Written by: Vince Morales, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
Why does it matter so much what other people think of us? Why do we seek compliments, do anything for attention, or push ourselves to achieve just to win accolades? What’s wrong with us? Nothing’s wrong at all. It’s normal to want these things. Validation isn’t a bad thing, and it is, however, easily misused and misunderstood.
Let’s explore the truth about what validation is and why we need it. We’ll also delve into what we do to seek validation in our daily lives and why we think we need it.
What is Validation?
Validation has many components that boil down to the simple idea of being accepted for who you are. It’s an acknowledgment that you’re experiencing specific thoughts and emotions that are very true to you and real. It tells you your experience is accepted, and by extension, so are you.
Validation is a good thing, and we need it from the time we are children. Everyone wants their parents to accept them, which is generally our first craving for validation, easily satisfied. To a child, a simple phrase such as “Good job” or “I’m proud of you” can make the difference between a good experience and a bad one.
This outside validation sets the stage for the future. You’ll grow in confidence and self-assurance if you receive it at the right times and in the right place as a child. You’ll start to adopt a healthy attitude about yourself and find you need less validation from outside sources. Instead, you learn to self-validate and give yourself the reassurances you need. After all, you know your thoughts are valid. You accept who you are and love the person you’re becoming. All is right with the world.
Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. Without validation as a child or in instances where you’ve experienced trauma or abuse, it’s easy to lose sight of these simple facts. You start craving the outside validation only others can give because you can’t give it to yourself. You’ll adopt behaviors designed to draw attention to yourself to get the validation you feel you need. The social media trend aims to strike down the need for validation when that perspective comes from the antithetical experience of validation. Out goes the baby with the bath water. The result of that perspective appears to manifest a bitter point of view of validation because we don’t know how to provide validation to ourselves.
We need to tune up our validation of ourselves, so we know how to properly provide validation to others. Personally and socially, the current pulse is authentic validation requires recalibration, not elimination. Strike down validation, and we risk falling deeper into the failure of providing sincere and empowering validation to children. How will children learn healthy and empowering validation when parents, a by-product of the social condition around them, believe validation from others is useless and unnecessary?
The critical thing to remember here is how validation is a beautiful tool that can help us in so many ways…so long as you use it correctly. Validation doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It can, however, get us into a lot of trouble when we let it rule our lives. If validation is terrible, why do parents try to provide it to their children? Any good thing can be used negatively. Do you throw it out or cancel it? Now, you learn the proper way to use it. Our society was canceling validation when it was intended to be one of the more beautiful and necessary things. The more frequently we throw validation out of our lives, the more validation becomes a creepy stranger to us. We only view it through the wrong and obscured lens. As we seek the ship of validation, I think we can expect kindness, love, and hope to be next in line since they are all fellow family to validation.
Reasons Why We Seek Outside Validation
The problem is we really need validation in our lives, which serves many purposes.
We want to know we’re being heard by those around us.
We need to know our emotional journey is acceptable and that we’re feeling the right things at the right time.
We want reassurance we’re accepted by our peer group.
We feel reassured when our beliefs are shown to be in line with the beliefs of others.
We want to feel like we’re connected in some way to those around us.
We want to feel like we matter and are essential to those we care about.
We want to be seen for who we are.
We need to know we’re normal.
We need to know we’re okay.
Validation is the key to all of this. Validation is also the healing balm we need when we’re wounded emotionally. Counselors and psychologists even use validation to aid us in recovery from trauma. Validation is what heals us from past abuse and helps us find things we can like about ourselves when we cannot see these things.
“We don’t see things as they are; we see them as we are” – AnaÏs Nin
Of course, we shouldn’t need these strategies to feel good about ourselves. Validation should come internally from how we think and feel about ourselves, not those around us. This can seem hard, though, especially if you have issues from the past to work through.
There’s a problem with outside validation, which people don’t always discuss. It can very quickly become something we train ourselves to want. Stop a moment and think about how you would create a new habit.
Like most people, you would probably take the easy route and find a way to reward yourself for doing the right thing. We do it all the time, in fact. You want to exercise more, so you come up with little treats (like buying new clothes or doing something nice for yourself) whenever you spend a certain amount of time exercising.
“Personally and socially, the current pulse is authentic validation requires recalibration, not elimination.” – Vince Morales
Unfortunately, this system sets you up to eventually fail. We grow bored with the reward we’ve set and demand something bigger or better to get us to do what we feel is unpleasant. This is why it’s better to consider the exercise itself as the reward.
With validation, we feel good when we get it. It’s already the perfect reward. The only thing you need to do to get it is to find the correct behavior which triggers these feelings. The shortcuts we learn to validation tend to come from daily life. We pay someone a compliment, and they give us their appreciation in return. We soon find ourselves giving out more compliments – whether we mean them or not – because the payoff is so easy.
This also means we can become so focused on the validation that we don’t even realize what we’re doing to get it. We train ourselves to act subconsciously and, as a result, don’t see what we’re doing until someone else points it out. The behaviors have become natural to us, partly because we’ve been doing them for so long, but more likely because we’ve been seeing other people around us doing them too. This is all just how people act, right?
This is especially noticeable if we spend time on social media, which gives us an accessible platform for attention-seeking. This isn’t just limited to our friend list, though. We also see these same behaviors on our favorite TV shows or movies, making validation-seeking behaviors seem normal, as though they’re an expected part of life.
See if any of these sound familiar to you:
A chameleon is known for blending into the background, a trait developed as a defense against predators. Unfortunately, this was a survival trait in primitive days, which carried over to modern times. After all, if your tribe accepts you as one of them, their protection extends to you. If you agree with what people say when you’re talking to them, regardless of whether or not you personally agree with their stance, you might be a chameleon. Chameleons tend to do this when they want people to like them and feel disagreeing might jeopardize their standing.
People love compliments, and they also tend to love the people who give out compliments. This can lead to a lot of flattery on their part, especially if they are uncertain whether the other person likes them or not. The reasoning? Whether meant or not, a well-timed compliment might just tip the balance on their behalf.
The Pity Partier
It’s expected to feel a little upset when someone points out a flaw or tells you you’re wrong. If this can destroy your day, lead to a lot of self-pity or even over-dramatic reactions (“How DARE they!”), it might be because you were hoping for validation from the other person, not criticism. Pity Partiers try to salvage the situation by seeking validation from those around them for being hurt. (“Did you see what they DID to ME?”) Remember, commiseration is validation coupled with sympathy.
Does it sometimes feel as though everyone wants a favor from you? The Go-To never says ‘no’ to anything, and their goal is to gain praise and validation for all they do. The key phrase the Go-To wants to hear falls along these lines: “I don’t know how you manage to do it…” or “You’re amazing. I knew I could count on you.”
Sometimes our validation comes at the cost of someone else. The talker loves to talk. They can almost guarantee an audience by sharing the latest gossip, spreading rumors, and even lying (the more sensational, the better). Social media has made this particular form of validation almost too easy. All they need to do to share the latest is post a few words that everyone can see. Validation comes in the form of ‘likes’ and ‘shares,’ the more, the better.
Sometimes we draw attention to ourselves by saying, “I’m sorry.” While an apology is merited when you wrong someone, some people use the apology almost as a weapon. They’ll say they’re sorry for everything going on around in the hope of a scrap of validation. They’ll even apologize for things that don’t require any kind of apology, such as, “I’m sorry for standing here…” just because they want to hear the other person say, “No, you’re fine. I like having you around.”
Have you ever pretended to know something you didn’t understand to make people think better of you? If so, this one might sound familiar. The authority fakes knowledge in everything from pretending to read the book everyone is talking about all the way down to faking knowledge in a job interview just to get a job. The authority loves when people fall for their actions because it makes them feel important when validated by those around them.
“Don’t you just love my haircut?” Whenever you use leading questions of this nature, you’re fishing for compliments, drawing them out unwillingly from those around you. The fisherman depends on people being too ‘nice’ to give them anything other than what they want. The worst part? More often than not, they get what they’re looking for.
Sometimes we act so wild and crazy that the world can’t help but look. But is validation for being eccentric or wildly unique all it’s cracked up to be? By showing how different they are from everyone else, the Individual gets attention wherever they go just by looking outlandish, living ‘larger than life,’ or being so ‘over the top’ they absolutely cannot be ignored.
Being passionate about a cause is a good thing. Some people become very good at using causes to get attention. People who seek validation through activism tend to be at the forefront of their cause of choice. They’ll be out there making sure the entire world sees their involvement and notices them. They live for the praise their efforts bring, which makes them great fundraisers (they want their numbers to be higher than anyone else’s) and will never shy away from speaking up when there’s a wrong to be righted. The complicated thing about activists is they might genuinely be passionate about their cause. You can spot them by looking at how they manage their involvement. Are they out there talking about the project, or are they focusing on their involvement with the project? There’s a definite difference.
Finally, our desire for validation sometimes leads us to never complain about anything, even when we have a good cause. The martyr-like to make a big deal out of how noble they are. Suppose you see someone letting people walk all over them but always making a point of expressing how much they’re putting up with but making no effort to change the situation. In that case, you might have a martyr problem. Their goal is to gain validation through sympathy because of everything they’re going through.
While we all might fall into the validation trap sometimes, it isn’t a problem until the situation becomes chronic. If you regularly find yourself gravitating toward these kinds of behaviors, you might have a problem.
I encourage you to continue tuning your perception and perspective about validation, why we need it, what we do to seek validation in our daily lives, and why we think we need it. Reassess why we believe what we believe about it. Shift your mindset and implement a healthy and empowering model of validation. We have plenty of naysayers who operate on the destructive side of it. It’s time for heroes of validation to arise and model the healthy validation we need right now in our homes and society.
Vince Morales, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Vince Morales is a mindset, self-image, and resilience coach. In addition, he is skilled in leadership consultation and development. From April 2016 to June 2017, Vince was a homeless veteran in San Diego, CA. While homeless, he made a powerful decision to change his thinking and mindset, launching into life coaching. He developed a niche for resilience and mindset coaching. The growth of his business ultimately led to the end of his homelessness. Vince is the Founder of Validus Coaching & Consulting, formerly Zoe Transformation. His story has been featured in online articles and online news outlets all over the U.S. He is a certified John Maxwell Team Coach, Trainer, & Speaker, as well as a motivational speaker. In 2021, Vince earned his Master's degree in Psychology of Leadership from Penn State University and is currently a doctoral student pursuing a Ph.D. in Performance Psychology. He is a 2020 inductee into The National Society of Leadership and Success.