“The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself.” Montaigne
We’ve seen in part 1, how we seek validation from others. In part 2, we’ll talk about some ways to incorporate change.
As we mentioned, with daily mindfulness, we become more aware of validation seeking patterns and behaviours. With awareness, we can chose to override these behaviours as best we can, which weaken them over-time.
Accepting ourselves fully and holding a positive self-image make the need to seek validation less necessary. From then, associated behaviours and feelings naturally subside.
When we start noticing how we seek validation from others, we begin to feel a lot freer. We gradually recognise that we do not have to give into that, and just be content with who and how we are. When we let go of social validation, it is like a weight lifted of our shoulders.
We may also start to notice how other people attempt to seek validation. In fact, it might start to pop up everywhere. I believe that a high majority has attention seeking behaviours, to varying degree.
Here are some guidelines you can use to free yourself from validation seeking:
Actively try to change your behaviours.
As we mentioned, the first thing you need to do in order to be free of your validation seeking patterns is to actively try to change your behaviours.
Start to notice your behaviours and catch yourself, maybe you can delay or even refrain yourself form seeking validation:
-Notice when you are afraid or fail to disagree with people (why, what are you afraid of)
-Notice when you are comparing yourself with other people (why, how does it make you feel)
-Notice when you are trying to get attention by being loud and take all the space (what are you after)
-Notice when you are trying to get attention by being a victim (why, what’s your motive)
-Notice when you are trying to get attention by bragging, being a winner (are you being overly competitive, or compensating for something?)
-Notice when you feel compel to please others and be ‘nice’ (why?, for who and in what circumstances?)
What would happen if you didn’t “perform” this behaviour, if you sat back and relaxed. Most of the time nothing would happen.
If you find it hard to pick on when you are seeking validation, evaluate the motivation behind what you do by asking yourself: “am I doing this for the approval of someone else, or am I doing this for myself?”
Keeping track and measuring improvements:
In order to really change overtime, keeping track is helpful. Ideally we should notice our behaviours as they happen, but it isn’t always easy.
A good way of starting to get leverage, is to reflect on what happened after the events. Making a point of looking back on your social interactions to discern what happened can unlock change.
You can do that by sitting down with pen and paper, and answer the questions mentioned above.
Here are some other questions that can provide some insight:
-Did I stop myself from doing something I was drawn to?
-Did I let other people mistreat me without speaking up?
-At some point during the day, did I feel; not enough, like a failure, down on my luck
-At Some point during the day, did I engage in: gossiping, being pretentious, little white lies, pleasing others from neediness, stopping myself for disagreeing, compare myself, failed to say no even if I wanted to, acted like a victim, complaining, been overly apologetic, got upset or thrown tantrums, waited for or sought permission, made excuses.
You will likely identify more strongly with a few of these behaviours, which should be your main point of focus.
You can, keep track of behaviours by journalling or habit tracking:
Maybe write down your feelings and impressions daily/weekly and/or keep track of how many times you’ve done a certain behaviour.
Identify the causes and write them down. The brain is a pattern seeking machine. The more regularly you do that, the more you will start to notice your emerging patterns, and the true motives behind them
The Five step process:
Here is my five step process to help change and transform any social behaviours and patterns overtime. It works very well with validation seeking:
–Keep track of everything surrounding the behaviour (feelings, thoughts, triggers, circumstances, frequency, etc)
–Plan and prepare for when the behaviour is likely to happen, visualise yourself dealing with the situation differently with the solutions you’ve come up with.
–Stop and pause when it happens, try to either, not behave that way, delay behaving that way or replace it with a new more positive behaviour.
–Recondition yourself to have a different response and behaviour to the previous triggers, by acting differently when the situation arise, over and over again. You can start a reconditioning practice by doing role-play practice with a friend.
–Positive Feedback loop: Be consistent and and feedback loop will emerge into a new and more positive pattern. What helps, what fails and why. You can start changing progressively toward your desired outcome, in a result oriented process.
In order to make progressive change happen, you have to be committed. Change doesn’t always happen overnight, but the long term result can be remarkable.
Break the cycle of validation seeking:
“The hunger for attention is an enemy of self-love.”
― Edmond Mbiaka
On top of tracking our validation seeking and change them with the five step methods, It is helpful to develop our self-worth. Self-worth is the foundation from where social behaviours flow.
When it comes to validation seeking, refraining is like treating the symptom, but to be completely free, we should aim to treat the source as well.
We will be covering:
-Developing self-worth and strong values
–Notice you inner language
-Find your voice,
-Learn to not give a F..K
-Being OK with pain
-Don’t shy from criticism
-Stand up for yourself
-Be intuitive and natural
-Being vulnerable and honest
-Limit social media
-Give attention to others
-Become more productive
Most, if not all of validation seeking behaviour comes form a perceived lack of self-worth.
Learn that you are worthy, that you are enough and that you have the right to be you. More, you have the duty to be you, because nobody else in this world is going to fill your shoes.
It might be a long process but it is likely the most important thing you can do for yourself, here are a few ways to go about it, you can pick more than one:
-Practice loving kindness meditation and self-forgiveness
-Capitalise on past achievements, learn new skills and competence
-Go through psychotherapy, and/or hypnotherapy, and/or coaching to strengthen your identity
-Use affirmation and self-improvement methods to learn to trust yourself more overtime
-Go trough major breakthrough with high vulnerability moments, massive challenges, life changing experiences.
Whatever methods you chose or what resonates with you, you have to take action in order to make a change.
“If you’re looking for that one person that can change your life, take a look in the mirror.” Unknown
Spend some time identifying your values:
More than your story, it is your values that define who you are:
-What is it that you believe is important?
-What do you want to provide to the world?
-Who do you want to be?
-What qualities are the most important in a person for you? Can you develop these qualities?
Try to embody and live by what is important to you. If you’re clear on what is meaningful to you, then you can present it to the world clearly and not be afraid to defend those values when confronted.
Maybe just pick one, say for example you want to be more generous. Start donating or volunteer for an organisation. When the situation arises, you can speak about generosity, what you do and why it’s important for you. Find ways to be more generous in your life and notice when others are in need of help. But remember, no people pleasing!
The balance between deserving and seeking attention:
It’s OK to get attention. We deserve to be noticed by others as we live in a community and a society. However we must find a balance in our exchanges. A good relationship should fulfil both parties needs and be in an equilibrium of respect and space.
Take time to reflect on the relationships in your life; with yourself, family, friends, work, What is you level of awareness in these interactions? How much space do you take? Are you taking most of the space? or no space at all?
Whatever your answers, how could you can do find a better balance?
Notice your self-language
Developing the habits of paying attention to what is going on in our heads is important. Especially when this inner-language is judgement-based and directed to the self.
When we feel a sense of inferiority or insecurity there is often inner language that reflect that state, such as: “what were you thinking?” or “your such a loser”. It often takes the form of “you are so…blah blah blah”, “you are like “this” or “that” “you should be/do/have “this”.
Meditation is a great way of being more mindful of our inner language. Cognitive therapy can help you do that if you find it difficult to do it on your own.
Only you knows what’s going on in your head. Is it mostly positive or negative?
You have to learn to be rational and objective about how you judge the world and what you say to yourself.
Maybe start by doubting your thoughts. When you notice that you are internally commenting on yourself or others with judgements ask yourself: “Is it really true?”
A lot of or thoughts are automatic and inaccurate, yet we rely upon them without a second glance.
You can reject negative language when it comes, by saying to yourself; “that’s not me, just a passing thought”
You can also learn to be your own cheerleader by encouraging and supporting yourself with positivity.
As an exercise, try to flip around any negative thoughts into a positive one when you catch yourself. After a while, it becomes easier and it can really lift your mood.
For example, if your say to yourself “oh you’re so clumsy” flip it instead with something like “I am becoming more attentive and in control of my body every day”
Being positive does not mean being delusional mind you. We need to be positive while staying objective and rational.
By observing thoughts, we can aim to be as objective about them as possible. Identify real truth, going through positive, negative and opposites argument before we admit any validity and give credit to the mind. Then we can choose a positive perspective from which to operate.
“Remember, you have been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.” Louise Hay
Find your voice:
During conversations, especially when they turn into arguments, try to slow down and get into the habit of asking yourself, “What’s my opinion on this? Should I have a opinion?”
We often get pulled into positions that we do not really hold in the heat of the moment. We start becoming defensive without really knowing why.
It is important to know your ground, be firm in your beliefs and also know that you do not have to play the argument game.
While some situations requires decisions, other may ask us “to make up our mind”. The thing is, we don’t have to, if we do not want to. While being indecisive is problematic, we do not have to be pressured into commitments. When it is the case, we can simply say “no” or state that we do not have a preference.
Sometime we readily accept others point of view without having gone through our own process of reasoning. It is good to have your own opinions instead of following others.
It’s also OK to have no opinions at all, especially in areas where you have little knowledge or lack relevant data. People often draw conclusion randomly, you don’t have to follow along.
When someone tells you something needs to be done, Do you agree? Does it have to be you? Is it beneficial for you? Be careful of others trying to pin you to their agenda.
If you find that you disagree with the current states of things, learn to speak up and provide new creative solutions or to say you disagree or refuse to follow through, stating your reasons and priorities. Nothing bad is going to happen, you are entitled to differ, refuse and think differently.
Learn to stop giving a f..k:
Most people don’t care that much about you. We tend to have a bias thinking that everything we do will be notices by everybody. The fact is more often than not, they don’t. This is called spotlight effect.
Most people are too busy with their lives and their own problems to pay attention to you. Instead of pushing you to try twice as hard to impress people, this fact can should free you to do whatever you want.
On the other hand if you start to shine to bright, you will always find people who try to tear you down, because they have nothing better to do and your glory make them feel bad about themselves. The crab escaping the bucket situation. Either way, people are unreliable.
Learn not to care about others’ opinions and attention. Do what makes you feel good regardless of other people.
The opinions that should matter to you are your own, that of your close ones, and maybe your competent peers.
You can develop the attitude of being cool and non-reactive overtime:
-It comes from a strong sense of self and pursuing your own direction
-Being grounded and secure
-Being self-satisfied and independent.
-Making a point of being polarizing when you disagree
-Being non-conformist and understand how fickle other people attentions are.
-Getting into the mental habit of questioning weather or not it truly matters. Often times we stress out about things that have very little impact in the bigger picture.
Not giving a F.ck is the opposite of approval seeking. Bit by bit, you can develop this habit of being and start being a bad ass. Of course you still have to care about some things, but not what’s irrelevant and drain your self-worth.
Warning: you still have to genuinely not care. This comes from the ability to let go, and focus on what is truly important to you, as well as being really secure. A lot of people overcompensate and pretend to not care to be cool in order to get attention and hide their misery.
You can fake it until you make it to some degree, and develop perspective and a non-responsive attitude. However don’t fall into the trap of being cold and uncaring, not being in touch with your inner feelings. You will have to find a balance.
Learn to be OK with not being OK:
We try to seek validation in order to feel good and to compensate bad feelings such as anxiety or low self-worth. If we learn to first accept these feelings inside of us, we will be less compelled to be driven by them.
The truth is everybody feels bad sometimes, and it’s OK to feel bad. Having moments when you feel down is part of being human. Accepting your current state is the first step to feeling better.
Emotions are pieces of information emitted by your body and psyche. If you feel like shit most of the time, there might be things that you need to figure out and fix in your life. It is an invitation to inquire about what is going on.
Our body and mind are wonderful communicators, and can steer us well, when we listen to them.
Trying to ignore and run away from your feeling will not work, get to the bottom of what it is trying to tell you instead.
Emotions will often keep coming at you, stronger and stronger until you acknowledge them. They are like little bells trying capture your attention in order to point out things to your system. Being present to bad feelings and experiences is in itself a good thing because it allows you to grow.
Often times painful experience leads to breakthrough and life changing moments. In retrospect, we often look back on our challenges and hard times and feel confident, proud to have gone through such things.
You can keep track of your emotions and feelings by journalling. You can also be openly vulnerable with a confidant. Try to accept experiences as they come.
Methods such as EFT (emotional freedom technique), introspective meditation, and the Sedonna method (art of letting go), can be very helpful to appreciate the messages of your emotions and releasing them in order to feel better.
“If you fell down yesterday, stand up today.” H. G. Wells
Learn to be vulnerable and honest:
You don’t have to perform, impress and try hard. If you feel down you can just be honest about it. In fact most of us are longing to let out some of our inner anxiety, but we rarely get the chance in this world of status and posturing.
Being honest about the things that make you vulnerable help others to do the same. It is like opening a valve to release the social pressure that you and others feel. You can start by talking about your feelings, maybe you feel nervous or anxious or angry for whatever reasons…
Just say: “I feel…” and talk about your feelings. It’s very easy.
You can tell stories and facts about yourself that are difficult for you to talk about, maybe that does not put you in the best light, when the circumstances are right. This will lift a weight of your shoulders and help others come to your aid or connect with you.
Warning: You have to be appropriate when being vulnerable. It’s all about boundaries, you can share things that are a bit out of your comfort zone but not way past it. You will then appear needy and miserable instead of being genuine.
Some people also use vulnerability in order to get attention, similar to self-victimisation, don’t fall into this trap. If you notice you feel sorry for yourself in order to get attention, try to take responsibility instead.
A friend of mine one told me that “chosen vulnerability is a gift”. It really is, it allows people to be ‘real’ with one another and connect on a deeper level.
If you have no one to confine to in your life, maybe you can seek sharing or talking groups in your community.
Be intuitive and natural
You already have inside of you what you need to be more carefree and independent. You need to scan yourself in order to find out what you inclinations and desires are. When your sense of self- worth is low, it is easy to stop trusting yourselves and your intuitions, but tuning in to what your guts tells you is often a good idea.
Be like an animal. Animals just do, they don’t calculate or care who is watching. They have their own programming and agendas, they just behave freely. Humans have more difficulty doing so because they project how their behaviours will be accepted by others. They think about consequences, which is useful but also inhibiting. I believe we should aim to be mindful in planning but free in action.
Try to let you ‘mental’ go, naturally move and do what you are drawn to. This often leads to take initiative, not asking for permission and figuring things out as you go. Try to play as if you were a child. Feel the impulses inside of you. Simply act out of fun and curiosity.
Maybe you have been told that you need to be responsible and serious. But it doesn’t mean to stop being natural. It means choosing the right environment where you can let go and play. If you have a lot of responsibility at work, try to find time to blow some steam.
Similarly, aim to find a job that you love, that let you be your natural self, were you express agency and creativity, and can make your own rules.
A good way to reconnect with this part of yourself is through a creative media; Learn something new, start to dance, move, draw, play music, improvisation or anything that lets you be natural and enjoy yourself.
Stop taking yourself seriously and have fun. Learning to just do things for fun will eliminated the need for performance and being notice, letting you feel good enough about yourself.
Be mindful of moments when you are trying to perform and switch to playing instead. Do for the simple joy of doing, not for appraisal, calculated consequences, and expected rewards.
Don’t shy from criticisms
You will always find people that disagree with you, that doesn’t mean they’re right, or wrong. Take criticism for what it is. It’s either ill-formulated advice, or attacks trying to pull you down.
Try to be open minded. Being open minded does not mean to rally to others people point of view, nor it is sticking to what you say. Try to distinguish what is the intention behind the criticism. Is the person trying to help you or fulfil their own agenda? Is it to be helpful or hurtful?
Learn to take emotions out of criticisms. If you find yourself getting emotional in the face of critics, try to stop and pause, asses the intention, then act appropriately.
If you can’t deal with it at all, either remove yourself from the situation or ask for the conversation to take place another time because now is not good. Be proactive and chose a time and the interlocutor will most likely accept.
If it is impossible for you to hear criticism at all, you are likely not grounded and confident in your self. Work on your self-worth and criticisms will either help you or brush past you.
Warning: If you find yourself constantly in the midst of critics however, you are probably in an environment trying to put your down. Maybe the people you hang out with don’t have your back. It might be time to change you relationships, so that you are supported by well intentioned individuals.
“I much prefer the sharpest criticism of a single intelligent man to the thoughtless approval of the masses.” Johannes Kepler
Stand up for yourself:
Unfortunately, from time to time, people just treat each other badly and unfairly. In life, things you do not deserve will come your way at one point or another. Recognise that this is part of life. Having boundaries and standards on how people should treat you is a good things.
You should demand to be treated well because you deserve respect. Voice it when you are offended or when you believe people are not treating you right.
You don’t have to be forceful about it, just let them know that you know what is going on and that you don’t endorse it. You can be kind and compassionate while still lay out the limits of what is acceptable. It is all in your attitude and presentation.
You can complain when you receive bad service, people let you down and don’t follow up on their promises and engagements. Again, you don’t have to strong-arm others, but voice that you are dissatisfied in open communication so that the situation can move forward.
Challenge yourself to voice your lack of satisfaction when you encounter one of these situations. Start small if it is way out of your comfort zone. Maybe you can start with someone that does not intimidate you to much, and then take little calculated risks on bigger fishes, if theses times come. After a while, it will become natural and you will be able to not take sh.t from anybody.
Warning: Don’t be an a.. and have double standards either. We often find excuses and reasons when we treat other people badly, but when things are done to us, we attribute their bad behaviours to their trait of character. Have a high standard of yourself and try to treat others well. Even if you speak up, learn not to take things personally, others can just be having a bad day. Tell them off, not emotionally but gently, out of principle.
“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak, courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” Winston Churchill
Be able to give attention to others
Giving attention to others often achieve a few things. You can put yourself on the sideline for a while and let other people have their moments. It can be helpful if you are addicted to be the centre of attention.
Giving other people attention also makes them feel good and makes it more likely that they will return the favour. You can then start a genuine exchange.
Try to develop the habit of being genuine and curious about others. Sometimes we find others uninteresting, but it is likely because we are not present, are too self-absorbed, or take them for granted.
Warning: don’t fall into the trap of being the only supporting person however and being a people pleaser. Move away from people that are absolutely self-centred that don’t care about you. We often support and give attention to such peoples out of neediness because we hope they will return the favour and treat us well, but it never happens.
In relationship an important dynamic to keep in mind is the balance of investment. Ideally both party should be equally invested in the relationship. If you find that you are putting a lot of efforts into a relationship and not getting anything in return, you are probably needy, and taken advantage of.
Obviously, circumstances, competence and status influence that balance, but relationships should always incorporate a certain degree of reciprocity to be positive.
In some sad situations, both parties may feel that they are the one providing more to the relationship than the other. Tension tends to build and accumulate overtime. It is often the result of poor communication and misplaced intentions.
Try do stay proactive in your relationships and organise for things to happen. You will create value, and allow space for your relationships to flourish. What’s something you could organise for you and your close ones?
On the other hand. If you find yourself drained and being the only one putting in efforts, put it on the table and ask for others to do more. Bear in mind that it might be received with mixed responses. It might be painful, but also enlighten you to the fact that the relationship is not being valued the same way on the other side. From there, things can hopefully changed for the better, or it may be time to move on.
Limit social media:
Unfortunately, a lot of people base their standards of what life should be with what they see on social media. The thing is that social media are often based on lies. They are made up of highlights, the best of what people have going on in their lives. They are almost like magazines. People tend to embellish what their lives are actually like in order to appear cool.
Social media can trap you in two ways:
You start getting some validation and you become addicted to it, so you start chasing. You start portraying yourself with little white lies and do whatever it takes in order to get noticed.
Or you can constantly try to compete and compare yourself with other people that seem to have it better that you do.
Either way social media can lead to feeling anxiety and damaging your self-worth. If that’s the case, you might want to stop using social media altogether or at least try to limit the time you spend on it.
Try to notice how much time you spend on social media. Notice how you feel before, during and after engaging in it. If you suspect that social media are affecting your happiness and self-worth, find a way to remove yourself from them. You can use tools to block access to these sites or block your feed stream.
Become more productive:
It may sound stupid or unrelated but productivity can actually be a good cure for seeking approval.
People can need validation because they feel of low value. They do not have much going on in their lives. You do not have to fall into that. You can accept yourself as you are now and pursue what interests you.
Instead of trying to find approval with the little things that you have going on, become great. Become so great that others can’t ignore you. The easiest way to be valuable and valued is to produce value.
Turn up your creativity and start doing things. Learn a craft or a new skill and practice. Try to bring something new to the table. Become more active and industrious. It will be easy if you find something that you love doing. You will not only be more valuable, but it will also boost your confidence and happiness.
The advantages of having something to show for your effort are clear:
-You prove to yourself that you are valuable because you produce value. You can start and reinforce an healthy pattern of self-worth, by being competent and producing results.
-If anyone argue that you aren’t valuable, you have the output to dismantle their comments. You can literally show the fruit of your labour.
-You also give an opportunity for people to engage with you. Often times we want appreciation but we are undeserving. If you start doing things that deserved to be commented on, people will engage more openly.
-Ultimately you should try to learn to create for yourself and others regardless of appreciation and notice. This happens once you are confident and secure in your knowledge that you contribute and that you are valuable.
Warning: Productivity is a way to support your sense of self-worth but it should not be its primary source. People are not robots. You are valuable as a person regardless of your outputs, just because you feel and experience the world, in your uniqueness and individuality. Their is literally no one like you on earth. It’s almost your responsibility to gift it to the world and not hold back.
Inversely, this does not work if you are already being very productive in order to compensate a lack of self-esteem. If you constantly try to do more, and feel that you are always under-achieving, maybe you feel that you are not enough as you are now.
If that’s the case, ask yourself why that is. You don’t need to be the best, perfect, or always do better in order to deserve love, appreciation, peace, and rest.
Finally, I would like to remind you to persevere and be patient with yourself. if you have sought validation from others all your life, up until now, like I have for a long time, stopping it will not happen overnight.
I really came into being
The day I no longer cared about
What the world thought of me,
Only on my thoughts for
Changing the world.”
Constantly seeking validation is a plague that we inflict on ourselves and others. We can be our own source of inspiration and approval, know that we are in line with our own values.
Only when we start to support ourselves and do things for ourselves, act because we believe we are doing the right thing instead of the lure of rewards and praises are we truly a positive force in the world. Wherever you are now, know that your are not alone and we are all trying to belong.
Know also that who you are is good enough and that you have a light inside of you that is waiting to be shown to the world. Do not use that light to blind yourself and others but to guide instead. In order to “be the change that you want to see in the world”, you have to start following your heart, and discard the bull…t, the lies and the fear, and you can.
I hope that you incorporate some of these ideas, and that you can gradually free yourself from the burden of social conformity and personal insecurity.
Thank you for reading
All the Best