It is reasonable for anyone to want their ideas, choices, achievements, or opinions validated by those around them. After all, what is the first thing we do as children when we accomplish something? We look to our parents for recognition (validation) that we did a good thing.
According to Dr. Karen Hall, validation is the “recognition and acceptance” of someone else’s experience. Self-validation is the ability to recognize and acknowledge your own internal experience. It is not about agreeing with someone or accepting their thoughts as your own; it is about being able to accept these thoughts and experiences as being valid.
Validation is part of being interdependent and relying on the feedback and encouragement of others around us. Even very independent people still need validation in some aspects of their life; however, they are also able to accept their own self-validation if they do not get it from someone else.
The problem arises when self-validation is not possible or is not valued. In other words, if an individual puts the opinion, approval, or recognition of someone else over their own feelings, they will need that external, other person’s validation on an ongoing basis.
Validation From Others
A significant aspect of the need for validation from others has evolved out of social media and the way people frame themselves and their identity based on how others respond to their posts. Matthew Lieberman, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles and author of Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect, found that social media fulfills the desire to be part of a group and to avoid feeling isolated and potentially vulnerable. (Lieberman, 2013; Tjepkema, 2019)
Most people have a friend who is constantly posting and continually checking in on likes, comments, retweets, and shares of their messages. And it’s not just a few people, with over 3.2 billion people using social media on a daily basis around the world. Research by Emarsys which reports that this number represents about 42 percent of the total global population.
In the U.S., almost 70 percent of the adult population uses Facebook, with 90.4 percent of Millennials reporting themselves to be active users. By clicking the thumbs up, posting a comment, or sharing a post, people are validating each other at an increasing rate.
This, as well as the need for in-person validation, can create anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem, and make it addictive to hear praise, acceptance, and acknowledgment in all aspects of life.
Breaking the Cycle
An effective first step in breaking the need for validation from others starts with understanding the type of validation you are seeking: Do you want to be acknowledged through social media? Are you interested in hearing that you are one in the group, the best one at work, the ideal spouse, or perhaps the greatest parent?
Learning to recognize when you are seeking validation from external sources is the first step. By acknowledging this behavior, people can choose a more effective option, breaking the cycle and learning to look internally for validation.
Some good ways to start include:
- Take a social media break. Getting off social media is a great place to start. This eliminates the comparison to others or the anxiety and stress about how your picture, post, or comment is being seen and received by others.
- Be mindful. Look carefully at what you are doing. Look for improvements and make a record of these either as a mental note or in a journal. These are self-validations that help you build up your acknowledgment of your own abilities, talents, and skills.
- Do not ask for validation. Instead of seeking validation from others, ask yourself first. If you do receive validation (encouragement or acknowledgment) recognize the praise and acknowledge it, then stop. Do not continue to ask others or seek out others for validation.
Keep in mind that validation is not a bad thing in your life; it is affirming and positive. It only becomes problematic when it becomes the focus of all you do.
Do you have a hard time in giving yourself validation? Do you rely heavily on it from others? What can you do to rely on yourself more and others less? What support might you need? Be sure to share your thoughts and questions using the comment section below so we can all learn from and help each other…