“If you live for people’s acceptance, you will die from their rejection.” – Lecrae
At the very core of our being is a deep longing to feel loved and that we matter. As social beings, we are wired to be in relationships and forge enduring bonds with each other, and consequently, our biggest lesson is to develop healthy ways of relating to others without losing our authentic sense of self.
It took me a long time to really understand what it means to possess and exude inner power. It was a vague and almost “woo-woo” concept that I couldn’t quite grasp. Like most people, I believed that power could only be derived from external artifacts of success such as money, looks and status. I assumed that this was the only way to get instantly noticed and appreciated by others.
It certainly does not surprise me that most people share the same beliefs as I do. From a young age, many of us have been programed to believe that it is solely through the attainment of these ego-driven needs can we experience feelings of prosperity and that “we’ve made it”. From as early as high school, which I believe is Validation Central, we are exposed to this distorted version of reality.
In these microcosms of the real world, we had to navigate our way through the complicated hierarchy that typically prevails in a high school setting. I remember having to please everyone. I had to charm my teachers to get good grades, be on good terms with our supervisor so that I could win leadership roles, and strive to keep up with the popular girls so that I could remain a member of their prestigious clique.
Now, whenever I reflect on those days, I feel sorry for my teenage self. I can only imagine the high levels of pressure that she had to endure during those formative years. Fortunately, I was able to shed my insecure teenage skin and gradually make the transition into a more self-assured way of being.
Unfortunately, there are a significantly large percentage of people who get stuck in this “popularity-contest” way of thinking, and continue to hold on to this attitude well into their adulthood. They run around in circles like helpless, headless chickens, hoping to get to a place of wholeness by gaining acceptance from as many people as possible, but getting nowhere in the end.
The truth is that there are way too many voices and opinions out there, telling us what to do and how to behave. Without a strong self-image and opinions in life, we can get overly attached to what others think and sabotage our success. As author Brene Brown says, “If we can’t stand up to the never good enough and who do you think you are, we can’t move forward.”
When we have the “disease to please”, we are essentially held in bondage to the fancies of others. We lose our freedom because our inner voice is being drowned by the voices of others. In her book, Anatomy of the Spirit, Caroline Myss says that in some cases, our vitality and life force can literally get drained away through energetic chords that we build with the person from whom we seek approval.
A need for validation can have an almost addictive quality to it. People who need it get regular cravings for compliments from others, and they’ll stop at nothing to get it. Receiving praise from others gives them a high that is similar to that of other addictive substances, but once the effect wears off, they come crashing down. In this way, they get stuck in an endless loop of approval-seeking behavior.
If we look closely, we’ll see that the need to please others originates from an inner void that cannot be filled up by anyone else but us. It can only flow from us if we genuinely feel good about who we are. Remember that the relationship that you have with yourself is crucial because it defines your mood, drive and what you ultimately get out of life.
While it is human nature to sometimes question ourselves and be conscious of others’ opinion, we have to train ourselves to be cognizant enough to prevent it from taking over our minds and trapping us into a state of desperation. A big part of this emotional skill-set involves being able to discern when someone is offering us constructive feedback and when they are expressing malicious criticism.
It also requires us to learn how to love and accept ourselves through the highs and lows of life. It’s about wholeheartedly embracing both our strengths and our imperfections. It’s about acknowledging our uniqueness – our different tastes, opinions and hopes. It’s only when we unequivocally feel good about who we are, regardless of what others might think, can we truly get over the need for validation.
When we construct this anchor within our spirits, no one is capable of taking advantage of us. We will be confident enough to show our true colors, knowing fully that there will be people out there who won’t agree with us or like us. We realize that there isn’t a single person out there (this includes celebrities and politicians), performing in the arena, without his or her share of haters, critics and ill-wishers.
Below, I have listed three practical steps that you can take to overcome your need for validation. This is an organic process that may take some time to become a natural way of being, and requires you to engage in deep, inner work. Be patient and believe that you’ll eventually come out on the other side of it.
- Observe your behavior patterns: Everyone has their own distinct approval-seeking behavior tendencies and they usually seek it in specific areas of their life such as their career, relationships or personal appearances. The first step is for you to gain an awareness of your patterns and make a clear note of it. Observe your reactions across different situations and look at your actions from an outsider’s point of view. With an objective perspective, you’ll easily gain clarity on which areas need attention.
- Get to the root of your approval-seeking behavior: Once you are familiar with your patterns, the next step is to find out what is driving your need for validation. Are there some deeper, underlying needs that aren’t being met? Are there lingering, painful experiences in your past that need to be addressed and healed? It would help to reflect on questions of this nature in a journal and/or to work with a therapist.
- Work on gaining total self-acceptance: The next critical step is building rituals and practices that affirm your sense of self. Acknowledge your strengths and take note of all the milestones that you achieve along the way. Listen to your inner voice and don’t be afraid to express your inner light. Overcome your inner critic and replace negative self-talk with encouraging dialogue. Replace the voice of your insecurities with the voice of an inner cheerleader who will support you through thick and thin.
Always remember that you are as unique as a snowflake. There will never be anyone like you ever again in the history of the Universe – so embrace all that you are and allow the rest of the world to experience the special gifts that only you can offer. You are an original expression of nature and you should not allow anyone or anything to prevent you from sharing your magic.
All my best on your journey,
Question for you: Do you have a strong need for validation? What do you think is driving this behavior and how can you begin to shift it?
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