Are We All Hooked On This?


I’m a junkie. I need at least one fix a day to stay happy. If I don’t get what I need from you I might turn to someone else. I’ve had this need forever and I can’t lose it. Frankly, I don’t want to lose it.

I’ve just described me, probably you, and virtually everyone you have ever met. We are all junkies for affirmation. We can’t get enough of being told good things about ourselves. We need the strokes. We need to be told someone else cares. What we do must be noticed or we’ll sulk and pout. I’ll freely admit that nice comments left on my blog make my day. The affirmation feels good. 

Affirmation means to state that something is true. In this context, it means to praise someone for his personality or talent. It means to tell her she is doing a good job or is important in your life. Affirmation fulfills our basic need to feel relevant, useful and needed. So, if this is a deep-seated need we all have then why is it rare in most of our lives, most of the time? Good question.

About a year ago I was prompted by something I read somewhere that made a real impact. Frankly, I can’t remember what it said specifically. All I remember is something struck a chord. The gist of the piece was that during a normal day we all deal with dozens of people who come quickly in and out of our lives.

The article was not referring to coworkers or family members, church friends, or regular contacts. 

It was talking about the “invisible people” we interact with every day. In this case, “invisible” isn’t a value judgment. Rather, it is how we typically see (or don’t see) these folks.

I’ve given this topic some extra thought since Covid upended our world.  If nothing else we have seen how those who do things for us in the shadows, who allow us to live the life we do, who stock the shelves, drive the trucks, tend to the sick, care for the informed, hand us food through the drive-through window, are a very important part of our days.

The driver who drops off a FedEx package delivers our groceries or dinner, is usually is nameless and faceless to us. The waitress at dinner tells us her name but we forget it before she’s even taken our order. The person who hands you a prescription at Walgreens doesn’t really register (pardon the pun).

See where I’m heading? Every single day we have the opportunity to affirm something about these people and their existence yet we don’t, even though each one of them is just as much an affirmation junkie as you or I.

Since the lockdown and all the restrictions of the past two years, I have tried to remember to make a simple affirming comment whenever I interacted with one of these “invisible” folks. 

The results are just what you might expect.  Suddenly an unhappy, tired clerk at the grocery store smiles. A clerk laughs while handing me a package. A delivery person thanks me for my business. The invisible person in front of me becomes quite real. She has been affirmed. And, she started affirming me back. We interacted like two human beings who were willing to give a tiny piece of themselves to someone else.

Personally, I am very sorry I didn’t learn this lesson while I was working. I know I treated the “invisible people” like interruptions or not worthy of my giving them what they craved. I hope it wasn’t because I was purposely hurtful, I was just selfish and oblivious. I’m still that way more often than I’d wish, especially with faceless people on the phone.

This refocus on just a little part of my day has allowed me to find new satisfaction and growth (maybe growing up). It is a process that won’t stop until I take my final breath, hopefully, many years from now. There is a lot of affirmation I must catch up on.