Our need to feel for external validation: being affirmed by others and the world/environment that we live in may currently feel under threat. I write in March 2020 (when the UK is in lockdown due to Covid – 19). The very nature of this pandemic means that knowing how to self-validate is increasingly important.
Are you struggling with a lack of external validation right now?
The only lasting solution is to look within (see infographic bottom of post). Talking a good game with yourself, building yourself up. If we don’t do this and we get our feelgood factor from outside factors, we can easily crumble when things get tough.
Social media likes, compliments about the way we look, promotions/pay rises, thank you’s and recognition for a good job are all forms of what is known in Transactional Analysis as strokes. These are OK in and of themselves but they do not build our inner core of belief about who we are. We feel a sort of high when we receive external validation but it is short-lived. There is more we need to do to feel truly unshakeable.
What is self-validation?
The kind of validation we should go after is the stuff that goes the distance and carries you through the tougher times. When you put on a few pounds, you get overlooked for a job, you got forgotten on a list of invitations, or no-one liked your post. It sounds petty perhaps, but cast your mind back to a day when one of these events happened – how was your mood afterwards? Did you become flat or feel intimidated?
Seeking external is natural and normal. Of course we all love praise, acceptance and acknowledge.
Five Ways to Move Away from External Validation
Write a List of Compliments
These are words given to you that your barriers don’t reject. Yes, they still came from others but you have internalised them and made it part of how you see yourself. They have enhanced your sense of self-worth; they are your truth.
Rehearse Past victories
In which you know you did a great thing; a proud moment; achievements. From these, an extension would be to detail what you know about yourself that is TRUE, an unshakeable belief. Insert here “I am a ….”
Imagine a picture of you as a small child; 8-12 years old, feeling a negative feeling that threatens. Now imagine yourself in the same picture as a nurturing, calm, wise parent. What would your gentle, adult voice tell your child? I felt that the Queens Speech in response to the coronavirus is a fantastic example. It thanks, encourages, reminds the Nation of its best qualities, and promises of better times to come. It is as though the nation is her child that must be encouraged and strengthened.
- “I am here for you”
- “We can get through this”
- “I am proud of you for showing up for this”
- “Together you and I will figure this out”
In this way you are validating yourself; you are embodying the answer or the encouragement that your more vulnerable side needs. It is powerful, compassionate tool and used as the basis of transactional analysis.
It’s important to have this awareness of yourself: that positive external strokes are important. Mark Pitcher: speaker, business mentor and host of the Smash the Box podcast agrees. “The likes cheer us up, a thank you letter is a boost, a compliment gives us a quick hit of dopamine. It just can’t be the only thing that nourishes you”.
Notice Your Feelings But Don’t Treat Them as Reality
It is vital not to obtain your beliefs from your current experience. Test your thoughts, ensuring that you can distance from them just as a temporary state. Again Mark Pitcher has some real wisdom here: “Notice your negative feelings (or pain) and use them as a potential catalyst for good. Say to yourself: I have experienced this difficulty, now what am I going to do with the experience (to help others)?”.
One of the beliefs around resilience is that you know that whatever is going on right now, the situation and circumstances will pass. Especially now as I write in April 2020, we need to remember this more than ever. The underlying apprehension is important to acknowledge but it is not a permanent state. There is a difference.
There is a place for external validation but it can’t be the only way that you build your self-worth. Applying these simple techniques repeatedly will nurture your sense of self-worth in a big way.