A problem that many people struggle with is seeking out external validation as a means of regulating their moods and emotions. Do you identify with this? If so, you might be asking “why do I need constant external validation?” We’re going to get into that below, assessing the sources of this need as well as ways to combat it in the future.
Seeking external validation is normal, to some degree. As human beings, we are wired for connection and wanting to belong and be accepted by others is pivotal for our survival. The problem starts when needing external validation is all consuming and triggers anxiety.
There are a number of factors that could cause you to need constant external validation. Below are some of the most common ones:
YOU MAY HAVE NOT RECEIVED VALIDATION FROM YOUR PARENTS
A commonality in those who seek constant external validation is that they didn’t receive enough validation from their parents when they were children. Their parents might have turned them away when they needed help or a boost of confidence. Or, they might have even been openly insulted by their parents. Other times, parents might have struggled with their own anxiety or trauma.
See, a parent is the center of a child’s world. So, if the parent doesn’t validate the child, the child will almost undoubtedly feel as though they’re not good enough. Even consistent validation from other individuals can struggle to cancel the lack of acceptance and validation from a parent.
YOU MAY HAVE BEEN BULLIED
Another factor that can result in validation-seeking behaviors is bullying. Those who were chronically bullied almost always suffer from low self-esteem. They also tend to think as if they don’t function in society in an acceptable manner.
Therefore, they seek validation not only to comfort themselves but to determine whether they are living life in the way that they’re supposed to. They’re essentially seeking confirmation that they’re on the right track.
YOU MAY HAVE ANXIETY
Anxiety is another common cause of validation-seeking behavior. Those with anxiety are often in a state of panic as to who they are and what they should be doing. Therefore, they tend to turn to others as a means of seeking out clues and, yes, validation.
Anxiety can develop as a result of a number of factors. For some, it’s hereditary. For others, it’s caused by repeated environmental factors.
YOU MAY HAVE BEEN ABUSED
Another factor that can lead to validation-seeking behavior is abuse. If you were chronically or traumatically abused in the past, whether physically, emotionally, or sexually, you may lack a full sense of self. This can cause you to seek it out in others.
COMMON VALIDATION-SEEKING BEHAVIORS
Now, you might be wondering: in what ways do people commonly seek validation? What are validation-seeking behaviors? They include but aren’t limited to the following.
SEEKING VALIDATION THROUGH SOCIAL MEDIA
These days, it’s extremely common for people to seek validation through social media. Individuals do this by excessively posting pictures, videos, and statuses. Then, when they receive photo likes, video likes, and similar, they get a little serotonin boost.
There’s nothing wrong with posting things on social media. However, it should not serve as a foundation upon which you place your self-worth.
APOLOGIZING FOR NO REASON
Another behavior common among those who seek validation is apologizing for no reason. For instance, if you apologize for having a different opinion than someone else, you’re doing it for validation purposes, not because you’re truly sorry. You want the other person to like you, and feel like your difference in opinion will prevent that from happening.
OVER JUSTIFYING YOURSELF
As you may have heard before, “No.” is a complete sentence. In other words, you don’t need to justify why you’re saying no to someone.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you should never provide a justification. If you’re saying no to someone important in your life, someone who’s traditionally well-meaning, a justification is probably a good idea.
But if you’re over-justifying, you’re likely just seeking out validation. You’re just trying to make the other person like you.
ENGAGING IN HARMFUL BEHAVIORS SIMPLY TO GAIN ACCEPTANCE
One of the darker forms of validation seeking is doing bad things simply as a means of gaining acceptance. For instance, you might spread gossip about someone so that a specific group looks at you in a positive light. Or, you might do drugs in response to perceived peer pressure.
You might even bully someone so that you fit in with those around you. At the same time, you might bend your usual values so that you more closely align with someone else’s.
HOW TO STOP SEEKING EXTERNAL VALIDATION
What you might be wondering now is: how do you stop seeking external validation? Well, you can’t stop overnight. However, by recognizing the sources of your need for external validation, and by treating those sources over time, you can slowly quell your need.
How do you get to the bottom of those sources? Engaging in therapy would be a great start. Your therapist will speak with you about your present and past, all the while giving you a safe place to discuss your difficulties.
From there, your therapist will help you develop strategies to combat those insecurities. This is an ongoing process that doesn’t get resolved overnight. However, this process is worth it because it can teach you to trust yourself.
GET THERAPY FOR YOUR VALIDATION SEEKING
Now that you have an answer to “why do I need external validation?”, you might be interested in seeking treatment for your validation seeking. If so, and if you’re looking for therapy in Santa Barbara, contact me to schedule your 20-minute phone consultation.
I’m a licensed marriage and family therapist and have helped countless clients combat their validation-seeking behaviors. By helping them determine the sources of their insecurities and help them build a solid sense of self, I’ve assisted them in discovering a new love for themselves.
If you’re interested, contact me now to schedule a free 20-minute consultation!