By Dr. David Fawcett
Young children naturally need the loving support of their caregivers. They are incapable of knowing how to self-soothe or take care of their emotional needs without external assistance. Consequently, they are extremely vulnerable to not getting consistently positive feedback or, worse, being abused, neglected, or experiencing adverse events. As a result, even the most resilient child can begin to develop a sense that they are somehow internally flawed and need to seek reassurance from sources outside themselves.
Over time, children who begin to rely on affirmation from external sources may become overly dependent on that and not develop the internal resources or tools they need to create an adequate sense of themselves. For many, getting approval from parents, teachers, or other persons in authority results in them feeling good about themselves. Over time, this external validation can become the sole source of acceptance or belonging.
When that approval isn’t forthcoming, children can begin to feel bad about themselves and to believe that they are somehow flawed or “not enough.” Later, as an adult, if they are seeking validation from a post on social media, for example, they may carefully count their likes and shares and this in turn can drive their mood up or down and affect how they feel about themselves.
External validation can take many other forms, too, such as outsized pride in having a high income, being boastful about achievements, letting people know you went to the “right” school, or going on a fabulous vacation. This becomes problematic when we construct our lives around external consumption and validation, which can result in a life spent chasing acceptance and, worse, living in fear that we won’t get it. In this situation, we become people-pleasers who are afraid that our true selves aren’t enough. Over time, we reach the point where we don’t even know who we really are, what we actually feel, what we truly think, or even what we like.
Self-validation is extremely important if we need/want to counteract this issue. Self-validation is a process that helps us begin to accept our own internal experience, our thoughts, and our feelings. With this type of healing, we learn to accurately evaluate ourselves. If we can begin to see ourselves as we really are, we can begin to trust that we are enough, just the way we are. When that happens, we become self-sufficient emotionally and our self-image will improve significantly.
There are great benefits to loving ourselves and finding validation from within. Here are a few:
- Our self-esteem will start coming from the inside, not from external sources.
- We won’t rely on others to validate us or define us.
- We will find ourselves increasingly connected with our lives.
- We will begin to accept certain things about ourselves that we might have had difficulty with in the past.
- We will become less frightened by rejection and less dependent on others.
- We will be able to more easily step out of our comfort zone.
- We will be able to release old survival mechanisms that no longer serve us.
- We can at long last feel that we are indeed enough.
In a future post, I will discuss affirmations and other steps in the process of creating validation from within.