Filling the Well from Within

» Posted by on Oct 24, 2012 in Blog | 8 comments

Filling the Well from Within

I have observed two types of people. Those that need a lot of external validation and those that thrive on internal validation. People that require a lot of external validation need to have their internal well filled from the outside whereas those who are satisfied with internal validation know how to fill the well from within. People who need external validation are running around trying to please in the hopes they will get the praise they desperately need. They might over-commit or not honor their instincts in a desperate attempt to get that pat on the back. This takes a lot of energy and unfortunately no matter how hard they try, the well never gets filled.

I am one of those folks who naturally craves more external validation. Granted I generally acknowledge myself for a job well done. I am personally gratified by my success. But my habit is to seek approval from others in order to validate my internal experience.

This definitely comes into play in my professional world. I regularly speak at events and facilitate workshops. I can leave a session on cloud nine knowing that participants were engaged and that I was effective. That being said, I don’t trust how “I really did” until I receive the session feedback forms.

I increasingly doubt my internal barometer of success because I have taken the courageous approach of integrating singing into some of my programs. I weave pieces of songs that tie into the topic I am speaking about. This approach has been incredibly gratifying for me as I didn’t even shared that I sang in my professional world until about 7 years ago. I was the Human Resources Manager at EMI Music Distribution and nobody knew that I sang! I know that I am engaging my audience because I see their reactions in front of my eyes. I see the light bulbs go off, the heads nodding, people sometimes singing along to the music. I feel alive and on purpose when I use this approach.

Yet, I won’t call an event a success until I get the feedback forms. I recently spoke at a Human Resources conference where I sang during the program. The room was practically on fire with the energy I created. People were talking, asking questions and engaging each other through a series of activities I crafted. The proctor from the room next door asked us to keep the noise down. To me this was an excellent sign. I felt wonderful about my experience until I received the evaluation summary. My scores were decent averaging 4 out of 5 on most categories. But this is where my Perfectionist kicks in. I immediately jumped into thoughts like “Maybe I should stop singing during my workshops. What could I have done differently to make this better? Why do I keep putting myself out there and perhaps I need to start playing it safe?”

The truth is that no matter how hard I try, I cannot please everyone. I knowingly took the risk that I might please even fewer people when I intentionally stopped playing it safe and started this novel approach.

I know I am having an impact even on those that are surprised and perhaps a bit uncomfortable by my approach. I am waking them up, getting them out of their heads, and encouraging them to engage in a different way. I know this is tough for some folks and some would rather be a passive participant. Part of my message and mission is to encourage people to find ways to re-energize by integrating all of who they are into all that they do. I view my singing as an example of how to do this. Guess what?? This requires an honest self-assessment which can be distressing and most likely will require us to strive for some sort of behavior change. This is not easy and most people do not eagerly desire to grow and change unless they are feeling pain. Sometimes it is easier to critique or judge someone like myself who brings a novel approach rather than reflecting on their lives and where there might be room to grow and change.

I am on a journey to trust my instinct and feel good about myself without needing that external pat on the back. My opportunity lies in trusting that “my tribe” is out there. I know they exist as they approach me after each speaking and training engagement and let me know how I have impacted their lives. I know I am doing good work by the feedback I receive from my coaching clients. Now I just need to continue to trust my intuition which I call my “gentle strength” and know that I will touch those folks that are ready to hear my message. I want to be in integrity with myself by “walking my talk” and continue to follow my creative intuition even if there is a risk of sticking out or not getting the immediate satisfaction of the higher scores on the feedback forms.

I would love to hear how this message impacts you and what parallels you see in your world. How do you fill your well??


  1. Hello Rachel, Thank you for sharing. Having been in your audience I would not have guessed you were an external pat on the back person. Seems like you cover this well.

    I will share this story (via copy paste) with one of my direct reports that is continually announcing good deeds in the hopes of a pat on the back. The thing that they don’t get is the growth connection … they believe that it’s their job to do what they are doing and not anything out the ordinary to what they are paid to do. This story could be a good push to help them learn to point the finger inward towards growth to be confident with self.

    Thank you!
    Lysa McCarrell

    • Great to hear from you Lysa! Thanks so much for reading my blog and I am happy that it had meaning for you. I appreciate you passing it on to your direct report and hope this sparks a conversation. I believe in this day and age we need to proactively navigate our careers. This means we need to continually find opportunities for growth that we can use where ever we are employed.

      Be Well,

  2. Thanks, Rachel, for your vulnerability and courage in illustrating the differences between external and internal validation! For me the ego needs external validation, my soul/spirit has no such requirement. Occasionally I experience the conflict between the two. Trusting self is the backbone of integrity – a high value of mine. Although I can get caught up in looking outside myself for proof that I’m good enough, my job is to recover to the one in me that knows better …. boils down to an ongoing conscious effort to stay connected to self.

    Again, thanks for the provocative message!


    • Mary – thanks for your insightful comments and for reading my post. This means a lot to me!!


  3. Hi Rachel- thanks so much for sharing this story! Definitely a courageous move to do something that’s outside of the scope of what people expect, and to pay more attention to the inner dial rather than to the evaluation scores (which are, in your case, still excellent!). I like what you say about being in integrity with yourself. Sounds like you are truly walking the talk, as you say, and setting the example for your clients. I know you set the example for me.

    Thanks again,

    • Wow Mim!
      I am so touched that you read my post and that it resonated with you. I have so much respect for you and your work and am excited we are getting to know each other better. Wishing you much joy this holiday and always. See you soon!

  4. Hello Rachel – we met years ago and will again very soon as I start to re-engage the profession; so fortunately for you, I don’t really know you or you me and I have no need to validate you. However, as I am responding to this post it must have spoken to me in some way … Dang, she got me anyway! LOL

    Over the last 4 years, the validation issue has been at the forefront of my personal work. Like you it is not difficult for me to talk about my professional accomplishments. I mean, why would it be? I’ve had the opportunity to slay all those false beliefs (demons some say) that may have challenged my self-esteem and confidence.

    However, for me demons are not so easily dismissed on the personal relationship front. I’ve been doing serious work in fact finding, challenging my assumptions , and re-framing my beliefs around relationship. So I would say, yes there maybe two broad categories that we can assign ourselves, but it just as likely that there is a spectrum or various degrees of internal or external validation that may be required for any one of us to find confidence in ourselves.

    Thank you for putting yourself out there, your continued hard word, and I look forward to re-introducing myself one morning over a training session.

    • Thanks so much for reaching out Michael. Your name is so familiar but I don’t recognize your picture on Linkedin. I appreciate your reflection on my post and I am honored that it holds meaning for you. Thanks for letting me know how you came across my post. I hope our paths meet soon.


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