I Live for the Appraisal that I’m Not Getting

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a woman in my 20s, and since people aren’t valuing my work, I can’t find my own self-value, and I’m suffering for it.

On the advice of my doctor, I am currently taking time off of work. The doctor told me I need to stay away from the sources of my stress, so I am currently relaxing at home most days. I started putting some artwork I did on Twitter, too.

However, lately my work hasn’t received positive feedback on Twitter. Without that feedback, I feel so empty. When someone whose artwork isn’t even better than mine does get positive feedback, I feel so indignant about it. I want to keep checking Twitter, but I don’t want to keep checking Twitter. But I can’t help but be curious. I’m addicted.

Since I’m not working right now, I can’t find my own value at work. All I have is Twitter. But already doing this artwork isn’t for fun anymore; it’s to find that value.

Can you please help me feel better about all of this?

— Y, Kangawa Prefecture Dear Ms. Y:

When someone highly evaluates our work, it’s true it can be a great source of joy. However, if you think of someone else’s evaluation of you as the same as your own value, it will create stress.

Before having someone evaluate you, first you need to create a strong sense of self. How far ahead do you need to get at work to feel satisfied? What kind of artwork is your goal? When you strive to improve your work and artwork to achieve the goals you have set for yourself, I think you’ll find personal satisfaction with your life. This feeling is not like the instantaneous joy you get when someone praises your work. Rather, you will feel a kind of satisfaction that slowly envelopes you.

If the goals you set for yourself are too far out of reach, you might feel like you want to give up halfway through. If that happens, reassess your goals and slowly work your way toward becoming yourself. This type of process is linked to self-affirmation.

If you can get this self-affirmation, you will know what other people want from you. Only when you can provide them with what they are looking for, they will be able to provide good feedback as a result. To get actual, honest feedback from people requires hard work and patience.

And if you can reach the point where you are satisfied with work and your artwork, then I think you’ll reach a point where you don’t even need other people’s feedback anymore.

—Junko Umihara, psychiatrist