Working for the Kennesaw State student newspaper, The Sentinel, as Editor-in-Chief for the past five months or so has been a challenging, revolutionary and exhausting experience. Coming into the position, I didn’t feel qualified. Having been Photo Editor for the previous three semesters, I was used to my routine of exclusively handling the visual content of the paper. I had no idea how to execute good, in-depth copy editing, manage a group of people that have a vastly different skill set than I do, nor ensure the newspaper would run efficiently and within our budget.
As the semester moved along, I started to find a groove that worked. Bumps came along the way, but they were minor bumps instead of potholes. I continually tried to encourage the staff and reinforce all of their efforts. We faced a lot of criticism at times, especially on the stories pertaining to the cheerleaders that knelt during the national anthem. We received national and international attention. But we continued to push.
Now, we have printed our final issue of the semester with a cover story that we hope will spark a change in the culture surrounding sexual misconduct and rape in our community. We’ve received great feedback on it, but some people still throw criticism our way.
Being a journalist demands the ability to have thick skin. If you don’t, you will crumble. But what I’ve learned this semester is that the need for validation exists in an extraordinary way that I never thought it would in my life.
After going through a semester working my ass off, completing school assignments, putting out a weekly newspaper, running an independent photography business, freelancing for news outlets, trying to spend time with family and friends, and hoping to find at least six hours for sleep, I feel defeated when criticism comes. Am I not doing enough? Are my efforts worthless?
It’s incredibly difficult to focus on the positive moments — the encouraging words from friends, the opportunities and the beautiful moments. I try to savor those things, but they escape from my grasp with each task that beckons my attention.
Don’t get me wrong, I love being busy. Having nothing to do sends me into a tailspin, trying to figure out what I’m not doing that needs to be done. It’s that heart palpitation moment that chokes you to do more because true rest seems unacceptable.
This leads to the trap of validation and public approval. This semester, more than any, I feel like I have craved the approval of social media, my friends and those that interact with the work I do and long to do. I have become scrutinizing in things I post to Instagram, viewing it as a live portfolio of my work for employers to judge me on in hopes of finding a “big-boy job.”
I have never been one to deeply analyze the things I post. In the past, I didn’t care that much. But now, I have hesitated and decided not to post things because I don’t feel I’ll get an adequate amount of likes. I never thought I’d reach this point.
Validation is something I feel college students thrive on. We want our friends to support us in decisions. I mean, who wouldn't want to be told they’re doing something right and that the things they do are awesome? But a craving for public approval is detrimental to the soul. It leaves you empty and starving when other’s somewhat hollow opinions are all you’re fed.
I’ve felt that this semester. I’ve been craving validation and have been left starving in the face of criticism and denials. If I continue to base my life on the opinions of others, then my life will continue to belong to the individuals that I have allowed to dictate my contentment.
I like to say I don’t care what people think, but I truly do a lot of the time. It’s hard to not when we are all so connected. Do I feel the need to unplug? Not really. I feel the need to gaze toward Heaven. Lord knows I haven’t done that often. I know He’s just waiting for me to look up so He can say, “I am enough for you. My word means more than any other’s.”