So… this one can be a doozy. Most of us aren’t even aware of the ways in which we persistently seek validation from others. How do you address a problem you aren’t even aware that you have? With some simple questions, of course..
So, let’s start here — a simple yes or no will help you to determine if this is or has been a problem for you,
Do you find yourself regularly displaced outside of your own experience, wondering and guessing at what another person is thinking/feeling?
Do you stop before you even start on new endeavors or projects because you are anxious over how others will perceive them?
Are you always or often the first person to say, “How are you?” or “How was your day?” to those closest to you?
Do you only show certain aspects of your personality, such as favored interests or hobbies, to carefully selected people in your life?
After a success, accomplishment, or major life event, is one of your first thoughts about how you want to share this news? And if so, does the thought give you any level of anxiety?
If the answer was yes to any of the above questions, you may suffer from an unhealthy need to seek validation from others.
So where does this need come from? What’s it about? While there are innumerable books and resources designed to answer those questions, you first must understand that the need to seek is but a symptom of a greater cause. Essentially, we are dealing with a lack of self-confidence. You’re not confident in your voice, your truth.
One of my favorite speakers/writers on this topic is a woman by the name of Lisa A. Ramano, who runs a prolific Youtube channel, in addition to being the author of several self-help books. She deals primarily with the issues faced by adult children of alcoholics (ACoAs) and I highly recommend watching some of her videos if you have abuse in your past. You can find her Youtube channel here.
But even if your problem isn’t an abusive childhood, you may still suffer the effects of low self-confidence. Here are my practical steps to stop seeking validation from the outside world and instead provide spirit affirming validation to and for yourself.
- Get OFF and stay OFF “Validation-book,” aka Facebook! Yes, yes, I know — how can I ask such a thing of you?! But I’m not. You are asking this of yourself. Because today, you’re going to start doing things for yourself. This is a great first step. Unfortunately, social media has programmed us to believe that every second and facet of our lives must be shared, when in fact it doesn’t, and actually it shouldn’t! If you need to use it for business or because you manage a group or page, fine, use it. But only as a resource or tool. Do your stuff. Then get off. And stay off! Anyone who is a real friend has other ways of contacting you and they will if they need to. Just start by taking a break. Go on, you can do it.
- Stop judging and critiquing yourself so harshly. I know, this is much easier said than done. But a very simple way to start this is to acknowledge the moment when you mess up, or say something you probably shouldn’t (or eat something you probably shouldn’t… hello donuts and sweets), and immediately and unconditionally forgive yourself. See, those of us who suffer from incessant validation seeking have a really hard time of being kind to ourselves. We need someone else to tell us it’s okay. Someone else to forgive us. Or say that donut won’t go to our thighs. We know very well what we ought and ought not to be doing. It’s time to allow yourself to be human, mess up, and move on. Try it. Take a deep breath, say “that’s okay,” and move on. Next.
- (And this comes from Lisa A. Ramano, but it’s a good tip and one I have to share) Do things for yourself, and solely with the intention of pleasing yourself and no one else. If you want to do something fun or exciting, go do it! Then tell no one. Shut the front door. If you want to pamper yourself and get a mani/pedi, do it! And tell no one. If you want to write that book and finish your outline or rough draft, do it. And don’t tell anyone. It doesn’t have to remain this way forever, obviously, you can and should share good news. But the point is to not have to shout something from the rooftops when it’s good enough to enjoy and savor by yourself.
Ultimately, humans are social creatures and need other people to live fulfilling and enriched lives. But the need for a balanced sense of self and a solid foundation of confidence, in yourself, as an individual, is paramount. Validation begins within, and while there’s certainly nothing wrong with allowing and accepting feedback from others, we must realize we are the ones living this singular life, for and by ourselves first. The ultimate and final verdict on anything in your life necessitates your leveled, balanced, and confident voice alone. We must start there.