This is part two of this post about finding validation within yourself. The first post focused mostly on the first step I took on my journey for self validation: self-awareness. As you can guess, becoming aware of your thought processes and emotional reactions to things is the first step to grow beyond them.
Last night I found myself researching more into the mechanisms of why I could rely so heavily on external validation. So let’s call part two….
Research: The Why
Why do I need other people’s approval to feel whole?
Why do I chase after acceptance & validation?
Why does it all define me so much?
A lot of the articles I came across started with this need for external validation stems from your childhood/early years. I am no expert (as I study marine organisms for a living, not people) but I can totally see this being correct as our early years really shape our brain’s functions and thought processes.
When you are a small child whose whole existence and well-being depends on others, rejection actually equals existential death. And since we are constantly hurt, invalidated, and rejected in many overt and highly subtle ways as children, a lot of us grow up into wounded and self-less adults whose self-perception is skewed or blurry.taken from psych central
Now I can’t really pin point this to coincide with my childhood but I do remember getting hurt very easily by rejection, or by being an outcast.
A very personal life example: my work life
At first I didn’t think I ever wanted to get into this, but I feel this example genuinely encompasses how my need for approval has shaped parts of my personal life. Also, maybe some other people out there can relate to this.
I kind of mentioned the back story to this job I had earlier this year here, but I’ll give a quick run down. Basically, I had a job where I dug my self perception down a dark path. I fully let the opinions & possible thoughts of my coworkers control the thoughts and views I had of myself. Whatever opinion I thought they could’ve felt towards me, was what I felt I actually was. If I felt that they thought I was too loud that day, then I was too loud & I had to then adjust my personality to be more quiet. If I felt that they thought I was too opinionated towards something, then I would shut my mouth for the rest of that shift & the next couple shifts to come. I outcasted myself when instead I thought I was adjusting my personality to fit in.
One, they constantly need other people’s approval and validation to feel that they are a good person, to feel pleasant emotions, or to even feel alive. And two, they feel shame or guilt or anger or loneliness or anxiety or confusion or other painful emotions when someone disapproves of and invalidates them, which then often leads to dysfunctional behavior to manage all of it.taken from psych central
Now let’s elaborate on that one thought “I was adjusting my personality to fit in.”
As a coping mechanism, some individuals become people-pleasers who are afraid to be their true selves or take care of themselves.taken from psych central
By the end of my time with this company, I lost sight of what core values I believed in. I lost sight of who I knew I was. Since I knew I didn’t complete fit in with my coworkers, it ate away at me for months & spilled over into my life outside of work too; I was an anxious mess. In order to get through each shift I would have to read a list of mantras on my phone to remind myself to keep quiet, to not be too opinionated, & to not act too overbearing.
Because of my reliance on others’ approval, I let that shape who I actually was in those four walls. Of course it is no one’s fault but my own.
It usually starts out as a logical tactic. We gain others’ approval, make them happy for a moment, and feel pretty good about ourselves. It seems like the perfect path to take—and it’s one we can continue on for many years, believing it’s reducing our anxiety about disapproval in our daily lives.taken from psychology today
Up until this year, I didn’t realize that I was caught in a feedback loop leaning on others for their opinions and thoughts of me; I have been conditioned to aim for that validation. Each time I felt validated by my coworkers’ opinions and thoughts of me, my brain released dopamine of some sort. It felt good and rewarding so I kept going back to it and aimed for that specific feeling. I was comfortable with that feedback loop because that’s what I was used to; that was all I knew.
But there will come a time when the constant seeking of approval—the very solution to our problems—will run its course. And that very behavior that brought us so many feelings of accomplishment will become the problem itself.taken from psychology today
Being able to pin point my need for external validation on my more recent life experiences, makes it feel so much more real. It becomes more apparent how vital it is that I come to terms with it all now. Only from there can I grow and reshape my thought processes surrounding approval and validation.
I’m still becoming more aware of the times in my daily life, or past life, that I’ve fallen into this feedback loop. Only now am I coming to terms with how much of this can shape my day-to-day life. I’m still figuring all this out.
So thank you for taking the time to read this. It will not be the easiest for me to open up about this.
Join me on my journey by hitting that follow button. We’re in this together.
Lots of love,