3 months
The Affirmation Trap: Whose Opinion Are You Seeking?
By Nemi Ariweriokuma

Do you like the piece I showed you?
Do you think it was creative?
Do you think I am talented?
Why is your face looking like that, was I sounding bad?
Do you think the clients will like it?

It is understandable to ask people close to us about their opinion of our work because to some it is constructive criticism. But when you intentionally chase constructive criticisms, most times what you may get would be bias and dishonest response. Not everyone knows how to mince their words, people may not want to hurt your feelings, it is important to carefully pick the people you discuss certain sensitive topics with, because some may be genuine whilst others may laugh at you and call you names behind your back.

A lot of times, we try so hard to force growth forgetting that we never graduated high school by just starting in senior high. There was a process that had to be followed before we got to senior high and we worked to graduate. The administrations of high school operated by the “you get what you give rule”. It was a fair institution and in all my life I don‘t think I have witnessed any system fairer than high school. It‘s almost like you could seat down and predict what your grades would be. 

In the real world, is this the same case? Well, I think it is to a certain degree because there are certain uncontrollable and extraneous variables that may affect your performance level regardless of if you worked hard or not, although these variables may be in the form of negative opinions, inappropriate politics etc. If you always seat down thinking about negative people’s opinions after creating great master pieces worthy of an undisputed A grade: then you my friend may never reach your full potential in life.

I noticed that most people have so much to say about every situation. I mean listening to a critical session curated by them makes you think "wow! I never knew Einstein relocated to Ibadan!" these people would give you all valid 100 points to show you why your idea is so stupid or your project is low quality. If you don‘t have your firm belief, you would be down cast and miserable trying to understand if they are right or wrong. This is only a tip of the iceberg of the problems you would encounter when you constantly listen to ‘them’.

The main problem starts when you lean on these negative people as your source of inspiration or mentors. First they make you see why they are the ones who know so much with their overly convincing tone of voice. After they do this, they string you in and start playing on your psyche by slowly reorganizing your general orientations in life. Further, they complement you nonstop for a while making you undeniably comfortable because they know that if they criticize you so much at this early stage without you having any sentimental attachments to them, you may cut them off. Once they notice you have gotten too comfortable and let your guards down, they strike and VOILA, you may now open your eardrums for their constant negative criticisms, which in my opinion had been on vacation. When the criticisms start coming in full force, it may be too late at this point to remove yourself from this negative association. When you confront these people of demoralizing your self-esteem, they turn it down with phrases like "omg you eh, you think too much, abeg relax”.

As a start-up company or someone starting out an idea, there would be the initial urge for you to seek validation from people. I understand that people would want their ideas to be executed perfectly so they begin to seek for criticism which they feel would help them grow. This could be detrimental if the source of criticism you search for is a wrong source. 

As an individual who constantly looks for approval from people you are likely to compound insecurity issues you never bargained for. Let‘s face it, everyone on earth is on a journey to self-discovery and it‘s fair to say that the next person maybe intelligent in his/ her own way. Everyone has the ability to reach their full potential so why always sacrifice your personal opinions for the opinions of others? Why always run to people for validation before acknowledging if your ideas are genius or not? It is highly recommended to take advice but according to a huge spectrum of literature, it is always advisable to seek expert advice. This is because an expert in most cases is a complete stranger who is able to give you the information you need without any sentiments or bias involved. This person just says their opinions and usually backs it up with findings and credible examples. For example, if Oprah Winfrey were to give you an advice about starting a TV show, you would be assured she would be giving a balanced advice. First off her geographical location and cultural orientations are different from yours, so there would be no likely case of tribalism in the situation. Also she is giving you advice based on her mistakes and at such you are getting proactive and reactive advice. If getting someone from another national cultural background isn‘t a good fit, you could seek the guidance of an expert closer to you whose advice may be more practical. It may be noted that getting expert opinion from more than one source is efficient as it helps you compare and contrast and also get a broader view as to which steps to take. When you base your competences on every single opinion, you would become confused and may start feeling incapable. In the end it is always good to narrow down your options and to be careful about whom you listen to.

When you start out a career path, not everyone would support you 100%. This may be for several reasons. Some may not support you because they feel you are incapable and would never make it. Another set may not support you because they are envious of the fact that you started something before them or you executed an idea, which had been long overdue in their minds. Furthermore, people may not support you because they are probably just lazy and negative people who see the insignificance of starting things. There are several motives behind people‘s actions and it‘s never your responsibility to understand their motives or make them support you. 

When I first started my clothing brand, I was rejected by a few people and I realized because I wasn‘t sure of my capabilities I kept doubting myself and wondering what I did to deserve their rejection. That rejection triggered me to try to buy them over and if one is not careful people would capitalize on this vulnerability. They would make you give them more than they deserve because they can see how much you need them. True talent doesn‘t hide. If you couple it with the right attitude, the right network, proper research & continuous training, there‘s no doubt you would excel. 

If Donald Trump relied solely on the fact that he has a record for being overly opinionated, he may have never aspired to be a president. Currently there are several advocacy groups stating the pros and cons of his governance and credibility level. He regardless of the negative backlash is still forging ahead. His methods may not be the best according to some people but he is the current president of America, like it or not. This applies to everyone; don‘t settle for mediocrity, popular social stratification (i.e. being placed by people in a social category). This doesn‘t mean you should be arrogant and not listen to people but most times you become what you think, so think of your craft as the best and work towards it.

People usually love to associate with success because the general human nature is somewhat impatient to see your ups and down. They just want the good times so they could affiliate with it and probably get connections from you. Keep working and with time your work would speak for you. When it does, always remember those who held you down and those who did not, because the ones who despised you would definitely come running back looking for you! Focus on your craft and always remember whom you run to for affirmation could make or break you.

I wish you all the very best in all areas of your life this new year! Happy New Year!

IG: @styletrailer

© 2017 Play Network Nigeria. All rights reserved.
Scripted by Velkro