We all have a need to feel like what we say and think and do matters. Sometimes, when we don’t receive this validation often enough in our childhoods, we may go to great lengths to try to fill that void in our adulthoods.
When you feel as though no one is listening and no one appreciates what you have to say, you try to find other ways to say it. This can occur through another positive form of communication, or something negative and destructive. The need never goes away, it morphs into something more. It is a void that becomes even more difficult to fill and chasing after it can whisk you away from what you really want in life.
I have a very dear friend who fits into this pattern. Growing up, expectations were high while support, understanding and positive feedback were low. As a result, in adulthood she now has extremely high expectations of herself that are impossible to meet, in an attempt to feel that she is important and has purpose. Because she’s still not receiving the external validation she’s looking for, she continues to add things to her plate. She seems to think that if she adds more and more, eventually someone will take notice and give her what she needs. This is creating physical and mental health problems including an ugly cycle of anxiety and stress, leaving her feeling confused, worn thin and lacking direction.
When our children are little, they receive instruction, guidance and then praise and approval from us. This is not so that we can continue to instruct, guide and validate them through their adulthood; it is so that they will learn how to do these things internally. When we do not offer our children this sort of emotional education, there are gaps that they may in fact struggle with for the rest of their lives. They will be left trying to fill their basic emotional needs with no foundation of internal guidance, and will never feel satisfied.
The good news is, it’s completely possible to teach yourself positive self validation skills. The lack of internal validation is a huge roadblock on your path, but you have the power to dig it up, clear it out and restructure it correctly so that you can continue moving forward. In fact, if you’re one of the many who fit into the pattern I described above, it is vitally important for you to learn this so that you can proceed.
Below I will describe four steps you can begin to use to put patterns of healthy self validation into place.
Listen to yourself
The best tool I have personally found for really listening to my own thoughts is writing. Take the time regularly to write down your thoughts as freely as possible. You want to keep this simple, and do not allow yourself to get caught up in editing or presentation. You’re not trying to make it pretty, you need to focus on getting the thoughts out where you can see and interact with them.
Commit to 500 words a day, or 1000 words a day; some substantial amount of words that makes you reach further into your mind each time. Then, write. Write every day if you can, for as long as it takes. I write every day and do not intend to stop.
It is quite possible that you’re sick of the sound of your own thoughts. You may have so many conflicting things constantly rolling around in your head that it’s tiring and confusing. It may just ‘sound’ like noise to you at first. It can be hard to sift through the mess inside, but be brave and dive in.
The first few times you write may be just ridding yourself of some of the noise; it’s okay to brain dump onto paper for as long as you need to. Eventually, the writing process will transform into something more and you will begin to fit the pieces of your thoughts back together again.
Many of the thoughts you have are probably not even your own; you are likely repeating things that you’ve heard from important people or at key points in your life. Some of these are negative and damaging statements about you that are not true. You must listen to these thoughts so that you can take them head on and dismantle them.
Deep down, you know the truth about yourself. This is why you feel deep conflict about certain messages that have been given to you by others. Hear these thoughts and interact with them to discern the truth, and then you can put them to rest.
You must approach self listening with intention to hear and understand, along with great patience and compassion for yourself. It is not a time to continue beating yourself up. It’s time to love that little child who wasn’t taught these key emotional skills early in life and reach out to her. You can teach her now, as a loving adult.
Do not say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to one of your own beloved children.
Speak for yourself
The act of making your thoughts known to other people can be a risky thing. Becoming vulnerable requires courage. It is completely possible that whoever you share with will laugh in your face, or disregard you or your message. However, the more you interact with others and share with them in an honest and forthright way, the less fear you will attach to rejection of your thoughts. Keep in mind that a person’s reaction to what you say actually says a lot about them and little about you.
Sharing thoughts with others is a way that you can validate your thoughts to yourself. Speaking out requires that you don’t allow other people’s opinions to sway how you feel about yourself. If you are actively and habitually listening to your own thought process as discussed above, you will have discerned what is true and untrue in your thought patterns and the message of your life becomes clearer.
When you’re comfortable that your message is valid and true, you can share it with confidence. Even when someone disagrees with or disregards you, by allowing yourself to have a voice, you’re telling yourself that your thoughts matter; that you matter.
Self validation requires living true to your own values. Once you’ve learned how to communicate clearly and honestly with yourself, you should be able to discern what your core values are with much greater clarity. Every decision you make, every conversation you have, everything you do should be consistent with your value system.
When you know what your values are, you’re able to trim things from your life that do not align with them. Living in line with your own values continuously reaffirms that you are important, that what you care about matters. And by the same measure, if you continue to do things that are not important to you, you’re sending yourself a message that what’s important to you…is not important. So honour yourself and your true values with every decision that you make.
Often when we’re hungry for external validation we may change our public persona in an effort to make ourselves seem more acceptable to others. I want to encourage you to be forthright. Be yourself.
Yes, this requires courage, because you open yourself up to judgment and rejection. Remember that if this happens, it is generally not about you. People often filter their response to you through their own problems, issues and experiences. A negative response to your personality is most often about the respondent, not the recipient.
Accepting who you are and living that truth in public every day is the final step in loving and validating yourself. You no longer depend on other people to make you feel like you have a right to be here. You are who you are, you’re confident and sure of yourself, others can take it or leave it.