Since infancy, babies first learn to crawl, then we take our first few steps from starting pre-school to graduating high school, college and landing our first jobs. In our lives, as we accomplish each milestone, successes, and failures, there is one common thread – the need for validation. After children walk their first few steps, they immediately glance at their parents with gleaming eyes for their approval, to reaching adulthood and seeking society’s acceptance. As humans, we thrive off getting validation. Whether it’s from family, friends, or even strangers on social media, that one ‘thumbs up’ gives us a rush of motivation and energy. Have you ever felt disappointed if your post did not receive the due credit and recognition?
Validation refers to recognising and accepting another person’s feelings, thoughts, behaviours, and sensations. Similar to ‘approval’ which means being in support or favouring an individual or community. Validation is a crucial communication method, letting the other know that they are accepted despite inevitable disagreements. In today’s world, with the presence of social media, this constant need for validation is presently more substantial than ever. People of all ages are trying to get the maximum number of ‘likes’, be it your favourite selfie on Instagram or your latest LinkedIn achievement. Each one is trying to out-do the other.
Why do we, as humans, constantly feel the need to seek validation from others? Psychologists compare an extreme need for approval to be a ‘drug’. It often becomes addictive, and individuals cannot function without it, also causing withdrawal symptoms. This tendency is also known as ‘Approval-seeking behaviour’. Another person’s opinion of you is ranked higher than your own. Low self-esteem, along with increased stress, often causes an individual to engage actively in approval-seeking behaviour. Examples of this include changing your position due to someone else’s disapproval, being afraid to say ‘no’, and conforming to the norm even when you disagree. Daily activities which may go unnoticed, such as an obsession with social media ‘likes’, also contribute to approval-seeking behaviour. On the one hand, these behaviours can also be used positively to maintain peace. However, on the other, if they occur too frequently, they may turn unhealthy.
In our lives today, the majority of our happiness depends upon society. Be it getting hundreds of likes on Instagram or matching with someone on Tinder, it is often exhausting trying to check all the boxes for everyone. You feel weighed down by the pressure and need some space and time to figure out who YOU are, irrespective of other people’s opinions. To overcome this need for external validation, we must replace it with self-validation. Feeling confident in yourself and your actions without others’ approval involves loving yourself and knowing your self-worth. To develop this greater self-worth, you can practice manifesting your beliefs by journaling and visualising yourself as a higher entity. This self-love practises by affirmations such as being attuned with your inner voice telling you that you are enough.
“I’m not what I think I am. I am what I think you think I am”. This famous saying often resonates with us all. As human beings, we are fueled by validation. We are programmed to need that extra ‘push’, those amount of likes on social media, or else we get demoralised. Although, on the one hand, social media increases the desire for external validation, on the other hand, the upcoming generations seem more comfortable with themselves. The principal imbibed in schools to award children even for participation instilled that belief and confidence they gain internally rather than from society. Let us remember, it is okay to need validation from time to time.
While the need for constant validation can be unhealthy, emotional guarantee, on the other hand, is one of the critical components of relationships. This is to make another person feel heard and ensure that they are not being judged or ignored. Healthily validating others is not lying. It is accepting another’s experience as understandable. Today, instead of being hard on yourself, pat yourself on the back. Today, encourage your friend to get over their fear. Today, embark on your self-validation journey and give credit along the way. That is where the power lies.