How to stop relying on others for approval and validation
I’m going to start at the end here and offer some reassurance that it is entirely natural and reasonable for us to want our opinions, choices and ideas to be validated by those around us. To pretend otherwise would be a little silly, as we all like to have someone confirm to us what we ourselves want to believe to be true.
And that’s just it; if you make your own decisions and don’t allow your actions to be heavily influenced by the opinion of others; then absolutely knock yourself out when looking for feedback or approval. But if you ask for it, before you reach your decision, or you change course mid-way because you didn’t receive their approval, then we have a problem on our hands!
SO, WHAT EXACTLY IS VALIDATION?
It is the desire to have someone else’s approval or agreement with what we say, believe or do. It is the recognition or affirmation that our feelings or opinions are valid or worthwhile.
Validation is part of being interdependent and relying on the feedback and encouragement from others around us. Even very independent people still need validation in some aspects of their life; however, and this is a big however, they are also entirely capable of accepting their own self-validation if they don’t get it from someone else. The problem arises when self-validation is not possible. In other words, if an individual puts the opinion, approval, or recognition of someone else ahead of their own feelings, they will need that external, other person’s validation or approval, on an ongoing basis.
WHEN DOES IT BEGIN?
As children, especially from the age of 0-7 years, you start out by looking to your parents or caregivers for recognition of what you do correctly. But maybe you weren’t one of the lucky ones and you didn’t receive the approval, acceptance or love that you desperately needed back then. You couldn’t understand why you didn’t feel those feelings and it simply made you want them even more; it made you try even harder.
That’s absolutely not to say that your parents, or caregivers, failed you. The chances were that they were just doing their best, given the resources they had, but it’s really okay for you to admit that their best just didn’t serve you. It’s here you need to understand the concept of duality. You can love, admire and respect your parents but still feel free to acknowledge that they didn’t always give you what you wanted or indeed what you needed. One does not take from the other. It happens to more of us than you might imagine; we end up feeling somewhat short-changed and that an important part of us is missing. So, I invite you to consider this: did you, as a child, get what you needed from those in authority around you? Again, it’s really okay to say no, if you didn’t.
And then let me ask you something else: When you think of your parent, or your caregiver, how often do you think of what their life was like? What experiences shaped them in their lives? What was their relationship with their parents like? Did they get what they deserved from them? After all these were the people, they learned how to parent from.
As well as helping you form a better picture of ‘why they were how they are’ this also arms you with the information you need to understand their humanity, and identify the very source of your need for approval and acceptance today. You can understand more clearly why it is that you feel like you are always searching for it from others. These experiences that occur earlier on in our lives, get frozen in time and all of our subsequent behaviours can result in us attempting to fix them and fix ourselves. Yet until we know it’s orgins, it makes it almost possible.
So, let’s figure out where it may have started for you and how it most likely unfolded. As teenagers you are hungry to fit in with our peers, you definitely don’t want to stand out, you just want to blend in and belong. As young adults you are trying to find your feet in the world and the opinions of others really starts to influence your decisions and your choices.
Before you know it, you are in your thirties and are so disconnected from what it is you truly want, in favour of doing what everyone else is doing and what is expected of you. Then in your forties, something starts to slowly happen. You being to ask ourselves is this it? Are these choices; the career, the relationships, the friendships, your role within the family, the place you live, the activities you engage in, are they really what you want?
You ask because you are beginning to suspect they might not be. You ask because you now have most of the things you wanted and yet you feel a little empty. You ask because you don’t know why it is you feel a little lost. Your fifties provide you with the space and the courage to explore just what you can do to address this. You start to discover that seeking validation, has in actual fact, disconnected you from listening to your own very powerful intuition. You begin to suspect that your decisions are best left to you listening to your gut-feeling, when thinking of how to proceed.
Please keep in mind that validation is not a bad thing in and of itself: it can be incredibly affirming and possesses a lot of positives. It only really becomes problematic when it becomes the focus of all you do. And if you need reminding, remember that receiving guidance or advice does not always come in neutral packaging, and rarely free from an agenda. If you’re intent on making decisions based on other people’s opinions, be aware that you’re also taking on their experiences, their motivations and their feelings towards what it is your asking of them.
BREAKING THE CYCLE
An effective first step in breaking the need for validation from others, begins with understanding exactly what type of validation you are chasing: are you looking for greater recognition on social media? Are you interested in hearing that you are valued within your friendship group or are a notable team member at work, the model daughter or the perfect partner? Learning to recognise when you are seeking validation from external sources, is such an important first step. By recognising and acknowledging this behaviour, you can then choose a much more effective option, helping to break the cycle and learn how instead to look internally for validation and approval.
Just notice how you let go off your power and to whom you’re entrusting it to. Remember that what we are talking about here, internal validation, is the ability to recognise, honour and acknowledge your own positive strengths, achievements and successes, external validation, is the acknowledgment of your strengths and emotions as interpreted by others.
It’s alright to ask for help when you need a fresh perspective on something, but you should never let that support become a prop. When you listen to your intuition, you’re also practicing deep trust within yourself; trust that you can and do know the answer. Only you know what’s best for you because only you know the answer to what it is that you really want. Stay silent, listen to the whispers and trust what they are telling you to do. They won’t ever fail you!
Niamh Ennis is Ireland’s leading Transformation Coach and Author. She’s known for her practical solutions to life’s challenges and her ability to tell you not what you want to hear but always what you need. Niamh has just launched THE CHANGE ACCELERATOR her Self-Study Online Programme for those looking to make Changes. Find her on Instagram @1niamhennis or https://www.niamhennis.com/.