How many of you look to others for validation? How many of you are constantly searching for that compliment or pat on the back for a job well done?
From a young age
It is not surprising. From a young age we are exposed to exams, tests and grouping by ability throughout our school experience. Although I believe change is happening, thanks to Carol S Dweck and her book ‘Mindset’, most of us were praised for our intelligence and ability. We were praised for the results we achieved not the process and not always the effort.
As someone who has been in education for the last 12 years, I have seen this in action in secondary schools. I have seen results driven motivation affect both self-confidence and self-esteem. If students perform well in tests, their self-confidence is high, they believe that they are good enough. Some students, however, learn differently and do not perform well in tests. These are the students whose self-esteem and self-confidence take a huge nose dive. It is, therefore, no wonder that we continue to look for validation through to adulthood.
Whether we are consciously aware or not, most of us attach success to outside validation and we continue to believe that we need it to feel like we are successful. This means that when we make mistakes or fail, we feel stupid and dumb as we think, on some level, we are less likely to get that validation.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with being praised for doing a good job and feeling a sense of pride for achieving a good score or result but when we rely on this validation to feel happy then we open ourselves up to a form of self-destruction. We start to resent other people who we see as more successful, we beat ourselves up more when we think we are making ‘mistakes’ and in some cases, we can become anxious and depressed because we never feel that we are good enough. Our expectations of ourselves becomes too high and we never live up to them.
How can you self-validate?
This is a practice and like anything worthwhile, it takes time. Self-validation is a knowing, a soul-deep knowing, that you are enough, exactly as you are. This does not mean that you stop looking for ways to grow and strive for new things but you begin to do it more for the journey and what you will learn and less for the accolade you will receive once you have reached your goal.
Self-validation is about working on how you look at yourself and how you think about yourself and your abilities.
How often have you said statements like these:
• I am not good at it
• Other people are so much better than me
• If others succeed, I feel inferior
• I am really not smart enough
• I should just give up
Compare them to these statements:
• I can learn anything if I am prepared to put in the effort
• I can learn from my mistakes and make it even better
• I can learn from others and be inspired by them
• I’ll find another way
Self-validation is learning to love yourself, imperfections and all. Knowing that everything you need to succeed in life is within you not other people.
To help you, here are some more concrete ideas on what you can do to practise self-validation:
1. Be more self-aware. You can do this by writing in a journal or just by thinking on the following questions at the end of each day. Try not to attach judgment to what comes up, it is just an observation. Question 1, where have I looked to other people to validate me today? Question 2, Where have I given myself permission to validate myself?
2. Give that critic a name. When your inner critic pops up, telling you that you are not good enough, give it a name. In this manner, you are distancing yourself from the thoughts which pop into your head. You are giving yourself permission to discount the voice if it does not serve you. Like an overeager assistant who is trying to help you but can sometimes get in the way, you need to know that just because the thoughts are there, doesn’t mean that they have any authority.
3. Look at obstacles as challenges not roadblocks. See them as motivators, they are there to show that you are learning and growing. This is something we are fantastic at when we are toddlers and we first start to walk, for example. If we didn’t make mistakes and keep getting back up again (literally in this case), there would be adults sat down saying ‘I tried to walk but I just wasn’t any good!’
4. Enjoy the process and try not to get caught up with the results. Life is a journey not a race. It is about appreciating every high and every low. Nobody has it all worked out and if you hear that from anyone, they are lying. It is so easy to compare your life and success to somebody else and see them as superior and you as somehow, inferior. This isn’t the case at all. Everyone has their own journey and you are the best at living yours.
5. Gratitude. This is like a muscle, the more you work it, the more it helps to improve your life. Start with 3 things you are grateful for on day 1 and add one more each day. Celebrate those wins, no matter how small!
6. Be your own best friend. We are our own worst enemies. We are so incredibly hard on ourselves and what we expect. At the end of each day, spend a few minutes reflecting on where you could have been nicer to yourself. Replay that situation in your head and this time imagine it is your best friend. What would you have told her?
7. Accept who you are right now, imperfections and all. You are unique, you are the only YOU on the whole planet and you are the best at it. Nobody else can do that job for you and while you can’t do everything you can do anything.