Validation is the desire to have someone else’s approval or agreement with what you say, believe, or do. Humans are naturally social creatures. We thrive in a community and, therefore, have a strong desire to belong in that community and seek validation from it.
You may think that this is perfectly normal, and it is. However, where things get a bit blurry is when we start to base all of our decisions, as well as the course of our life, on a collective agreement from others.
A simple example would be making a decision and asking your family or friends the usual question: “do you think that’s a good idea?”
We already know the idea is good, but we still seek validation and agreement from our social circle. Although we do value others’ opinions and how they shape our perspective, we are much more motivated by external validation than our own intuition.
The deeper question here is “why?”
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The Power of Outside Influence
It all comes down to the idea of belonging in the world, in your community, in your circle of friends, and your family. When we have the sense that we belong, our love for others and ourselves skyrockets. That love fuels our self-esteem, and it also motivates us to be better and do better in the world.
This builds up to what psychologists call “self-actualization.” This term refers to our own ability to realize our fullest potential and develop our skills and talents to serve that potentiality. In other words, it’s our launch pad into limitless possibilities because we finally believe we are worthy of them and have what it takes to accomplish them.
How does this connect to outside influence and validation? Well, the psychologist who coined the idea of “self-actualization,” Abraham Maslow, believed that to achieve this highest level of awareness, our basic needs first needed to be met. Those include primary needs, such as food, shelter, water, and safety; but he also included basic psychological needs, such as a sense of belonging, love, and healthy self-esteem.
It’s no surprise then that any gap in these basic psychological needs leaves us open and vulnerable to rely on others for validation. When our self-esteem suffers and we don’t believe in our own power, we turn to our community for help. In every sense, this is a wise decision. After all, our communities are there to help support us and lift us when we’re feeling down and out.
However, there exists a fine balance between asking for advice and depending on it to chart the course of our life. When we begin to depend on this validation as the primary driver, we are turning over the power of our entire life.
Effects of Seeking Validation
We already know that depending on validation from others disempowers us in living our own life. But what are some effects of living a validation-seeking life? It’s important to recognize these as red flags so that we can avoid them. Knowledge and observation are power.
When we’re constantly seeking approvals from other people, we’re only paving way for more anxiety and depression in our life. We may seek validation from others personally, such as via conversation or groups. Most often, via today’s technology, we seek validation online, such as in social media posts and engagements.
Anxiety and depression begin to play a part when we either don’t get enough validation from others or when we’re anxiously and addictively waiting to receive it. Not only does this continue to strip us of our own power to make decisions, but it also adds unnecessary stress to our life. It may sound like this probability is scarce, but almost 70% of the U.S. population uses social media actively.
With the features available on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, we are constantly validating each other. For the record, this isn’t to say that social media is the culprit. It is simply a magnifying glass to a root cause that has always existed.
Another notable factor to consider is that receiving advice does not come in neutral packaging. When we’re intent on making choices based on other people’s opinions, we’re also taking on the experiences of other people.
Take, for example, your decision to take off a year from school and travel the world. You may seek validation from your family who think it’s a bad idea because your uncle did it once and had a terrible time. His experience shapes his opinion and, therefore, his advice to you will be laden with that experience. No piece of advice is neutral. It is up to us to discern that, but it’s not always that simple.
Lastly and most importantly, seeking validation disconnects us from listening to our own intuition. Our decisions are best left to ourselves and listening to our gut-feeling when thinking of how to proceed.
It’s alright to ask for help when we need a fresh perspective on something, but we ought to be careful to not let that support become a crutch. When we listen to our intuition, we’re also practicing deep trust within ourselves.
How to Kick the Validation Game and Thrive
First and foremost, we need to turn inward to our own basic needs and see if they’re being met. Do we feel a healthy sense of belonging where we are in life? If not, what or who is standing in our way? Are we equally receiving and giving love? And more importantly, how are we nurturing love for ourselves? These are deep and important questions to consider, and ones that guide us further towards our self-actualization.
Feeding our self-esteem is a potent practice of fully stepping into our own power again. This may look like removing ourselves from certain social circles where we feel peer pressured or minimizing our social media use.
Another powerful practice is meditation! This is a sacred ground for developing our intuition and trusting what comes up. We’ve often heard that all of our life’s questions are answered within, and meditation is the vehicle to those answers. Listening for that deep intuitive nudge is the only validation that is worth seeking because it’s our own.
When it comes to nourishing our self-esteem, there will be times where that power sways and when our confidence takes a hit. These are normal and expected turbulences of living an authentic life. But if we continue and tend to these needs, we’ll grow to realize that our inner power is our greatest asset.
From this place, we can accomplish anything we set our minds to and thrive. This is the practice of self-worth, and it comes in the form of receiving the love and blessings that come our way. We need to learn that we deserve all of the goodness of this life.
The next time you receive something, take it all in. Truly appreciate the kind word, hug, compliment, or recognition. Don’t be quick to dismiss it or return it to the sender. The more you can receive, the easier it will be to believe yourself worthy of it.
Lastly, welcome the perspectives of others, but don’t depend on them to show you the way. Only you know what is best for you, and this comes through the practice of trusting your own way by following the gentle whispers of your intuition. It will never steer you in the wrong direction.
Validation is a slippery slope. It begins when we seek other people’s opinions on our decisions in life, and it becomes complicated when we depend on this validation and live our life from the mode of “people-pleasing” and meeting others’ expectations. Not only does this disempower us, but it also adds more stress, anxiety, and depression to our lives.
Based on Maslow’s psychological studies, we need to meet our basic needs of safety, survival, love, and a sense of belonging in our communities. This will allow us to tend to our self-esteem and listen to our intuitive guiding signals. From here, we can cut the ties of depending on validation and instead, forge our own path in life and thrive along the journey.