For many, seeking validation from others is a persistent habit that can often have profoundly negative and far-reaching consequences. Fortunately, there are many great ways to cultivate an attitude of confidence and self-reliance, even in the face of criticism or disapproval. Here are just a few tips on how to stop seeking validation, and why doing so can enable us to create a life that we’re passionate about.
“The only validation we need comes from within; whatever our souls allow is allowed.” – Sherihan Gamal
1. Realize That Other People Don’t Have All the Answers
When we’re seeking validation from our social circle, we often forget that most people are just as confused about their life choices as we are. Even the most successful people experience self-doubt regularly, and their confidence may simply be a cover for more deep-rooted insecurities and problems.
When it comes to life, no one has the answer book, and while it can be stressful to find our own way in the world, doing so is a necessary step towards building personal resilience and genuine self-esteem. When we blindly trust in the opinions of others, on the other hand, we’ll find that even the most well-intentioned advice can lead us down the wrong path.
2. Find Your True Reasons for Seeking Approval
To really understand why you’re seeking validation from other people, try examining your actual reasons for doing so. Are your needs in life currently being fulfilled? What do you believe that the approval of others will bring you? Asking questions such as these can help you hone in on the most fundamental causes of your need for approval.
Often, we’ll find that we seek validation because we’re uncertain about our self-worth or our capacity for success. For example, we may desire to avoid failure by taking a “safe” path through life. We may even be afraid that our work isn’t good enough or that we inherently lack the capability to succeed in a challenging career.
Whatever our reasons for seeking approval may be, understanding the irrationality of certain fears about the future can genuinely help us meet new challenges.
3. Examine Your Values
When we let the opinions of others determine our choices in life, we often sell ourselves and our values short. It’s easy to become trapped by our fear of what other people will think of our choices, and decisions made simply to please others will often leave us feeling dissatisfied and resentful.
Too often, what works for some people may not work for us, and if we’re hindered by society’s notions of what constitutes success, we may end up in a career, relationship, or mortgage that we resent. Getting in touch with our values can be a great way to find a profoundly satisfying path in life and make decisions that we’re pleased about.
For example, try making a list of the people you most admire and want to emulate. How did they live their lives? Did they seek wealth for its own sake, or did they work to contribute to the greater good? Did they find joy in simple pleasures? Did they let other people make choices for them? By answering these questions, we can discover more about how we actually want to live our lives.
4. Practice Building Self-Esteem
When we’re excessively focused on gaining the approval of others, we often make choices that go against our deepest goals and aspirations. We may find ourselves pursuing personal, educational, and career objectives that make us deeply unhappy. Under pressure from others, we may even make decisions that we consider immoral.
These kinds of choices can leave us feeling burned out and low on self-esteem. To derive a sense of self-worth from our decisions in life, we must first consider what we genuinely believe to be worthy courses of action when faced with tough choices. If we consistently undermine our own values to please others, we will stand little chance of respecting our own decisions.
To really build a life that we are content with, in other words, we need to work on changing ourselves from the ground up. When we make choices that we’re happy with and that fit with our values, we’ll naturally build self-confidence in our character and in our abilities. Indeed, putting ourselves first and becoming comfortable with telling people “no” may not come naturally to us, but practicing assertiveness can and will get easier with time.
5. Work on Your Life
If we’re unhappy with our current way of living, it’s unlikely that we’ll find true satisfaction in our work or personal relationships. Rather than looking to others for approval, we can help ourselves by creating a life that we’re pleased with. In fact, doing so will often bring even our biggest critics around to our worldview.
Whether we’re pursuing a new set of hobbies such as cooking or rock climbing or finding peace in solitude and meditation, learning to be joyful in our own company can reduce feelings of anxiety around socializing with others. That can make all the difference in cultivating great relationships; once we’re pleased with ourselves, other people will derive happiness from being social with us.
6. Criticize Negative Thoughts
For many, a need for approval often stems from issues related to anxiety or depression. In such cases, negative thought patterns can quickly undermine a person’s self-esteem. This can create a toxic cycle in which a person continually seeks validation from others to keep overwhelming feelings of self-criticism at bay. Once the sense of reassurance passes, however, they begin the process of seeking validation all over again.
To combat these thinking patterns, it is often necessary to criticize negative thoughts as they appear in our mind. Because our beliefs determine our decisions, developing healthy ideas about our self-worth can truly do wonders for the ability to make even the most difficult life choices.
For these reasons, building a genuine sense of self-esteem and self-reliance can be a great way to cast aside a need for validation. On some level, we’ll always wonder what other people think of our choices, but with the right approach, we’ll soon find a way to live by our deepest values. Indeed, that is life at its best!