Column: Misguided motivation… A life lesson from Elle Woods
The role that made Reese Witherspoon a star, Elle Woods, the lead character from the movie from “Legally Blonde” can teach us something important about misguided motivation. At the outset, Elle believes that her long-time boyfriend is going to propose to her when in fact he is preparing to break up with her. He is going to law school with political aspirations and ends the relationship because he feels he needs to be someone more serious. Elle takes it upon herself to also get into Harvard Law School, where her ex would be attending, to show him she can be serious and to try and win him back.
Upon arriving on campus, her ex is shocked to see her and Elle is mortified to see that he has already moved on and gotten engaged to another girl. She continues to try and convince him that it is her he should be with but he continues to tell her that she is just not smart enough and is wasting her time. Elle ultimately achieves her goal of becoming a lawyer and in the process meets a guy, who loves her for who she is. However, that did not happen until she stopped trying to prove herself to someone who had already moved on and was a part of her past.
How many of us can relate to Elle in this scenario? Getting the “revenge body.” Getting to say, “I told you so.” Getting your moment in the sun. All of that sounds amazing and motivating, doesn’t it? However, isn’t it funny how real life rarely looks like the storybook, Hollywood ending?
The truth is we have all experienced rejection, humiliation, and feelings of inadequacy throughout our lives. We think of ways that we can strengthen ourselves so that we never feel like that again. We make it our mission to prove to the people who hurt us that we can rise above and show them that they were wrong. All we do, though, is treat the symptom rather than the cause. We work on the outside appearance but do little to work on the inner hurts.
If we do things to try and prove a point to people in our past, then it just proves that we have not moved on and they still have space in our mind and power to influence our decisions. We don’t like to even entertain the thought that we are not at the forefront of their minds because what they said or did to us is our fuel to prove a point. However, what happens when you see the person who hurt you — after you have done all this work to try and prove a point — and they don’t care or don’t even remember the moment in time that has been your driving force and motivation? What then? This is when you realize that your motivation has been misguided. It’s as if you have been rejected all over again.
A quote that circulates social media platforms that pertains to this topic, “If you live for their approval you’ll die from their rejection.”
If you put your validation in other people’s hands you will have to keep going back to them for it. If another person is at the center of your focus and they are responsible for the fulfillment of your joy, you will always be miserable.
It’s very challenging emotionally and mentally to be in a place if the people closest to you don’t appreciate you, support you or don’t express their love to you. We all have those people in our lives that we desperately crave for them to tell us that what we do matters to them but also that they admire us.
Yet, sometimes we get stuck in what people expect and we never find out who we are because we’re living someone else’s dream. We are motivated by revenge rather than what makes us happy. The energy spent trying to get revenge can be better spent creating an amazing life for you!
Two things drive our life: approval and achievement. If we spend our time, energy, and resources to achieve things to try and gain the approval of people who have moved on from our lives — it is a waste of time. If you learn from your pain, hurts and experiences and use them to make a better life with no motivation to prove someone wrong, you’ll find the need for their validation to become less and less until one day you realize just how happy you are.
Steve Sauceda is the host and producer of the radio show and Podcast: “Untucked with Steve Sauceda.” He can be reached at: or .