04/30/2014 05:54 pm ET Updated Jun 30, 2014

When Not Enough Is Holding You Back (And What to Do About It)

Martin Barraud via Getty Images

We're hardwired as social beings to seek approval from those we admire. It validates our opinion of ourselves, and it validates our capabilities.

We've all been through it; we've all experienced it. We've all been focused on that one thing: the status, a title or relationship, someone else's approval that we decided would validate us or that thing outside of us which is transient, ever changing and uncontrollable.

Why do we continue to allow those things dictate how good we are? If he calls, we're good enough. If you get the job or get into the graduate program, you're smart enough. If our manager or advisor acknowledges our work, we're worthy enough. Living like that can make life a roller coaster. No matter how hard you work or how much energy you invest, when you've given the power to someone else, you'll never measure up.

I've experienced it all. I've watched a golden relationship fail, I froze in my final interview round for McKinsey (the only company I wanted to work for) and I cried all weekend after that interview, sobbing in bed underneath the covers. Layoffs and breakups and falling out with friends -- those are the moments when people you've allowed to validate you no longer do, and what's left is a gaping hole when they don't.

As painful as it can feel at that moment you have the option to seize the opportunity to change the pattern. Fill the void left when the inevitable outside approval doesn't match the internal dialogue. This is a chance to embrace growth. You don't have to continue to allow other people to validate you.

Here are four steps in that moment of needy attachment where you can find the intrinsic worth inside of you.

1. Stop and pay attention. Notice the emotions that are moving through you. Are there any sensations? Is there a feeling of emptiness? Are you all of a sudden hungry? Do you want to reach out and call an ex? Do you bite your nails? Do you all of a sudden lose confidence in a completely unrelated area? Just notice, and listen.

2. Emotions, thoughts and even sensations are all energy. Energy cannot be created nor destroyed. It can be transformed and released.

Imagine the emotions and thoughts you are experiencing as energy moving through you. Picture it as a ball. Let the energy swirl together while noticing the different sensations and thoughts. Take time to be pulled into the whirlwind in front of you -- like a dust ball outside of your body.

3. Take a moment to observe the swirl of energy outside of you. You may be surprised at what you see or what you've been holding on to. Blow it like a dandelion on a summer's day. Imagine it moving towards the sun while directing it to move towards the light. Take a deep breath and watch it float away.

How do you feel now? An emotion, a thought, a sensation does not define you. Allow them to move through you, experience them, yet don't hold on to them. Let the good and the bad move through you and not define you. The more masterful you become at this, and the sooner you can let an experience go, the fuller life you will be able to live.

4. Now that the unwanted emotion is gone, what will you replace it with? Set an intention that creates a healing in place of the energy you've just released. Choose something that fills your life with a higher quality. Love, joy, expression, creativity, what ever your heart desires can now be yours.

How can you change your pattern of validation?