Assurance: Are you looking in the wrong places?

vectorstock_465876-smI remember it as if it were yesterday. High school. Understudy. Insecurities. Had a chance and I blew it. I’m not sure what was going through my mind when I took the stage for a rehearsal for the school play. I had been backstage and finally had a chance to show everyone I was ready to take the stage.

But I was looking for assurance from the director that I was on the right track. I kept looking back towards where he was sitting, but of course the lights were so bright. So there I was, squinting towards the back of the theater when I heard someone ask ‘what does she think she’s doing?’ That just made it worse. I wanted to cry – and I wanted to get off the stage as quickly as possible. They decided to pass on my playing the role for the Saturday afternoon show as planned. And I ended up staying behind the scenes for a few more years before I decided to brave the stage again.

It’s been several years since I was involved in any theater productions, but the big lesson I learned that day was to stop looking for reassurance in the wrong places – and that I needed to stop feeling like I needed it (still working on that one but getting better).

I’ve realized that need can rear its ugly head in the workplace as well. And by the time we realize what’s happening, it could be too late to turn it around.

So, what are some signs that you’re looking for reassurance? Here are some signs I’ve seen:

  • Feeling alone
  • Knowing you’re on the right path, but others don’t get it
  • Frustration
  • Burnout
  • Spending more time with the dog (unconditional love)
  • In extreme cases unexpected emotional outbursts (yes, I’ve been there)

Looking for reassurance in and of itself is not a bad thing – but when we look for it in the wrong places it can cause trouble.

I think I might know your next question – what would be the right place? You should find someone who has an understanding of your role in your organization, but is unconnected to it. In addition, they should have available time and interest in hearing you through and providing feedback and advice.

Just in case you don’t have someone to fill that need – or if you’re looking for more feedback and advice than is likely to find in a friend or informal mentor – I’ve started a new Nonprofit-Consultant-on-Call program. It’s on an as-needed basis, so you’re only paying as you need help – rather than being tied into a long-term contract. To learn more visit

Comments are closed.