Everyone desires some form of validation. Being validated by others provides us with a sense of recognition, value, and belonging. Within a world that constantly reminds us that we aren’t good enough, positive validation helps with our emotional well-being and self-esteem. The lack of approval from our peers can often make us feel undervalued and invisible.
Before I begin, I’ve decided to make a distinction between two types of validation; healthy and unhealthy forms. The first is sought from reciprocal relationships that value and encourage your authentic expression (seek to inspire and push each other). The latter is one where you base your self-esteem and self-worth solely on being validated by others.
With that being said, Validation isn’t just about seeking approval from others. It is also about acceptance of your emotions- thoughts and feelings. For example; acknowledging you’re unhappy about X and then making the necessary shifts in your life to validate those feelings. An unhealthy practice would be to continue doing something you’re unhappy about or denying it altogether.
I’ve experienced both healthy and unhealthy forms validation. I must admit that I’ve battled many times with unhealthy practices, even though I’ve not always been aware of my actions.
It has taken many forms for me over the years. In particular, I often felt the pressure to constantly display how much I know about certain issues relating to my field of study (Intl Politics) in order to feel knowledgeable enough to be within political spaces. In the past, I’ve also relied too heavily on certain friendships for approval of my actions when I should have sought it within myself.
Social media has caused an unhealthy obsession with gaining validation from others. For example, obsessing over likes, buying followers, doing the most to achieve an ‘Insta baddie’ look. There’s also an obsession with perfection and having to look a certain way i.e. slim thick bodies, immaculate makeup. I’d like to just add that there’s nothing inherently wrong with having or wanting to attain those things. This desire for wanting to achieve certain physical aesthetics has existed for centuries and it isn’t new to social media. Instagram is just a hyperbolic representation of these standards of beauty through images. The problem is, when we are constantly being exposed to these types of images, whether consciously or not, we find ourselves conforming to these standards.
Much like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook have become plagued by this need for approval. These sites, in particular, are becoming infamous for people using activism to boost their social status and gain validation from said communities. Activism has, therefore, become voyeuristic with people using social ills as a means to gain a sense of belonging and importance within activist circles.
Unfortunately, I’ve begun to find that certain ‘safe spaces’ weren’t free from this constant desire for approval and validation. I constantly felt pressures to prove my knowledge of feminism and black issues, or having to dress a certain way to makes me look ‘edgy’ enough.
Whether it’s a pressure of having to take an ‘Insta baddie’ photo or show how ‘woke’ you are, it’s essentially the same desire for approval.
When you practice self-validation, it allows us to gain a greater sense of control and understanding of our needs and desires, providing us with a strong sense of identity. It’s the effort to better understand ourselves by validating our feelings, experiences and accepting them. Ultimately it’s about living our lives as an authentic expression of our internal self-validating process.
Reflecting on this topic, I’d like to propose a few questions that we could ask ourselves:
How much do my decisions reflect my authenticity?
How can I meaningfully validate myself in a society with so many expectations?
How can I seek meaningful relationships that value liberation and not superficiality?
How can I work towards validating myself and controlling my expectations of others to build my self-esteem?
I think it’s time to start having more honest and open conversations about this topic. Part of my own self-reflection has been asking myself questions like this constantly. It’s easy to fall into the trap of doing the things I mentioned above. I can honestly say I’m guilty of probably everything I’ve stated. As uncomfortable as self-reflection may be, it is necessary towards gaining greater self-awareness.
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