Seeking validation as a motive to do something comes so easily that it often occurs outside of our consciousness. Yet, it is so common - a never-ending loop of desire-action-result that fuels anxiety, dissatisfaction, and resistance through our veins. From the relationships we choose to form or keep (both platonic and romantic), how we spend our time, the things we do (how we walk into a room or compose ourselves), the words we speak, to the things we don’t do or say. The 21st century has placed an illusion of extreme importance on how the world perceives us, and with that, provided us with many platforms to judge and be judged.
Seeking validation as a motive is perhaps most consciously (though not most commonly) practiced in our engagement with social media platforms. Our identity is no longer strictly embodied by our physical selves, but also by our digital imprints. Though I’m sure everything there is to be said on this particular issue, we’ve heard before. The digital space has allowed us to mould and skew not only other people’s perception of ourselves, but our self-perception as well. And in return, we give it the liberty to build up and tear down our ego.
Emotional validation, moral validation, physical validation - we’ve all sought ought one form or another. In today’s world, it almost seems like we’re set up to do so. Yet, this toxic habit leads to a life lived impulsively and reactively. We yearn for reassurance and recognition, and base our behavior solely on attaining it. By doing we tether our internal state onto external factors. We use other people’s perceptions of us as a compass in life when, ironically, they are likely doing the same. We inflict self-doubt and anxiety upon ourselves by interlacing our judgment of ourselves with those of others. We believe this will lead to happiness, when instead it leads to addictive behavior.
When we scramble desperately for reassurance, we unrealistically and selfishly give others the responsibility to determine how we feel. We hand over the power over our self-esteem and happiness to others, mistreating ourselves in the process. It is a game-plan destined for a loss, as we can never simultaneously be everyone's definition of worthy.
We seek validation from others, insofar as to base our definitions of ourselves and worthiness on these people, who will never know our insides in the way that matters. If the entire world were to give you a big fat stamp of approval, would you be satisfied? Would you like you?
There is great power and liberation in understanding why we do what we do, and making sure these reasons are healthy and aligned with our self-defined values. When we behave a certain way simply because we want to, when we stop deriving our worth from how the world receives us, when we post a photo and our confidence in it does not falter based on its number of likes - our entire world changes. We start loving those around us more, as we no longer expect them to make us feel a certain way, and love them for the sake of doing so. We grow more selfless, as the things we do and the results we seek in daily interaction are no longer for the means of reassurance and affirmation.
You are single-handedly responsible for how you feel. Others do not owe us anything; they are not tools or pathways in our lives. This concept may seem unrecognizable at first, challenging and intimidating to accept. However, the realization is beyond empowering and magical.
This article isn’t to say we shouldn’t care about how we behave, for I believe that what we do, think, and say, constantly creates ourselves, and that we are our own most valuable investment. In fact, it is for this reason I believe we should be most mindful and aware of what we do and more importantly, why.
Because the definition of a happy life differs from person to person, I won’t tell you how to live yours. But because I do believe everyone should define their priorities and principles, I strongly urge you to:
Reflect on what truly makes you happy.
Pursue a life aligned with that.
Is other people’s perception truly important to you? Do you prefer self-expression and authenticity?
Growing up in an Asian household and society, I’ve had to do my fair share of mental gymnastics to evaluate how I truly felt about the purported importance of reputation. It wasn’t easy, and if you live your life as reactively as I once did, it may take some time to decide what way of living/what version of yourself will make you most proud and fulfilled.
A pat on the back from others is inarguably nice from time to time. But such actions of validation are often conditional. Meanwhile, we can endlessly and more genuinely validate ourselves - give ourselves as many pats on the back as we want to. Take back and rightfully own control over yourself and your actions. Realize that choices are yours to make and behave with purpose and clarity. Live on your terms.