total Eeyore I was. Thank God I learned to value and appreciate life, in whatever form it takes. Each day really is a gift. You know I collect quotes. Here’s another, from Mark Morris, modern dancer. Someone asked him to describe a perfect day, and he said, “That’s the only kind there is”.

    • I absolutely love that quote, Donna! Learning to value our lives starts with valuing the stuff that really matters. As you know, just like you, I wasted more time than I can remember chasing the approval of others and failing miserably…and then, being miserable myself because of it. Like you said, each day is a gift. Thankfully, you and I aren’t wasting that valuable gift on the bottomless pit of comparing ourselves to others. Thanks for your quote (that’s a keeper) and for your comment!

  6. This blog really hit home for me. My whole life I’ve tried to prove to my family, my ‘friends’ and even strangers that I am worthy of love, respect, honor. A song that comes to mind is “The More We Try” the chorus goes, “The more we try the more we just get lonely, Though you’ve shown me how the things you say are true
    The lesson learned, is no concern if you don’t even know me
    To need love is all I really learned from you”
    Even though I’ve heard that song a million times, I am still trying to be my authentic self and not worry about what others think of me. It’s a tough one for me.
    I recently started working on my International Teaching Certificate and the school that I attend, doesn’t give grades because you are expected to do your best and if you do your best, than that is all you can do. There is no reason for a grade because you did your best and it does no good to compare yourself with others because their success or failure has nothing to do with you. It certainly is a different way to learn lessons.
    Be the best you can be, do your best work. No worries.

    • That is a fascinating learning model, Sara–I’ve never heard of that before. But isn’t that true? If we have done our best (I mean, sincerely gave 100% effort), then what good is it to compare ourselves to others? Talk about a solid metaphor for living our lives. On another positive note, if nothing else, know that you are not alone in the challenge of overcoming the need to prove ourselves to others. It’s an ongoing battle that I’m fighting side-by-side with you. And from now on, whenever you feel yourself slipping, throw on your headphones and play “The More We Try,” as your reminder that the best love that you can ever receive must come from you.

  7. Thank you. After struggling with this all my life, I finally achieved this mindset a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, earlier this year, I took a few steps backwards. Thanks for saying it so well and inspiring me to reframe my thinking.

    • My pleasure, Stef! Believe me, I take steps backward on this journey all the time. The key is to recognize it quickly and get back on the path. Most importantly, don’t forget to celebrate the steps forward that you have made on this journey!

  8. Hi Shola,
    I’ve been following your blog since last year, and it’s been very helpful and inspiring. I can relate with many experiences you shared, because I was a bullying victim for many years, and I always felt I had to prove my value to the world, because I felt I had no value at all. All that effort makes me feel always tired and desperate because I don’t know what else I should do to feel a whole and fulfilled person. Maybe I have nothing more to do, because there’s nothing wrong with me as I am now!
    Thank you. Merry Christmas!

    • Ah yes, Luisa–you completely answered your own question :). There is nothing to do, because there is nothing wrong with you. As a former bullying victim, I can deeply relate to the feelings of inadequacy that comes with that territory, but the bullies have already taken enough from us, haven’t they? Don’t let them continue to tread on your self-worth. You are truly fine just the way you are.

  9. I don’t know that I chase the approval of others, so much as I am just disappointed in myself for not achieving more with my life. I’m on the cusp of 30 and still floundering around career wise and constantly try to start a new idea, instead of finishing my first thought. I fear I’ll never amount to anything and feel the need to do more to try and save some of the people around me who are drowning, while I’m learning how to doggy paddle myself. I constantly hear, ‘just stick with it’ , but that’s hard to do when you can’t figure out what ‘it’ is. I must say feels good to rant though.

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