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How To Stop Seeking External Validation and Measure Self-Worth

In an era dominated by likes, retweets, and follows, external validation has evolved into a distinct form of social currency. With every photo upload or post shared, the craving for that dopamine rush from external approval becomes an ever-present force. However, as the quest for public validation gains momentum, have we overlooked the deeper sense of satisfaction that comes from within?

Statistics tell an incredible story: a study conducted by the University of Illinois found that a staggering 68% of social media users admit to measuring their self-worth based on the number of likes and comments their posts receive. This quest for external validation has not only reshaped the way we perceive ourselves but has also given rise to a new-age anxiety fuelled by the fear of falling short in the eyes of a virtual audience.

Yet, buried beneath this digital rat race lies the distinction between internal and external validation – a critical differentiation often overlooked in the haste for external endorsement. Internal validation, derived from a sense of accomplishment and self-assurance, tends to offer a more profound and lasting satisfaction. On the contrary, the nature of external validation, reliant on others’ opinions, can lead to a relentless cycle of approval-seeking behaviour that erodes our genuine self-esteem.

The journey towards authentic self-confidence begins when we shift our focus from external opinions to our internal sense of achievement.

Dr. Emma Thompson

Scientific evidence has shown that individuals who cultivate a strong sense of internal validation are not only more resilient in the face of setbacks but also exhibit higher levels of well-being and self-acceptance.

In the following sections of this article, we will explore the strategies and techniques that empower us to detach from the allure of external validation and embark on a journey of self-discovery. How can you stop seeking external validation, nurture a sense of self- worth and break free from the fleeting validation of your digital screen?

We invite you to navigate the labyrinth of external validation, liberating yourself from its hold and discover a more authentic lifestyle and genuine self-contentment.

Meaning of External Validation and Psychology Definition

External validation, at its core, refers to the reliance on external factors – be it opinions, praise, or acknowledgment – to measure self-worth and rank the legitimacy of your actions and achievements. It’s a phenomenon deeply rooted in our human nature, stemming from a primal desire for social acceptance and inclusion. In today’s interconnected world, this quest for validation has assumed an increasingly digital and public dimension, often finding its expression through social media platforms.

How Psychology Views External Validation

Psychology offers a thought-provoking perspective on the dynamics of external validation. Dr. Sarah Marshall, a leading expert in social psychology, explains that while a certain degree of external validation is natural and even healthy, an excessive reliance on it can have detrimental effects on our mental well-being. This phenomenon, often referred to as “contingent self-worth,” occurs when our self-esteem becomes closely tied to external factors such as appearance, accomplishments, or social recognition.

Studies conducted at Stanford University reveal a disconcerting correlation between contingent self-worth and anxiety, depression, and even narcissistic tendencies. When we hinge our self-worth on the approval of others, we become vulnerable to the unpredictability of external opinions, perpetually chasing after the next affirmation to fill the void within.

Psychology shows that constant reliance on external validation can hinder the development of a healthy and stable self-concept. Dr. Lisa Thompson, a cognitive psychologist, emphasises that individuals who solely rely on external cues for validation might struggle to accurately assess their own capabilities, leading to anxiety and chronic self-doubt.

As we navigate the labyrinth of external validation through the lens of psychology, it becomes evident that while a balanced degree of external affirmation is a part of human nature, we must strive to establish a firmer foundation of self-assurance and internal validation to truly thrive in an increasingly interconnected and judgement-prone world. The path to breaking free from the clutches of external validation begins with understanding its complexities and embracing a more profound connection with your inner self.

Why Do We Seek External Validation? 

The quest for external validation is a multifaceted phenomenon deeply routed in both our evolutionary history and the tapestry of modern society. Understanding the roots of this behaviour involves a nuanced exploration of our evolutionary heritage, upbringing, and societal pressures.

From Survival to Status

From an evolutionary perspective, the need for social acceptance and validation has ancient origins. Early humans thrived in close-knit communities where cooperation and alliance-building were crucial for survival. Being part of a social group ensured access to resources, protection, and a greater chance of reproductive success. As such, the instinct to seek validation from peers and authority figures became a survival mechanism, reinforcing group cohesion and your place within it.

This inclination for external validation didn’t wane with the progression of time. In fact, it evolved to accommodate the complexities of modern society. Today, external validation often translates to a display of social status, an aspiration embedded in our primal desire for dominance within the group. The accumulation of likes, followers, and positive comments in the virtual space is a contemporary manifestation of this drive for social recognition.

The Role of Upbringing and Societal Pressures: Navigating Expectations

Our upbringing and the societal pressures we encounter play a big role in shaping our inclination for seeking external validation. As children, we begin our journey in a world where approval from caregivers and authority figures is intertwined with feelings of safety, love, and belonging. Positive reinforcement during early stages of development forms the foundation upon which our self-esteem is built.

Yet, this process isn’t immune to the influence of societal norms and expectations. Cultural narratives, media portrayals, and societal benchmarks define what is deemed worthy of approval, often moulding us into conforming to these ideals. The pressure to meet these standards can lead to a reliance on external validation as a means of measuring our success in relation to them.

In a digitally connected world, social media magnifies these influences. As we curate our online personas, the external validation we receive shapes not only how we perceive ourselves but also how we believe others perceive us. It becomes a cycle where our digital identity seeks affirmation from the external world, perpetuating the quest for validation.

In this complex web of external validation, it’s evident that its roots span across time, biology, and society. Recognizing these underlying factors equips us with the knowledge needed to disentangle ourselves from its grip and embark on a journey towards a more authentic and internally driven sense of worth. As we go deeper into this exploration, we gain insights that pave the way for breaking free from the chains of external validation and nurturing a healthier relationship with ourselves and the world around us.

Do We Need External Validation? 

The question of whether we truly need external validation delves into the intricate balance between its benefits and drawbacks. As we navigate this complex terrain, it’s essential to unravel both sides of the equation: the pros and cons of seeking validation from external sources.

The Pros and Cons of External Validation

External validation isn’t inherently detrimental; indeed, there are instances where it can offer valuable insights and encouragement. Positive feedback from peers, mentors, or supervisors can provide us with constructive guidance, boosting our confidence and motivation. 

Recognizing our efforts and achievements through external affirmation can act as a catalyst for personal growth and self-improvement.

However, the allure of external validation also comes with potential pitfalls. Relying solely on outside opinions to validate our self-worth can lead to an unstable foundation of confidence. When the approval ceases, we’re left vulnerable to feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt. This emotional rollercoaster can hinder our ability to develop a resilient and authentic self-concept, causing us to lose sight of our intrinsic value.

Situations Where External Validation Can Be Beneficial

There are circumstances where seeking external validation is not only natural but can also be advantageous. In professional settings, feedback from colleagues and superiors helps us refine our skills and contributes to the collective growth of the team. Seeking expert opinion when pursuing new ventures or creative endeavours can lead to valuable insights that enhance the quality of our work.

External validation can serve as a gauge for progress in certain contexts. When learning a new skill or embarking on a journey of self-improvement, feedback from mentors or peers can provide benchmarks to measure our advancement. This can be particularly motivating during periods of self-doubt or stagnation.

However, the key lies in striking a balance. While external validation can be a guiding compass, it should never be the sole determinant of our worth. Cultivating a healthy self-esteem anchored in internal validation allows us to approach external feedback with a discerning perspective. This discernment empowers us to extract the valuable insights without surrendering our self-worth to the unpredictability of external opinions.

If you want to explore strategies that enable you to recalibrate your relationship with external validation, keep reading. By understanding the difference between benefits and drawbacks, you can cultivate a more robust and holistic sense of self that feeds your self-worth even in the absence of external applause.

Is External Validation Bad?

While external validation isn’t inherently negative, the dangers lie in its over-reliance and the subsequent impact on our self-worth and decision-making processes. As we peel back the layers, it becomes evident that unchecked dependence on external validation can have far-reaching consequences.

The Dangers of Over-Reliance on External Validation: A Fragile Foundation

Relying solely on external validation for our sense of self-worth is akin to building a house on shifting sands. When we tie our self-esteem to fluctuating external opinions, we surrender control of our self-image to forces beyond our control. The transience of external validation means that our emotional state becomes susceptible to every praise or criticism that comes our way, leading to a rollercoaster of emotions.

The fear of rejection or disapproval can morph into a pervasive anxiety, causing us to modify our behaviour or decisions to conform to others’ expectations. This can breed an environment of people-pleasing and a loss of authenticity as we prioritise the external gaze over our own values and aspirations.

How It Can Affect Our Self-Worth and Decision-Making: The Ripple Effect

The impact of over-reliance on external validation extends beyond momentary emotional highs and lows. Our self-worth becomes inextricably tied to external validation, eroding our ability to recognize our intrinsic value. This cycle perpetuates self-doubt, imposter syndrome, and a constant need for external affirmation to validate our accomplishments.

Decision-making is influenced by the pursuit of validation rather than authenticity. We may opt for choices that align with external expectations, even if they don’t resonate with our true desires. This not only compromises our genuine aspirations but also limits our personal growth and self-discovery.

As we navigate the treacherous waters of over-reliance on external validation, it’s crucial to recalibrate our compass. Developing a sense of internal validation enables us to anchor our self-worth in our innate qualities and accomplishments, irrespective of external opinions. This shift empowers us to make decisions aligned with our values, rather than chasing the ephemeral validation of others.

In the following sections, we’ll explore strategies that empower us to break free from the grip of external validation and cultivate a healthier, more robust sense of self-worth. By acknowledging its potential pitfalls, we can navigate this intricate terrain with a clearer sense of purpose and a renewed focus on fostering our inner confidence.

landscape photography of mountain hit by sun rays

Self Validation vs External Validation

The conflict between internal validation and external validation lies at the heart of our quest for self-worth. As we embark on the journey of untangling their complexities, it’s essential to understand their definitions, significance, and the interplay between the two.

Internal validation, often referred to as self-validation, is rooted in a deep sense of self-awareness and self-acceptance. It involves recognizing and acknowledging our own accomplishments, qualities, and efforts without the need for external approval. Unlike external validation, which depends on the opinions of others, internal validation originates from within, allowing us to create a stable foundation of self-worth.

The significance of internal validation lies in its resilience. When you cultivate a sense of worth that isn’t contingent on external opinions, you become less susceptible to the emotional rollercoaster triggered by praise or criticism. This internal steadiness helps you navigate life’s challenges with confidence, as your self-worth remains independent of external influences.

Internal vs External Validation- Benefits and Drawbacks 

While both internal and external validation have their place, a critical examination reveals the contrasting impacts they can have on our well-being and personal development.

Benefits of Internal Validation:

  • Sustainable Confidence: Internal validation fosters an enduring self-confidence that isn’t swayed by external opinions, allowing us to stand firm in our beliefs and choices.
  • Authenticity: By recognizing our inherent worth, we are more likely to make decisions aligned with our values and aspirations, leading to a more authentic and fulfilling life.
  • Resilience: Internal validation bolsters our emotional resilience, making us better equipped to handle setbacks and criticisms without compromising our self-esteem.

Drawbacks of Over-Reliance on External Validation:

  • Fragile Self-Esteem: Relying solely on external validation creates a fragile sense of self-esteem that wavers with changing opinions, leading to emotional instability.
  • Chronic Self- Doubt: Over time, seeking external validation may lead to lack of self- confidence, as we attribute our successes to external factors rather than recognizing our own capabilities.
  • Decision-Making Conflicts: The pursuit of external validation can lead to decisions that conflict with our authentic desires, causing internal turmoil and dissatisfaction.

Navigating the tension between internal and external validation necessitates a conscious effort to strike a balance. While external validation can offer valuable feedback and encouragement, it should ideally complement the strong foundation of internal validation. In the subsequent sections, we will uncover practical strategies to nurture and prioritize internal validation, enabling us to foster a robust and authentic sense of self-worth that transcends the fickle nature of external opinions.

The manifestations of external validation are varied and pervasive, often seeping into different aspects of our lives. As we explore the different contexts where external validation takes root, we gain insights into its influence on our behaviours and perceptions.

External Validation at Work

In the realm of work, external validation often manifests as the constant pursuit of approval from superiors, colleagues, and the professional community at large. From seeking recognition for accomplishments to aiming for the approval of higher-ups, the dynamics of external validation can shape our careers in profound ways.

Performance reviews and feedback sessions become crucibles of external validation, where our sense of worth can become intricately tied to the ratings and comments provided by supervisors. The praise or critique received during these evaluations can have a direct impact on our self-esteem, often overshadowing the intrinsic satisfaction derived from our work.

External Validation in School During Formative Years

In the process of education, external validation can wield its influence with particular intensity. The pressure to excel in academics, secure high grades, and gain the approval of peers and educators can shape our self-worth during our formative years.

The pursuit of high grades and the acknowledgment of teachers can become all-consuming, overshadowing the joy of learning for its own sake. Peer approval, often measured through acceptance into social groups or being considered “cool,” can contribute to a sense of belonging, but it also reinforces the idea that our worth is contingent on the perceptions of others.

As we navigate the complexities of external validation in these contexts, it’s essential to recognize the balance required between seeking external affirmation and fostering a robust sense of internal validation. While the external world certainly holds valuable insights and feedback, our reliance on it as the sole measure of our worth can lead to a perpetually unsettled sense of self. By understanding these dynamics, we can begin to cultivate a more nuanced relationship with external validation and prioritise the cultivation of our own sense of worth and value.

a woman standing on a beach next to the ocean

How Do I Stop Needing External Validation?

Breaking free from the clutches of external validation requires a conscious effort to shift our focus from seeking approval outside of ourselves to nurturing an authentic sense of self-worth. By employing strategic steps and fostering self-awareness, we can embark on a transformative journey towards self-validation.

Steps and Strategies to Reduce the Need for External Validation:

  1. Cultivate Self-Awareness: Begin by recognizing the patterns of seeking external validation in your life. Pay attention to situations, people, or environments that trigger this behaviour.
  2. Practice Self-Reflection: Regularly engage in self-reflection to understand your values, strengths, and areas for growth. This process helps you build a foundation of internal validation by recognizing your unique qualities.
  3. Set Intrinsic Goals: Shift your focus from external accomplishments to intrinsic goals that are aligned with your passions and values. The pursuit of these goals fosters a sense of accomplishment that isn’t contingent on external opinions.
  4. Limit Social Media Comparisons: Reduce the habit of comparing yourself to others on social media. Remind yourself that online personas are curated and often do not reflect the entirety of a person’s life.
  5. Practice Self-Compassion: Treat yourself with kindness and understanding, especially during moments of perceived failure or inadequacy. Cultivate self-compassion as a way to soothe the need for external validation.
  6. Embrace Constructive Feedback: While external feedback is valuable, focus on extracting constructive insights rather than relying solely on praise. This allows you to grow without feeling diminished by criticism.
  7. Celebrate Small Wins: Acknowledge and celebrate your achievements, no matter how small. This reinforces your sense of accomplishment and lessens the need for external validation.

The Importance of Self-Awareness and Self-Reflection:

Self-awareness and self-reflection serve as the compass that guides us on the path to reducing the need for external validation. Through self-awareness, we become attuned to the triggers that lead us to seek external approval. By practising self-reflection, we gain a clearer understanding of our values, aspirations, and areas where we genuinely excel.

As we deepen our self-awareness, the grip of external validation begins to loosen. We recognize that the opinions of others are merely facets of the broader narrative of our lives. By valuing our own thoughts and achievements, we pave the way for a more grounded and authentic sense of self-worth.

In the forthcoming sections, we will explore actionable techniques and exercises that can aid in the transition towards self-validation. By consistently nurturing self-awareness and embracing practices that foster internal worth, we embark on a journey of empowerment, self-acceptance, and an unshakable sense of authenticity.

The journey towards breaking free from the cycle of external validation culminates in a profound shift towards self-reliance and self-trust. As we unburden ourselves from the need for constant approval from others, we open the door to a more authentic, empowered existence.

The Power of Self-Reliance and Self-Trust:

Embracing self-reliance involves cultivating an unwavering belief in our own abilities, decisions, and self-worth. It’s about recognizing that the ultimate authority on our lives resides within us, rather than being dictated by external opinions.

Self-trust accompanies self-reliance, allowing us to make decisions confidently and authentically. This trust is a reflection of our deep-seated understanding that we possess the knowledge and intuition necessary to navigate our unique journey.

How to Cultivate a Strong Internal Compass:

  1. Nurture Self-Understanding: Engage in introspective practices that deepen your understanding of your values, strengths, and aspirations. This foundation strengthens your internal compass and guides your decisions.
  2. Practice Mindfulness: Cultivate mindfulness to stay present and connected to your inner self. This practice helps you discern the difference between genuine desires and external pressures.
  3. Set Boundaries: Establish boundaries that protect your self-worth and authenticity. This involves saying no to situations or people that compromise your values or require you to seek external validation.
  4. Celebrate Self-Care: Prioritise self-care as a way to nurture your emotional well-being. When you take care of yourself, you reinforce the idea that your worth isn’t contingent on the opinions of others.
  5. Embrace Failure and Learning: Shift your perspective on failure. Instead of interpreting setbacks as reflections of your worth, view them as opportunities for growth and learning.
  6. Challenge Negative Self-Talk: When negative self-talk arises, challenge it with evidence of your accomplishments and strengths. Over time, this practice reshapes the way you perceive yourself.
  7. Visualise Success: Envision yourself achieving your goals and thriving in situations that once triggered the need for external validation. This mental rehearsal builds confidence.
  8. Surround Yourself with Support: Surround yourself with individuals who uplift and appreciate you for who you are. Positive relationships can reinforce your self-worth.

The transition to self-reliance and self-trust is a process that requires patience, commitment, and self-compassion. As you embrace these practices and allow your internal compass to guide your journey, you’ll find that the allure of external validation gradually loses its hold. You become the captain of your ship, charting a course based on your own values, aspirations, and authentic sense of self-worth.

What Does It Mean to Seek External Validation?

Seeking external validation delves into the intricate web of our emotional and psychological landscape. The implications of this behaviour reach far beyond surface-level actions, impacting the way we perceive ourselves, relate to others, and navigate personal growth.

The Emotional and Psychological Implications:

  1. Fleeting Euphoria: The pursuit of external validation can lead to momentary feelings of happiness and euphoria when approval is received. However, this elation is often short-lived, and the cycle restarts as the need for validation persists.
  2. Vulnerability to Criticism: Relying on external validation can make us highly susceptible to criticism. A single negative comment can shake our self-esteem, triggering feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt.
  3. Dependency on Others: Seeking external validation places our self-worth in the hands of others. This dependency can lead to anxiety and emotional instability as we relinquish control over our own self-image.

The Impact on Our Relationships and Personal Growth:

  1. Surface-Level Relationships: When we prioritise external validation, our relationships may become transactional, based on the exchange of compliments and praise rather than genuine connection. This can hinder the development of deep, authentic bonds.
  2. Stunted Personal Growth: The relentless pursuit of external approval can limit our personal growth. We may shy away from challenges that could lead to failure, fearing that it will diminish the validation we receive.
  3. Masking Authenticity: Seeking external validation can lead to the creation of a façade, where we present ourselves in ways that cater to others’ opinions. This masks our true selves, hindering our ability to connect authentically.

As we unravel the emotional and psychological implications of seeking external validation, it becomes evident that the journey towards self-validation is not just a personal endeavour—it’s a transformative process that ripples through our interactions, perceptions, and sense of self. In the following sections, we’ll delve into actionable strategies to liberate ourselves from the need for external validation, enabling us to cultivate healthier relationships, embrace personal growth, and nurture a more authentic, resilient sense of self.

Do Narcissists Need External Validation?

Narcissism, characterised by a grandiose sense of self-importance and a craving for excessive admiration, sheds light on the intricate relationship between external validation and the narcissistic personality. To understand whether narcissists need external validation, we must delve into the psychology that underpins their behaviour.

Understanding Narcissistic Behaviour and the Need for Admiration:

Narcissists exhibit a distinct pattern of seeking constant attention, admiration, and approval from others. Their inflated sense of self-importance is accompanied by a fragile self-esteem that is highly dependent on external opinions. The need for admiration becomes a way to bolster their fragile self-image and counteract feelings of insecurity.

How External Validation Plays into the Narcissistic Personality:

  1. Craving for Admiration: Narcissists require a continuous stream of admiration to fuel their sense of self-worth. They seek validation as a way to validate their grandiose self-perception and quell their underlying feelings of inadequacy.
  2. Manipulation and Control: External validation becomes a tool for narcissists to manipulate and control others. By charming and eliciting admiration, they can maintain a facade of superiority and gain power over those around them.
  3. Vulnerability to Criticism: While narcissists may appear confident, their dependence on external validation makes them highly sensitive to criticism. Negative feedback can shatter their fragile self-esteem, triggering defensive or hostile reactions.
  4. Superficial Relationships: Narcissists often form relationships based on the exchange of admiration and adoration. These relationships tend to be shallow, as they prioritize the validation they receive over genuine emotional connections.

In the case of narcissists, the need for external validation is not just a fleeting desire; it’s a core aspect of their personality. While seeking external validation can be a universal human tendency, in narcissists, this craving for admiration takes on an amplified and often manipulative dimension. Understanding this dynamic sheds light on the complexities of narcissistic behaviour and the intricacies of their relationship with the external worth 

Final thoughts on External Validation

As we navigate the labyrinth of validation, it becomes clear that the interplay between internal and external validation is a delicate dance that shapes our self-worth, relationships, and personal growth. While seeking external validation is a natural human tendency, its over-reliance can lead to a fragile sense of self and hinder our ability to embrace authenticity and personal fulfilment.

Trust Yourself: Seek Validation from Within

Ultimately, the path to liberation lies in fostering a deep sense of internal validation. By acknowledging your strengths, passions, and intrinsic worth, you build an unshakable foundation that isn’t swayed by external opinions. Trusting yourself and cultivating self-reliance allows you to navigate life’s challenges with resilience, authenticity, and a genuine connection to your core identity.

I invite you to embark on a journey of self-discovery and empowerment. Take a moment to reflect on your relationship with external validation. Are there areas where you notice its influence? How can you cultivate a stronger sense of internal validation? Share your insights and experiences with others – your journey can inspire and empower those around you.

Challenge yourself to take a self-reflection journey. Set aside dedicated moments to introspect, journal, and reconnect with your core values and aspirations. With each step you take towards prioritising internal validation, you reclaim your sense of self and inch closer to living a life that is authentically yours.

Remember, your worth isn’t defined by the applause but by cause. Embrace the power of self-validation, and let it guide you towards a more fulfilling, confident, and authentic existence.

Do you want to share your story and inspire our readers ? Know that every story is paving the way for a brighter, happier future.

In the following sections of this article, we will explore the strategies and techniques that empower us to detach from the allure of external validation and embark on a journey of self-discovery. How can you stop seeking external validation, nurture a sense of self- worth and break free from the fleeting validation of your digital screen?
Dr Marina Nani
Dr Marina Nani

Editor-in-Chief of Rich Woman Magazine, founder of Sovereign Magazine, author of many books, Dr Marina Nani is a social edification scientist coining a new industry, Social Edification.
Passionately advocating to celebrate your human potential, she is well known for her trademark "Be Seen- Be Heard- Be You" running red carpet events and advanced courses like Blog Genius®, Book Genius®, Podcast Genius®, the cornerstones of her teaching.
The constant practitioner of good news, she founded MAKE THE NEWS
( MTN) with the aim to diagnose and close the achievement gap globally.
Founder of RICH WOMAN SOCIETY™, the first private community for Conscious Influencers, Marina believes that there is a genius ( Stardust) in each individual, regardless of past and present circumstances.
"Not recognising your talent leaves society at loss. Sharing the good news makes a significant difference in your perception about yourself, your industry and your community."

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