When You’re Dying To Hear Them Say, “Atta Girl!”
Recently, David and I met up with four of our best friends for dessert and drinks after work. I cried the whole drive there.
That day there was a situation at work. I had worked tirelessly on a project, and not an ounce of my hard work had been noticed.
I know it sounds absolutely ridiculous, but more often than I’d like to admit, I find myself working myself to the bone for “atta girls” at the office. I toil to impress senior co-workers, because their praise and recognition means more to me than gold.
And when I don’t get credit for something I’ve worked hard on? Or the countless hours I spent on a project go unnoticed? I’m crushed.
I feel invisible, worthless, and completely discouraged.
Our friends listened to my story and nodded their heads knowingly.
One of my most successful friends piped up, “I totally get it. Honestly, I’d take a pay cut in a heartbeat if I could exchange it for recognition and praise from senior management.”
The rest of us fervently agreed with his point.
That’s when I realized: There is something inside all of us that craves worldly recognition and validation—especially at work.
Actually, this desperate need for validation is a generational condition. Researchers often call Generation Y (a.k.a. people born between 1980 – 1997) the “Trophy Generation” because we grew up being recognized and rewarded at every turn—we received trophies for participating in tournaments and ate off red plates with “You are Special” written around the rim.
I grateful to have been supported well as a little tike, but because of that continual encouragement, most of us Gen Y’s are simply conditioned to expect “atta girls.” When we don’t receive the recognition we’ve learned to crave, well, scientifically speaking… it, like, really stresses us out!
So, incase you’re struggling with this too, I thought I’d share three things I’m learning lately about finding contentment at work regardless of how much recognition I recieve:
1. Pity Parties are Lame Parties
Put the party hat down, sister. I repeat: Put. The hat. Down.
I know how tempting it might be to recount all the times we’ve been hurt by a co-worker or to list the reasons for our workplace frustration, especially when we are feeling discouraged and underappreciated. It’s awesomely validating, temporarily. In the long run, keeping track of our grievances is a soul-crushing game—trust me. So, no more negative lists and angry confetti, okay?
Next time you are tempted to slump down in your office chair and pout, try listing ten things you are grateful for instead. You’ll be amazed at how much five minutes can change your entire day. Life is too short to attend pity parties. There are too many lovely things out there to celebrate!
“Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky.” Philippians 2:14-15
2. Your Work Does Not Determine Your Worth
My hard-working, talented friend, you are worth far more than you will ever comprehend. You are worth the life of God’s only Son. You are cared for more diligently than a shepherd tends his sheep. (John 10:11) As a child of God, you are forgiven. You are loved. You are treasured. (James 4:6, Psalm 100:3, Ephesians 2:10)
Never in a million years will a compliment from the CEO determine your true worth, nor can he or she take it away. Your true worth is found tucked in His Word, not in performance or approval.
Seek Christ for your worth; His “atta girl” is the only one that matters.
“For am I seeking the approval of man, or of God? …If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10
“You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings.” 1 Corinthians 7:23
3. Kick Butt Anyway
Unfortunately, no one ever said fairness, recognition, and encouragement came with your salary. Those things are just a bonus.
The truth is, I was hired to serve my company well—even if that means staying a little late or working harder than someone else. I don’t deserve to be heaped with compliments that day, because I was doing exactly what they pay me to do—simple as that.
As Christ-followers we were not planted in careers only to make lots of money or climb the corporate latter. While nothing is wrong with those things, I think we have a much bigger purpose for being at work.
We are called to represent Christ well at the office.
That means serving others without expectation, striving for excellence, working joyfully even when the tasks are menial, and investing in our co-workers. When we get great at serving others, our work because a whole lot more fulfilling. We’ll crave worldly recognition and praise less, because our eyes are focused on living for eternity not the next performance review.
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” Colossians 3:23
Dear talented, brave sister,
Remember, your work does not define your worth. If today sucked, wake up again tomorrow and try, try again. You are enough. You are always, perfectly enough.