Validation is the desire to have someone else’s approval or agreement with what you say, believe or do. In some ways, this is natural. We all want someone to confirm that we’re doing the right thing, or that we aren’t making a mistake. We value the opinions of the people in our inner circle and their approval helps to chart the course of our lives. This is especially true the younger you are. You aren’t used to making decisions on your own or without the help of an adult, so you need that thumbs up to let you know you’re on the right track.
This need for validation can also stem from our need to feel like we belong. In 1943, Abraham Maslow proposed a theory called the Hierarchy of Needs. It basically says that people are motivated by five basic categories of needs: physiological, safety, love, esteem and self-actualization. The idea is that higher needs in the hierarchy emerge when people have sufficiently satisfied the previous need. The need to belong is the third level, which means that physiological (water, food, shelter, clothing) and safety (security, health, resources) have already been met and now the need for love, friendship, family and connection have emerged. This is satisfied through validation.
The problem arises when we start to depend on this validation as the primary driver. This can be dangerous because now, we’re disempowering ourselves from living our own lives and empowering others to have a say in how we live. Even worse, we may disconnect from our own judgement and intuition. We need to know how to walk the fine line between needing confirmation of good decisions and using validation from others as a crutch.
Today, I want to discuss what needing validation looks like, and ways we can kick the habit.
What it looks like
It might not be immediately clear what is happening when we are seeking validation from others. It could look like checking social media posts online, changing things about ourselves physically to gain attention from others and it could mean anxiety, depression and feelings of worthlessness when our efforts don’t result in validation. Let me explain.
Seeking validation is very common on social media. If you’re someone who is constantly checking social media to see how many Likes, comments and views you’ve received on your posts, you may be too dependent upon validation. You might even compare engagement on your posts to the engagement other people receive on their posts. You might even try to friend more people to increase engagement, and some people even buy Likes. Social media is a place where people try to become popular so they can gain the clout that comes with it. And while it does have its positives, it’s important not to take it too seriously.
Before there was social media, people sought validation in person. Whether it be validation from the opposite sex in order to get a date, or validation from the same sex in order to make friends, people sometimes go to extreme lengths to get attention and validation. This can include making changes to their bodies or spending money with the wrong intention in mind.
Anxiety and depression
Anxiety and depression come when we’re not getting enough of the validation we desire. We let low engagement in a post or attention at an event or well-populated place (like school) make us feel poorly about ourselves and equate it with our worth. We try to change things about ourselves to see if that will get us what we want, and when it doesn’t, it pushes us further down into the validation abyss.
I seek validation from no one
Now, let’s talk about ways that we can kick the habit of needing validation from others. I have three:
I am looking for love in all the right places
If validation, online or otherwise, is important to us, it could be because we are looking to fulfill the third level in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. We need to feel loved and that we belong someplace. The problem is that we are looking for it in the wrong places. Instead of looking for it on Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok, Twitter and SnapChat, we should try to build community with people who we know truly love and care about us. Who has an invested interest in our success. This can include family, friends, co-workers and classmates. It may mean first deleting social media, recognizing its negative impact on your psyche. And then seeing who is still around. And if you’re the only person in your corner, that’s okay. I’d rather be in a class by myself, knowing for sure that everyone there has my best interest in mind than in a room filled with people who don’t care what happen to me.
I trust myself to make the right decision for me
Sometimes, we need to just trust ourselves to make the right decision for our own lives. We know what our thoughts, beliefs, passions are. We know what we enjoy doing, who we enjoy being around, what we want to be when we grow up. We know details about ourselves that no one else knows. So why would we think that someone else knows what’s best for us? No one else has to live our lives – we do. We have to deal with the consequences of our actions and we get to reap the benefits of good decisions. We just need to stop looking to others and instead look inside ourselves and learn to trust that we know what we’re doing. Sometimes we have a vision that others can’t see. And we might need to go after it.
I know the difference between needing advice and needing validation
It’s okay to seek advice from others. It’s okay to ask others what they think about an idea you have, or how they might approach a dilemma. And you can consider that feedback as much or as little as you’d like. But don’t think you need that feedback in order to move forward. Don’t think that you have to have affirmative feedback or that negative feedback reflects poorly upon you. It’s important to know that someone else’s opinion is just that – an opinion.
It’s normal to want or need confirmation from your inner circle that you’re on the right track in life. But don’t let that need for confirmation make you change things about yourself or change how you think about yourself. Don’t let anxiety or depression set in because you’re not getting the validation you’re looking for. Instead, look for love in all the right places, trust yourself to make the best decisions for you and know the difference between advice and validation and you’ll be on your way to seeking validation from no one!
Here are your positive affirmations to ponder on this week:
· I seek validation from no one.
· Engagement on social media is not important to me.
· I attract attention from the right people.
· I recognize when anxiety and depression stem from my need for validation from others.
· I am looking for love in all the right places
· I trust myself to make the right decision for me
· I know the difference between needing advice and needing validation