How to Stop Relying on External Validation

Right from a very young age, we rely on external validation to help us determine if we are doing well in life. We look to our parents to congratulate us and say ‘well done’ or ‘good job’ after we do something well. We look for their praise when sharing our creations and for our grades in school.

This is all normal and in a way necessary. It helps us work with and collaborate with others when we enter adulthood.

But the problem is when we rely solely on external validation as a measure for success and when we don’t listen to our internal voice to determine how we are doing.

When we rely solely on external validation, it stops us from doing many things. It can hold us back from expressing our true selves for fear of what others may think.

We might change our thoughts or beliefs based on how others feel, rather than what we feel. We might stop ourselves from creating in a way that feels true to who we are.

Social media doesn’t help. We get an instant high if we see a ‘like’ on something we have posted and a dip in our confidence if nobody likes it at all. In a way, social media is intensifying our need for external validation.

As a perfectionist and a creative, validation has been a challenge in my own life. It’s a daily practise to stop stopping myself from creating and sharing my work with others. While I love to inspire and share with others, there is a little voice inside telling me it’s not good enough. That it won’t resonate or be liked by others. It takes a conscious effort to trust my thoughts and press publish.

The more we rely on external validation throughout our lives, the more it can lead to feeling disconnected to ourselves, and feeling unfulfilled and unhappy.

When we rely solely on others for approval, it can bring us down and limit our potential. Always turning to others to make us feel good is unhelpful.

We can get better at self-validating. Like how we reframe negative thoughts, we can also strengthen the skill of turning inwards instead of looking outside of ourselves.

PRACTISE SELF-LOVE

Quite often when we look externally for validation it’s because we aren’t sure we are enough. We need others to tell us that what we are doing is okay, or that we are accepted.

Working on the relationship we have with ourselves is the first step to getting better at self-validating.

I like to imagine I’m talking to one of my children. I would never tell them they aren’t good enough as they are. I would help them reach their full potential, but never scold them for not being enough. We often berate ourselves which doesn’t help us feel good.

If we look within with kindness and understanding, we begin to improve the relationship we have to ourselves and stop looking externally to determine how we are doing.

LOOK AT YOUR PROGRESS

Pausing from time-to-time to reflect on past achievements is important for our wellbeing. We often focus on the future or where we are lacking in life. But when we stop to take note of all the small achievements, we realise we are doing much better than our mind leads us to believe.

Look at how far you have come. Take note of what you have learned. Notice and appreciate how much you have grown.

ACCEPT YOUR FEELINGS WITHOUT JUDGEMENT

Negative feelings can often scare us and make us doubt ourselves. So we look externally for someone to tell us we are okay. Negative feelings are completely normal and part of being human.

When we begin to accept all feelings and understand that they come and go and don’t define us, we can move through them without relying on others to make us feel safe and secure.

USE YOUR VALUES AS A GUIDE

Rather than looking externally for someone to approve of us or what we have done, turn to your values. Does your action, decision or behaviour align with your core values? Does it feel authentic and true to what you believe?

If it does, then you know you are doing the right thing. If it doesn’t, then you can adjust what you are doing so it aligns better to what you care about.

LOOK AT YOUR STRENGTHS

We all have natural strengths. Quite often we are so close to them that we don’t see them. Take time to discover what your character strengths are. Like your values, note them down and remind yourself of them often.

With our minds going non-stop we tend to forget what our values and strengths are. Taking time to remind ourselves of them will help us feel confident and valuable to those around us.

PRACTISE REFRAMING NEGATIVE THOUGHTS

Negative thoughts or our inner critic can cause havoc in our minds. Quite often it will tell us that we aren’t good enough. That what we are doing isn’t of value or liked by others.

Practising reframing negative thoughts can help us quieten the inner critic. The more we practise changing a negative thought into a more positive and productive thought, the better we get at self-validating.

TAKE A SOCIAL MEDIA BREAK

The whole ‘like’ after we post something on social media gives us an instant pat on the back for what we have shared. If it hasn’t been liked then it’s not unusual to feel that what we have shared isn’t good enough, or that we aren’t good enough.

But we all know how easy it is to like or not like something someone else has posted. Most of the time we sit and scroll when we are tired or bored. Not receiving a ‘like’ for something we share isn’t an indicator that we aren’t enough or a likeable person.

Taking a break from social media is good for our wellbeing. When we disconnect, we connect on a deeper level to what matters — our loved ones, our surrounding and our connection to ourselves.

BECOME MORE SELF-AWARE

This is possibly the most important step. Quite often we look outside of ourselves for validation because we aren’t sure we are enough as we are. We don’t feel safe within ourselves.

Just as it takes time to get to know another person, it’s a continuous journey of discovering who we are. The more we understand who we authentically are, the better we become at moving forward on our path without needing others to tell us if what we are doing is okay.

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