The Paradox of Recognition

Recognition serves as a powerful form of validation, affirming the value and impact of one’s efforts. If we go beyond achieving visibility not as a goal in itself but as a means of elevating invisible issues and narratives, we are consciously addressing the paradoxical aspect of recognition. In other words, we are not only aware that what is publicly present is political, arbitrary, and network-dependent, but we also use the space of visibility to actively foreground the voices of others who do not have the scaffolding to do so themselves.

Embracing this paradox ultimately offers a better understanding of others’ experiences and perspectives. It encourages us to recognize the diverse ways in which people seek and react to validation.

However, recognition increases expectations. You may be finding yourself facing pressure to conform to someone else’s standards or to replicate previous successes, especially if this pressure is tied to your sources of support. The paradox here lies in fighting this weight of expectations that comes with feeling publicly validated.

This weight from the Paradox of Recognition may also be causing or increasing divisions if you work in a collective. If individuals let their ego inflate as they perceive the value of public presence too seriously, that usually happens on account of other collaborators. This is a constant tension for groups experiencing public visibility, where spotlighting individuals can create hierarchies of value, leaving collective work unrecognized.

Achieving recognition in an unintended context can also distort the original message or intent of the work. You may be having a hard time with a project that has been co-opted or that has been recognized as something it isn’t.

The Paradox of Recognition may be appearing for you because you are ready to distance yourself from the trap of needing constant external validation no matter how much of it you gain. It could mean you are currently building resilience and self-reliance, drawing strength from your purpose within your communities, rather than from public acclaim.