Validation is “the recognition or affirmation that a person or their feelings or opinions are valid or worthwhile”. And it’s common to seek this validation from other people. Especially when you’re growing up. Some people may even seek it from others their entire lives. But you can also learn how to validate yourself, which is called self-validation.
Growing up, most children and teens seek validation from their parents or peers. You want to get accepted, seen, and fit in. Often, this continues onto your 20s as well. Some young adults can’t decide anything for themselves without asking others for “permission” or social acceptance first. This goes for all sorts of things such as what clothes to buy, what career to go after, what degree to go for, who to date, where to travel etc.
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Why do we seek validation from others?
1. To fit into the group
One reason why we seek validation from other people is that it’s a part of human nature to want to fit into the group. One of the easiest ways to fit in is by asking everyone around you what they think is good or bad, okay or not okay. And as long as you act in accordance with what other people think, you’ll be conforming, and fitting into the group. Life is probably in a way easier when you don’t stick out, and just follow society’s norms and do, feel, and think as everyone else does.
But is it better? Is it the most authentic and real way to live? Well, I don’t think so.
2. Lack of self-confidence and self-worth
Another reason for seeking external validation is a lack of self-confidence or a strong sense of self-worth. Because, if you know your intrinsic self-worth, you will realize that you do not need other people’s acceptance or validation to feel worthy. You already are worthy. You don’t need other people to think highly of you, to agree with you, to give you permission to be and do what feels right for you. Other people’s opinion is just that, their own opinions. Their opinions do not change anything about who you are or your worth.
Take for example trees. Every tree is perfect as it is, no matter what shape, color, or size it has. A tree is a tree. And it’s always a perfect tree, it cannot be anything else. Even if someone were to walk past it and call it an ugly tree, that wouldn’t take away anything from it. A tree cannot be less of a tree, or a “worse” tree than other ones, just because of someone’s opinion of it. And I think it’s the same for humans. A human being is always just a human being, no matter what other people think of it. We can in our minds make up different human worths depending on social opinions and such, but they would all be mental constructs. It’s not real.
Why Should You Learn to Validate yourself?
My point is, that seeking self-worth and validation from other people is not really necessary. Of course, it can help us to be aware of what other people think of our behavior because we live in a society with other people. And we will sometimes be treated differently depending on other people’s opinions of us. I am not saying to be socially inadequate or blind, and not be aware of this.
I am just saying that we shouldn’t take those things too seriously or too heavily to our hearts. It is one thing to be aware of what other people think and the possible consequences of those thoughts, and an entirely different thing to base your entire self-worth on those opinions.
There are so many ways of living life today. We probably have the most freedom to choose our own paths than ever before. And the number of people who live on this earth is so many that it isn’t possible for anyone to fit into every social norm or rule out there. We have the freedom to decide how we want to live, who we want to be, and what we want to represent.
Even if we don’t fit into the social group in our immediate circle, there are so many other groups in the world that we can fit into while being authentic to who we are. It is so easy to connect with other people today using the internet or international travel.
It is better to be real, and go find people who accept you for who you are than to live in the shell of an “avatar” who isn’t you. Isn’t life too short for that?
Things you can do to validate yourself
Learning to validate yourself comes from within, and it takes a shift of mindset. Most importantly, it starts with the understanding that other people’s opinion of you doesn’t matter. Then it comes down to learning how to give yourself the validation you used to seek from others.
One way is to reverse-engineer what other people do in order to validate you. And then do the same things, but for yourself. For example:
- Accept what you feel, and who you are. Do not deny yourself (by not doing what you want, or disregard your own feelings, or turn a blind eye to what you’ve experienced).
- Give yourself the pep-talk and compliments that you’d seek from others. For example, if you’re low on self-esteem, then imagine what a good friend would tell you, and tell that to yourself.
- Prioritize and respect your own needs. Treat yourself like a loving parent, partner, or friend would. They would listen to what you need, and understand the importance of giving you that.
- Be kind to yourself. Act like your own best friend. Forgive any past mistakes, and be supportive of your own dreams and goals.
- Trust yourself and your intuition. And trust that if you do make the wrong decisions, you have the ability to learn from those mistakes, and grow.
- Ask yourself “What do I need right now?”, and give that to yourself.
- Tell yourself that it is 100% okay to feel, think, and have the wants you have. But none of it defines who you are. Those are just things you have. For example, you can have a feeling of being a failure, but it is just a feeling and it does not mean that you actually are a failure. Make a distinction between your feelings and thoughts, and who you are.
So, to summarize, we humans need validation in one way or another. But seeking it from others is not the best way to go, since you’ll be letting other people decide how you live your life. By learning how to validate yourself, you’ll become more independent, and be able to live more authentically.