Seeking validation


Do you ever find yourself, after having achieved something, looking for the achievement to be validated by an external force?  From a friend to a colleague or boss.  You would not be alone in this line of thinking and as social creatures we care deeply about others' reactions and thoughts towards us but an important point is that 'it should not define us'. 

Self descriptions and other peoples descriptions of us tend to show up very differently, with the others' words highlighting our 'positives' and us more likely to highlight our shortcomings.  Once with a group of people I took part in an exercise of describing others - it was surprising, confidence building and very thought provoking.  Insight can be gained offering us a view which we may well be unaware of.

As we develop as individuals throughout life, we seek validation in a number of ways from the young child wanting to please parents to the teenager valuing friends' opinions like gold.  Parents may well feel like their teenager has disengaged a bit and that their input is more predictable with less value.  A parent may question why a bunch of people on social media are more relevant with feedback than they are.

Validation as guidance 

A simple acknowledgement, a nod or a look of appreciation can lead us to continue with whatever it is we are doing.  If we have completed one task with an intention to complete more, it could be that seeking an opinion is energy efficient - what is the point in wasting one's time on something which is not the expected outcome.  This may be particularly relevant in the work place with an ethos of teamwork and an hierarchy present.

Validation as confirmation 

Asking a question such as 'do I look better in blue or black jeans'? - may not always go our way as we search for the same answer but may not receive it.  The onus can shift in these situations with peers having more credibility than ourselves.  In a learning situation, such as an apprenticeship, there may be a lot of validation seeking as skills and methods develop and improve.  As confidence builds this will decrease.

Validation as encouragement 

So there will be times when we hear ourselves being validated for a decision, an outcome or just as ourselves.  We may hear 'keep going' when running a marathon, or receive praise at work for a project.  Whether part of professional conduct, or a friend thanking you for being present during a tricky time, I believe we all need this feedback.  It tells us that what we are doing and also who we are is 'worthwhile'.

Validation tools    

Feeling validated can be awesome.  However, one's own self opinion and esteem is key.  If you feel you are a constant validation seeker, this may indicate that self esteem needs some work or that your self image is fragile.  A few useful tools could include, practising self-validation, being kind to yourself when you mess up and remind yourself that we all do and try to see it as a learning process.  Break down efforts and tasks to bite sized objectives with a pat on the back for each one.

You are amazing and unique!

We can easily lose touch with ourselves and forget how amazing we are - whether battling mental health issues, or going through a family split and experiencing life's struggles. It is a unique situation to you and many factors are called on to get us through; courage, patience, decision making and developing coping strategies.  Focusing on the self is far from selfish, in fact it is essential and validation can be our 'friend'.

Paula Smith

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