External validation is one hell of a drug.
I say that because: it feels amazing, but can ruin your life if you become too dependent on it.
Below, we’ll explore why external validation isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, plus how to stop depending on it.
This is a topic I’m often covering in my role as a life coach. That’s why I’m excited to share my knowledge with you.
So, let’s dive in.
What Is External Validation?
It’s praise from other people.
This praise can validate your decisions and even your worth as a human, if you choose to let it.
What Is Internal And External Validation?
Internal validation is when you choose to validate your own decisions and self-worth. This is far healthier because it’s completely in your control.
Why Do We Need External Validation?
Human beings are social creatures. We are tribal by nature. We need social connections to thrive and be happy. That’s why praise from others naturally feels good and being shunned hurts our feelings.
Thousands of years ago, if humans weren’t accepted by their tribe, they could be cast out, leading to certain death. Some social scientists suggest the fear of this still exists in our DNA.
A grand amount of praise and attention from others could lead to tangible rewards, especially in this modern era where people can make a career out of being an ‘influencer’ with a large social media following.
It also helps to cure any insecurities about your self-worth or the path you’re on in life. It’s a lot easier to feel like you’re a cool person doing great things, when society is supporting your decisions in grand numbers.
External Validation Psychology Definition
Some people need external validation more than others.
Scientific research suggests those who lack self-confidence often seek it from external sources. Mental health experts also suggest those who didn’t receive lots of love or support from their parents are more likely to seek it elsewhere.
Is External Validation Bad?
A dependency on external validation can be problematic.
Just like a drug, this depency is never satisfied. Dependents are always looking for their next hit.
When validation disappears or wears off (which it quickly can), dependents can become seriously depressed and their self-confidence can plummet. After all, their whole sense of self-worth was based on the approval of others.
Many become desperate to get it back, often resorting to actions that don’t make them happy just to get that next hit…
External Validation In Relationships
Many dependents of external validation will look for it within their relationship. The problem is: if their partner takes away that validation even briefly, it can lead to emotional meltdowns. This is called a codependent relationship.
Needless to say, these dependents struggle to be happily single – and often make poor decisions for who to be in a relationship with because of this.
How To Stop Relying On External Validation
Now you understand why external validation can become problematic, let’s explore 11 ideas to help you stop depending on it.
1. Find Your Purpose
Define and determine a mission so important that you’d pursue it no matter how much other people supported you. Those who have found this mission tend to be a lot more fulfilled and have more self-esteem as a result.
2. Find A Reward That’s More Fulfilling Than Validation
When you have found your true purpose, taking an extra step towards achieving it can be the only reward you need.
But that’s not the only way to meet this goal.
How about you find a job, hobby or a relationship that fulfills you so much that you don’t care what some other person thinks about it?
3. Stop Listening To Random Feedback
By all means, seek feedback from your chosen mentors.
However, for the reasons we explored at the start of this article, it’s not in your best interests to listen to feedback from random strangers. Instead, learn to value your beliefs about your achievements.
4. Work So Hard You Don’t Have Time To Hear What People Say
If you get caught up listening to your inner critic and worrying what others think, keep yourself busy by moving forward with the next step of your mission. Be that hard-working person who stays focused on the process, rather than other people’s beliefs about it.
5. Don’t Announce Your Projects Until They’re Completed
The main reason people do this is for external validation (before they’ve even achieved anything).
If you withhold your latest project announcements until it’s finished (or nearly finished, at least), you might find some extra motivation to actually get it done.
6. Learn To Self-Love
Those with a high degree of self-acceptance tend to need less validation from external sources. They have self-validation instead. Their inner voice is the only one they need to tell them they’re awesome!
With that in mind, here are some of my best guides to build your self-esteem and boost your internal validation.
- Characteristics of Low Self-Esteem and Solutions
- Best Boosting Self Esteem Questions
- Self Concept vs Self Esteem and Self Efficacy
- Self Respect Vs Self Esteem – What’s the Difference?
- How To Help A Man With Low Self-Esteem
7. Build A Tight Circle Of Loved Ones
Build a small circle of close friends or family members who you know will always love you. Those who have this tight-knit circle rarely need to look elsewhere for validation.
8. Come To Terms With Your Demons
If you didn’t have loving parents or you were bullied by other children at school, you’re more susceptible to needing external validation. Understanding this about yourself is a good first step to getting over the problem. Work with a therapist or a life coach to help yourself overcome these demons.
9. Stop Trying To Be Better Than Other People
It’s not healthy – and you can never win. There will nearly always be someone better than you to chase. Learn to compete with the past version of yourself only.
10. Realize That Most People Will Never Care
Unless you’re an A-list celebrity, the truth is: most people will not give a damn what you do with your life.
You could post a major update on Facebook and maybe 95% of people will not give a damn. Perhaps 4% will love it and want to know more, then maybe 1% will leave a nasty comment.
When you accept this reality, you soon realise that chasing validation is a fool’s game.
Let’s imagine you somehow manage to gain some notoriety; how long do you think people will continue caring? Phrases like ‘flavor of the month’ or ‘15 minutes of fame’ exist for a reason. People forget really quickly.
11. Alter Your Social Media Habits
Some self-help gurus advise their followers to severely limit their social media usage, or even to delete their social media platforms. This isn’t always the right thing to do. It’s not inherently wrong to use social media. It can be a useful tool when used properly.
Still, I have listed some tips for healthy social media usage.
- Stop caring about the ‘likes’. Either turn them off or don’t look at them. Turn all social media notifications off.
- Stop comparing your life or your metrics to those shown in other people’s profiles. Remember their lives are curated to only show the highlights.
- Don’t let others determine what you post. Post what you like, not what you think your followers will like.
- Share your opinions if you believe they will help people, not just to get their approval.
- Recognize when you’re posting just to feel validated. Focus on your mission whenever you feel like this.
- If you have no reason to be discovered by strangers, switch your profile to private.
- Monitor your emotions when viewing others’ profiles. If they don’t make you feel good, that’s a sign you shouldn’t be following them.
- Be present when you’re out with others, not glued to social media.
- Remember you are still valid, no matter how many followers you have.
Of course, if you’re someone who makes money from social media, this might not be useful advice. Your profits will depend on posting what your audience wants to see. In this case, perhaps consider hiring someone to manage your social media profiles for you in future.
Any More Questions About Seeking Validation And Mental Health?
Thanks for reading my article. I hope it made sense and you got something out of it.
There’s no shame in seeking external validation from time-to-time. It’s a normal urge that makes us feel good and is relatively harmless in moderation. You don’t need immediate help if you upload a flattering selfie online.
On the other hand, you’ve now seen how it can get out of control and how to stop this from happening to you.
We’ll all feel a lot better when we do things your own way and start acting like our true selves, rather than bending our behavior to secure the approval of others.
If you have any questions or would like to share your feelings on this topic, feel free to leave a comment below.
It would be great to hear your opinions.