As social creatures, we are wired to feel good when praised and validated by those around us. This is not inherently unhealthy, but putting our entire value down to the opinions of others is a surefire way to never feel truly comfortable or satisfied with ourselves. The social media revolution has only intensified this obsession with how we’re perceived, as we base our self-worth on the superficial representations of ourselves online. It’s much healthier to separate our sense of fulfilment from external opinions, and to learn to seek validation from within.
Born to please?
Whether it’s over our looks, our achievements, or our relationships, we all spend far too much time worrying about what other people think.
A degree of this is natural. I am by no means suggesting we all become self-absorbed recluses who never consider the thoughts of those around us (unless that’s what you’re into!) However, many of us – especially women – focus so much on other people’s perception of who we are, that we lose sight of who we are to ourselves.
Admittedly, it’s easier said than done to break this habit. But we must start giving our own opinions the respect and consideration they deserve, and not exclusively those of our friends, family, co-workers, or indeed – anyone who crosses our path.
Mindful life choices
Most of us lose sight of our own desires and goals, as we have spent too long trying to please others, rather than ourselves.
Take a moment to reflect on what you truly want, who you really want to be, and how you would ideally like to spend your precious time and energy – what gets you excited? Even if you aren’t sure of your end goal yet, pinning down what fuels and what suppresses your motivation is the crucial first step.
Start by making a list of what makes you happy and what makes you feel discouraged or stressed. Maybe it’s that living in the city makes you miserable and you would prefer to live in the countryside or by the beach. Or maybe you feel uninspired by the corporate ladder and want to become self-employed. Perhaps you are lacking meaningful and respectful relationships in your workplace or social circle.
Once you identify the source of your unfulfillment, be the architect of your own life by designing one that you truly want to live. Starting a new and daunting venture mindfully means that you can treat any setbacks as opportunities to learn and grow. It may still not be easy, but the sense of fulfilment will be worth the struggle.
Nowadays, we are led to believe we must choose between long-term success and short-term happiness. That we must either suffer our way up to the top or be content with mediocrity.
Of course, hard work and sacrifice are often necessary, whatever your chosen path. However, once you find your calling, you will be fuelled by your own passions and goals – and not the irrational and shallow desire to impress others above all else.
As such, the journey in itself will become the ultimate form of self-care: Ditching the validation addiction and chasing your own ambitions is the most loving thing you can do for yourself.
Think of it in terms of nutrition. Sure – the validation tastes sweet and gives you a rush. However, it’s the fulfilment of harnessing your own future and choosing your own challenges which give you long-lasting nourishment and satisfaction.
Take the front seat!
The bottom line is, valuing the opinions of others is not necessarily a negative thing – especially when they are people we trust and respect. However, if you don’t place value on your own personal ambitions, and turn them into tangible life changes, then who else will?
In the end, your own sense of fulfilment must be your priority, and we could all do a better job at separating this from the validation of others.
So next time you spiral into a negative thought pattern, convincing yourself that others know better, have a little faith in yourself. Validation from others only matters as much as you let it, and self-fulfilment must come from within!