How Important Is Validation to Your Sense of Self?
“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.”
– Al Franken as Stuart Smalley
The fictional Saturday Night Live character was a poster child for self -love in the face of self-deprecation and co-dependence as he did a great deal of mirror work. This modality was espoused by Louise Hay, author of You Can Heal Your Life, and Robert Holden, PhD, creator of The Happiness Project. It involves being fully present with yourself and offering words of praise and affirmation that are meaningful for you as you gaze into the eyes of the man or woman reflected in the looking glass. It might feel as surreal as it was for Alice or as natural as the beat of your heart. Like any practice, the more you do it, the easier it becomes.
Words have a powerful effect on us. Many have grown up with the adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” This is erroneous, as anecdotally evidenced by the numbers of people sitting in therapist’s offices, sharing tales of parental verbal abuse and the impact it has had on their lives
Affirmations are one means of re-directing chronic negative self -talk. Think of them as a way of reprograming a computer which is malfunctioning or changing a diet if what you have been eating causes ill effects on your system.
According to Jesse Jackson, “If my mind can conceive it, and my heart can believe it, I know I can achieve it.”
Suggestions for creating affirming statements:
- Begin with the words, “I am.” According to the late author and speaker Wayne Dyer, these are two of the most powerful words that can be uttered and all that follows are linked to them. He reminded readers that our brains respond to what they are fed. If we tell ourselves that something can’t be accomplished, or we are somehow ‘less than,’ we accept it as fact.
- Add to them what you DO want, rather than what you don’t want. For example, if you are job seeking, you might use the affirmation, “I am now working at my ideal job,” rather than “I’m not yet in the situation I want to be.” Although that might be so at the moment, you are more likely to remain right where you are if you claim it as truth.
- Write them down so that you can read them back to yourself.
- Tape record them so that you can listen to them in your sleep.
- Create them as if they are happening in the present moment. “I am now improving my diet and taking care of my body in ways that make me healthier every day.”
A few years ago, I discovered a video that portrays the importance of external validation. It put a smile on my face as I watched it and it reminded me that when people feel acknowledged, they are more likely to experience a sense of mood elevation. Take time to offer praise to those you encounter and allow others to shower you with words that reinforce what you would like to believe about yourself.
An idea comes to mind with regard to social media postings. Do people post their thoughts or images in order to gain attention and glean validation? Are the number of ‘likes’ or comments a measure of their worthiness?
A random sampling of Facebook friends evoked the following responses, when these questions were posed.
If you see yourself as intelligent, creative, successful, beautiful, worthy and loving, do you still want others to validate it? Does it have anything to do with upbringing? What if you were never affirmed, does it make you want it more? If you were showered with positive reinforcement, do you feel insatiable for it?
“Yes, because I want to help others. I want to make a meaningful and valuable contribution to their lives. In that context, validation is how I know I’m succeeding in this goal. This kind of feedback helps me understand whether what I’m presenting or giving to others is valued and appreciated. In my experience, seeking validation only becomes problematic when someone tries to get validation from others even though they’re not willing to do the work of being genuinely helpful.”
“I do see myself as many positive things including those you’ve listed and still seem to seek the validation of those things, or at least am happy to have others validate me on those things…. It has everything to do with my upbringing as I was verbally abused by my mother from an early age until I walked away from her over two years ago…. I’m not sure if it makes me want more affirmation because I wasn’t treated that way my whole life but I am very grateful when the validation comes from anywhere including when I realize it myself.”
“Yes and I am always looking for validation. I think as humans we crave it. It may have something to do with my upbringing. I was made to feel inadequate and unloved as a child.”
“It’s interesting because I was validated as a child and for the most part I have a solid sense of myself. But what I’ve realized is that sometimes I feel low and want the extra bump but because I normally don’t need it – I rarely receive it. And in those cases I question whether I should exude less confidence. Make sense.”
“It’s a turn off for me when I see people desperately seeking attention to validate their body, brains, accomplishments on a constant, daily basis. This is different than celebrating an achievement and sharing the news. Different from asking for feedback on something one has created. There has to be a balance. A way of being genuine and honest with no expectations. It’s when validation is expected and is desperately needed every day, several times a day, that the ego is running the show. Asking for validation is different than genuine affirmations that may come from outside one’s self. I prefer natural responses and un-attachment but on some days, it helps to get the validation when I’m feeling unsure of something.”
“My parents and step-parents were non-verbally or physically demonstrative and my father and step-father were at times downright emotionally abusive. Although I do see myself as all of the things you mentioned, I still crave validation from others because of the lack of it while growing up.”
“1) Do you still want others to validate it? depends on their motivation, user or giver …. 2) Does it have anything to do with upbringing? much more about current dynamics …. 3) What if you were never affirmed, does it make you want it more? qualified yes …. 4) If you were showered with positive reinforcement, do you feel insatiable for it? I have been so blessed from time to time, appreciated same and was okay letting it go.”
“I’m not phased if no one praises me or validates me but when someone I trust and admire does say something complimentary or encouraging I feel honored and very touched.”
“It’s good to feel validated, it’s a form of feeling recognized and appreciated.”
“It is nice to be validated. And I love that there are some special souls in this world that completely understand me and I am ever grateful for them. However, I don’t need everyone to get me. If someone is looking for more understanding, I am happy to share. But for those who just want to pick it apart or need proof. I no longer am willing to play that game. I trust in my knowing and will live from that space with or without validation.”
“Maybe play around with the distinction between validate and acknowledge. Your words are a prompt of sorts for me to begin writing in my journal… an inquiry into affirming… what is it that we affirm in other people and why? Ourselves and why? Perceptions of self… how do we arrive at that? …and what do we do with perceptions of others? how do they that inform one’s process of constructing an image of self? Do we look to keep constructing ‘self’ as to receive a certain type of affirmation? “
“Just like children, emotions heal when they are heard and validated.” – Jill Bolte Taylor, My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey
Weinstein, E. (2016). How Important Is Validation to Your Sense of Self?. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 24, 2017, from https://psychcentral.com/lib/how-important-is-validation-to-your-sense-of-self/