“So, what do you do?” 

Hearing this question used to be my worst nightmare. 

Telling people I was a life coach seemed to elicit either confused looks or the proverbial pat on the head before they moved on. Either way I was pretty sure it was a slightly patronizing moment that made them feel better about themselves.

But when I told people I worked with clients who were newly diagnosed with MS – and what’s more, that I have MS myself. Well, that got me accolades. It got me handshakes. And it gave me a huge dose of validation (and let’s be honest – an ego boost) every time.

And as I coached my clients and wrote my books, a newfound confidence was born —  bolstered by the comments from others about the amazing work I was doing.

My gut was saying something different.

After some years, I realized that it was time to move on to different things. I love my clients – that wasn’t the issue. My gut was just pulling me in a new direction. My ideas were flowing in a different way and I was identifying different people that I wanted to help.

As coaches, we know that evolving our business is normal. We have our own business and our own playbook that we can run however we choose. 

Sometimes our intuition lets us know it’s time to move in a different direction. 

It’s up to us to listen. 

But I ignored my intuition.

I wasn’t totally sure of my new direction and I didn’t have a solid vision. Even though I knew the only way to see where my business was going was to take a small step in that new direction and then wait for more clarity, I couldn’t do it.

Instead of taking the new steps towards what felt was right, I stayed frozen. 

The elephant in the room.

The elephant in the room was that I knew the outside validation for what I did would no longer be there once I started doing something new. And I saw just how much of my confidence was entangled in that. My inner mean girl was sounding the alarms that this change wouldn’t work and that people wouldn’t get it.

It’s hard to listen to our intuition’s soft voice when our inner critic is loud and clear. 

So I decided that I would stick with what I knew instead of feeling my way through this new calling. Business as usual was comfortable, it was predictable — nevermind that it was slowly burning me out. 

When you’re used to having positive reinforcement from colleagues, clients, and strangers you want to impress for some reason, it’s hard to make a change that will take that all away.

There’s a difference between the ‘fake it till you make it’ false confidence and the true foundation of inner confidence. One does not lead to the other.

Seeking this validation from others kept me from doing what I knew was right for years.

Yes, years.

Looking back, I have such compassion for that coach who just wanted to do the most good with people who really wanted the help. I can’t fault her for stalling out when faced with a scary new change and shaky confidence

I didn’t yet fully understand that the only validation that truly matters was my own. Or maybe I knew it in theory, but that theoretical knowledge was no match for the quick hit of confidence that came from other people’s validation. 

This is why it’s so treacherous to look for validation from things outside of ourselves. Relying on validation from others makes you ignore your inner guidance. It can affect your health – and the bottom line of your business.

Once I figured out how to rely on my own validation, I was able to feel that ego boost all on my own. While following my intuition in running my business, I did things my way, without the insecurities. Which is a whole new form of validation. 

Validation is a powerful thing, either way, you look at it.

Following it can make your business sink or swim.

Make sure it comes from the most reliable sources.