The Power of Self-Validation
When was the last time you were praised? Was it at work or in your personal life? Who praised you? How did it make you feel? If you can still remember it, it means you felt good about it! It does feel good to be praised, to have your actions and thoughts affirmed, to be told you did a good job, and to feel appreciated and recognized. Though compliments make us feel good, boost our self-confidence, and give us a sense of belonging, I argue that self-validation is more important.
It’s healthy to want validation from others, but some of us seek external validation to an unhealthy level. External praise from others may lead to perks and tangible rewards, especially in this era where people make a career out of being an ‘influencer’ on social media. However, there is a great number of research on the impact of “likes,” since they symbolize a gain in reputation, causing you to constantly compare yourself to others.
That is, the dependence on “likes” for validation on social media can result in similar physical and psychological consequences as other severe forms of addiction. Furthermore, it can greatly affect one’s mood and behavior, manifesting in withdrawal symptoms and severe mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Of course, social media can be beneficial when used in ways that help build deeper connections between us. For example, the studies on the social media habits of the elderly demonstrate this lesson. Using social media in a balanced way to meaningfully connect with persons in your life can help relieve social isolation.
According to one of the latest studies published in the Journal of Psychology, social comparison processes and feedback-seeking through social media can be potentially harmful to mental health. Due to such studies that demonstrate the negative impact of “likes,” Meta Group has been conducting its own studies and research to hide the “like counts on posts” in order to “depressurize” people’s experiences on its platforms. As mentioned before, social media can be an addiction.
Here are some cons about external validation. First, looking for external validation may turn one into an apple-polisher. In other words, one can lose sight of what really matters in life. Remember that not even Jesus was able to please everyone, so you should do what makes you happy, not others. Second, one can misallocate her/his time and attention. Looking for external validation may be distracting and exhausting, and it does not guarantee either popularity or success. Last but not least, changing your behavior and who you are in order to get external validation may push people away.
In a world where external validation is so important and social media dictates which body types are acceptable, what clothes we should wear, and who is popular, I believe that self-validation is fundamental to recognizing your own self-worth and accepting yourself for who you are.
Self-validation is accepting and acknowledging your own internal experiences, your thoughts, your feelings, and your body. Internal validation doesn’t mean you agree or attach with everything that crosses your mind; it means you stop fighting or judging yourself for having such thoughts and feelings. Self-validating helps you accept and better understand yourself, which leads to a stronger identity and better skills at managing intense emotions.
So how can you do it? Here are some tips and suggestions that have been working for me.
Since 2013, I’ve been writing daily in a gratitude journal, with at least three things I am thankful for such as my skills, or something as simple as having a job, and walking with my own legs without crutches. Thus, I write down virtues and aspects of me for which I am truly grateful and the reason for each one of them. In my journal, I also include what I have done well, and on some days, I write down the learning opportunities. Though I am not proud of my mistakes, I am proud of accepting them as part of the learning process.
Learn to accept who you are. The more you come to terms with yourself, the happier you will become. I promise it will feel good and it is the right thing to do. Thus, look at yourself in the mirror and talk to yourself, admire yourself, and love what you see. Acknowledging and accepting your internal self brings you peace. When you observe and describe your internal experience, without labeling or making assumptions, it helps build trust in your gut feeling.
Finally, reflect accurately. To reflect means to make manifest or apparent. For internal validation, accurate reflection is acknowledging your internal state to yourself and labeling it accurately. Perhaps you reflect on what triggered the emotion and when the precipitating event occurred. Maybe you reflect on the ways you feel the emotion in your body and consider the actions that go with the emotion. Reflecting means observing and describing. When you observe and describe your internal experience, you do not interpret or guess or make assumptions.
Understanding and stating your own facts is internal validation and it helps acknowledge your vulnerabilities. Interpreting your experience in ways that you cannot observe to be true invalidates and leads to distrust in yourself. Whereas if you’re looking to reflect on your actions as if they were scenes from a movie, it becomes easy because you detach from them. Stop looking for someone else to see the best in you, you are this person – believe in yourself. The goal isn’t to stop reaching out to others, it’s to be there for yourself first.
Self-validation brings self-knowledge, calmness, wisdom, and better self-management skills. It is also beneficial for easing stress, depression, self-loathing, negativity, insecurities, and upset feelings. The moment you accept your weaknesses, you become stronger. Knowing that you understand yourself and that your emotions and thoughts are recognized and integrated within you, you empower yourself. My advice is to start the journey of self-validation and see what happens, I am positive you’ll become your best friend.