by Above the Middle on Medium
All of us want to feel as if we’re of value, accepted, loveable, and cared for in our lives. This drive for value; be it in the form of a romantic relationship, friendship, or work, is the driving force that allows us to function in a social society.
Most of us care about what others think of us and I believe all of our self-worths are naturally tied to our external environments. I could work on my personal development day and night but I don’t believe I’d ever reach a point where, for example, reaching the New York Times Best Seller List wouldn’t make me feel good and give me an ego boost. If anything, I think life would be quite boring if we weren’t able to feel some sort of external validation.
Where external validation trips us up, however, is when we begin to turn to it continuously as a method to make us feel good. When we don’t believe ourselves to be worthy and so have to rely on our environments repeatedly to make us feel good within.
The key word here being repeatedly. There’s nothing wrong in leaning on others when we need to, validation only becomes an issue when it becomes our only source of self-worth.
In this article, I wanted to speak to why a high reliance on external validation can be detrimental to our health and how you can begin to change your relationship to it today.
External Validation Never Lasts
The topic of today’s article is especially important to me in my life as I’ve recently transitioned into a new job role. I now work in recruitment, a career full of targets with the ultimate goal of making job placements.
I speak to countless individuals and consult with them for months on potential opportunities. Their ultimate placement not only guarantees them a new role but me, a commission bonus, and a sense of fulfillment.
Recruitment is often described as a “rollercoaster” due to the sharp highs when things go right, like when people get placed, and steep low’s when things go wrong — like when people drop out or are rejected.
I’ve noted these mood swings in myself. I feel elated when I secure a placement but miserable when things go wrong. I’ve come to realize that my violent shifts in mood are indicative of the amount of worth I am placing in my targets. If I get x, y, and z, then that must mean I am doing my role right; that I’m worthy and capable. If things don’t go to plan; I’m a failure.
It’s amazing how these beliefs, which can often sit below our conscious awareness can drive our moods and overall self-worth. But even when things do go right at work, which they often do, the feeling of validation I get from that singular moment never lasts. The feeling is temporary and it drives us to keep pushing for more.
That’s the thing with external validation, it never lasts. It’s an endless pool of potential wholeness that never quite gets the job done. You may feel amazing when you get the prize; be it a relationship, personal goal, or otherwise, but the prize loses value over time. Then it’s off to the next best thing.
External validation never serves to make us feel worthy long-term because true self-worth can only be generated from within.
Low Self-Worth and The Deep Well
When we suffer from low self-worth, we’re more likely to move through life with a pessimistic mindset. At some point in time, we were made to feel unworthy, and thereafter this stuck. Seeing yourself in a negative light, thinking particular thoughts, and feeling uncomfortable feelings when referencing yourself is now habitual.
As a result of this, it doesn’t matter what validation we receive from the outside, it can’t be sustained from within. You’ll feel good momentarily but will revert back to default before long.
Despite external validation’s inability to sustain self-worth for a long, we still continue searching for it. For some, this need to chase highs can develop into unhealthy patterns of compulsive people-pleasing, codependent relationships, or drug addictions. We inevitably get caught in a loop of feeling bad about ourselves, chasing highs to feel better, and feeling bad again.
Breaking Habits Of External Validation
The only way to break our constant desire for external validation is to begin healing from within. Ultimately, nothing outside of ourselves can make us feel whole. This can only be cultivated from us, and within us, only. Now, is that easy? No, and it’s why many of us don’t do it. We’d rather bend and break for the positive opinions of others or numb ourselves on chemicals because those things don’t require us to look inwards.
To truly stop relying on external validation we have to look at the reasons as to why we don’t feel good about ourselves.
We have to look at the underlying beliefs that may have been embedded in us 10, 20, or 40 + years ago.
We have to look at the painful events that created emotional wounds within us that were never given the proper attention to heal.
We have to look at the habitual thought patterns we engage in daily and work to change these patterns around.
We have to look at what behaviors we engage in that unconsciously tell us we’re not worthy. The people we choose, the careers we choose, and the lives we choose.
This subject of self-worth transcends SO many levels, I couldn’t possibly speak to it all here. I’d need to write a book. What I’m trying to say, however, is that our identities and who we see ourselves to be are cumulations of our past experiences and current habits.
Until we do the work to be able to look in the mirror and truly appreciate WHO WE ARE, only then will we begin to feel like we don’t need to rely on the opinions of others. And trust me, this shift can happen.
I’ve seen it within myself and I have faith you can make that shift too.
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