A lot gets thrown to the side in the search for a unique identity and the realisation of who we are as individual humans. We begin to review some concepts that we have always held onto and then discard the ones that we find unnecessary.
A particular wave or school of thought, if you may, holds that seeking validation only brings about negative outcomes. If we are to be well-adjusted individuals in society, then we must be able to go about our lives without needing validation.
As I always enquire; is this realistic or even true?
The desire for validation comes from the reality that we are social beings. We live in a society with other people with whom we have interactions and form relationships. From the random stranger on the sidewalk to your closest friends, everyone in our society is interconnected in some way.
When we seek validation, we look to these people for some kind of approval for our behaviour and achievements. We want them to look at something that we have done or said and acknowledge that it was/is something good.
The concept of seeking validation pervades every single aspect of our social interactions and is almost even the basis for it in some regard. The people who positively validate us are our friends and we treat those who don’t as our enemies or “haters”.
A more toxic version of this is crippling anxiety that comes from the fear of validation or the lack thereof. I have found myself in a place where I am entirely unwilling or unable to take action because I’m unsure what people might think. I’m sure you can relate to this too.
This fear of their reaction or them not giving validation for whatever action I am about to carry out – be it a witty remark or a creative article – might cause me to give up entirely on what I was about to do.
As a result of this, the consensus is that I do not need to seek validation. There is no reason for me to think of other people when making decisions or putting myself out there. We regard high self-esteem as being able to do just whatever without caring what anyone thinks.
Just do it, and don’t mind what anyone says or thinks.
While this seems like an interesting solution, and one we all find appealing judging from the sheer popularity of this idea, it isn’t quite the perfect fit with what often works.
The reality is that we always seek validation. No matter what. You may tell yourself that you do not care what anybody thinks but the truth is, positive feedback will make you feel good and negative feedback will make you feel bad. You still care.
Rather than pretend that validation means nothing to us, isn’t it more productive to appropriately interpret the feedback we get and determine which is important?
If someone says, for example, that they do not like something that you created, how would you interpret this? Most would accuse the person of invalidating their efforts and calling what they did “bad” but that is far from what this person has really said.
That person giving their opinion is a different individual from you and realistically, they have different tastes as well. That they didn’t like what you did does not equate to it being bad, it just wasn’t for them and that is okay.
Another common trap with seeking validation is that we often value negative opinions more than positive ones. We could get a million comments saying good things but the one negative comment taints everything, even though they are obviously the outlier.
The desire for validation is virtually unavoidable. Whether it is from others or sometimes from ourselves, there is always a reaction to the things that we do or say. When we learn to interpret the validation that we get correctly, be it positive or negative, we can improve the quality of our life’s experiences by using validation right.