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You don’t need external validation to build self-confidence

What is validation?

What is validation and what is its relationship to having and building self-confidence? Validation can mean a couple of different things. Let’s first make a distinction between the two so there isn’t any confusion as you read.

Validation in one sense is the human need to know that your thoughts and feelings are okay. We’re all emotional creatures to some extent and we all have thoughts.

Being validated in that sense gives us reassurance that what we think and feel is reasonable to think and feel.

It isn’t someone agreeing with the way we think or feel. It is just the recognition that we aren’t bat shit crazy for what we’re thinking or feeling.

Being validated in this sense lays the foundation for feeling understood, which is essential for everyone. It helps in forming connections with other people and is a part of all wholesome relationships.

Validation in the other sense is quite different. This alternate kind of validation is based on the need for approval and is often rooted in vanity and insecurity.

This is the kind of validation where we do something and then expect, even need, to be praised or verbally appreciated for it.

This is the kind of validation that requires a laugh if you tell a joke. If said laugh is not received, your self-esteem and self-worth take a hit.

Validation like this screams:

  • “Give me compliments”
  • “Tell me how great I am”
  • “Love me, love me, love me!”

Essentially, the first form of validation is based on a human need and should occur naturally in most healthy relationships.

The second one is the main focus of this post. It acts like a drug because you begin to crave it and don’t feel okay without it.

It’s insidious in nature because it ultimately destroys, rather than builds, self-confidence. It can and sometimes does provide confidence, but it’s external rather than self generated.

In this way it’s really a false sense of confidence.

The problem with needing external validation

There is nothing inherently wrong with receiving validation. If you kick ass at something and someone recognizes it, that’s fantastic. You should feel great about yourself and appreciate the accolades.

It is the requirement, craving, or incessant need to have external validation that is a problem.

The most obvious problem with requiring external validation is just that…it’s external!

Anytime you put your self-worth in the hands of someone or something outside of you, you’re at their or its mercy.

For the most part, the world and all people in it are fickle at best. That’s not to say we humans are completely untrustworthy and can’t be relied upon.

But we are certainly susceptible to moods and can be unpredictable in the way we interact with and react to others.

As a quick example, if you smile and say hello to someone and you get neither a smile nor a hello back, how does it make you feel? In the immediate moment, probably not great.

The thing is, you have no idea why they didn’t smile or say hello back. They could very well be crushed that their cat just died.

You can’t automatically assume that their response has anything to do with you. In fact, things like that almost always have more to do with what’s going on inside them.

Either way, your self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-worth shouldn’t be diminished because of it.

Similarly, your self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-worth shouldn’t be boosted if they give you a huge smile and warm hello.

These things should remain unchanged regardless of how other people react to you.

Another problem with this kind of approval seeking validation is that we start avoiding things for fear of disapproval.

We only act in ways that we have come to know elicit positive responses. This is obviously detrimental to building self-confidence.

Courage builds self-confidence, and we are not acting with courage when we only do or say things that we know will generate a positive response, i.e, approval.

You simply can’t build self-confidence always remaining in your comfort zone.

Constantly seeking approval and validation does just that. It keeps you in your comfort zone.

The reason is because the moment you don’t receive approval, you retreat to what you know what will get you the validation you’re seeking.

Why you don’t need validation to have self-confidence

When you think about it, there’s no way you can need validation if you have a high degree of self-confidence.

In my post about how courage builds self-confidence, I use the following simple definition of self-confidence:

“The feeling or belief that you can rely on yourself”

This includes the regulation of your thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

You shouldn’t have to rely on other people or circumstances to create positive thoughts, feelings, and emotions. It isn’t always easy but you must be able to do it.

Depending on other people to make you feel positive about yourself is a recipe for disaster. People will eventually let you down at some point.

In addition, you’ll behave in ways that don’t align with your true self, all in the name of approval and receiving praise. Again, approval and praise isn’t bad, but it shouldn’t be a requirement to feel okay.

Reading all of this, you might think things like:

  • “How in the world can I have self-confidence if I’m never receiving positive feedback about the things I’m doing?”  
  • “I can’t possibly know that I’m good enough if I don’t hear it”
  • “How can I be certain that I’m truly successful if it isn’t ever validated by someone else?”

It’s funny because the people with the most self-confidence are the ones most likely to get the validation that they don’t need.

Successful, self-confident people define what success means to them and constantly go after it.  They fight through the rejections and dissenters and keep moving towards their goals.

Their self-confidence is built by and based on their relentless pursuit of what they want, not other people’s opinions of it.

That is the point that you have to get to. The point where your mission and vision is of utmost importance.

The more passionate and focused you are about achieving something, the less you will care how someone else feels about it. You keep going whether others think it’s cool or lame. It truly doesn’t matter to you.

You must, of course, have a mission or vision to begin with. If you don’t, you can grab my mission and vision builder for free at the bottom of this page.

Setting goals and building a mission and vision is one of the essential ingredients for becoming the best version of yourself.

The best version of yourself has a lot of self-confidence, and none of it has anything to do with external validation or approval.

Why approval seeking validation shows a lack of self-confidence

If you have confidence in yourself, your thoughts, and your ideas, it shows.

You speak about yourself and it’s generally a statement rather than a question.

When you don’t have self-confidence, you speak almost as if you’re asking for permission, to be yourself!

For example, take these two similar statements made by someone with very little self-confidence vs someone with a lot of self-confidence:

  1. “Hey Stephanie, I was thinking about maybe wearing this blue dress tonight. Do you think it looks dumb?”
  2. “Hey Stephanie, I’m gonna wear this sexy ass blue dress tonight. Do you think the studs or hoop earrings would go better with it?”

It’s obvious that person 1 is less self-confident than person 2. Person 1 is clearly seeking approval and seems like they are asking for permission.

Person 1 is insecure about how they look and wants Stephanie to make them feel better. She doesn’t necessarily feel good about herself so she’s looking for someone to make her feel that way.

The second person is confident and it shows by how she talks. These are just words on paper but I’m sure you can imagine the difference in tone and body language of these two people.

People can tell if you’re seeking approval. Whether consciously or unconsciously the underlying amount of confidence, or lack thereof, will show through.

When you are constantly seeking approval, you’re putting your insecurities and lack of self-confidence on full display.

That’s why I say approval seeking validation SHOWS a lack of self-confidence. It’s an all out exhibit of your lack of self-confidence that others can see and feel. You don’t want that.

Don’t get me wrong, there is no need to beat yourself up for lacking self-confidence. To some degree we all do.

Approval seeking validation is something you can stop immediately though. You don’t have to feel self-confident to start speaking more confidently.

Fake it till you make it is generally not the best idea, but this is one exception. This is because acting and speaking as if you believe in yourself will never have negative results in the long run.

It always takes time to build self-confidence and the learning curve is longer for some than others.

Minimizing, or better yet, completely dropping approval seeking behavior can speed up the process of building self-confidence.

Why you should learn to validate others’

So here’s a little bonus I’m going to throw at you for making it all the way down here.

Remember in the opening paragraph when I was talking about validation as a human need? Not the approval seeking validation, but the kind that is simple recognition of your thoughts and feelings.

You can and should make an effort to validate other people in this way.

Most people don’t naturally do this, especially those of us who are problem solvers and always want to give advice.

Sometimes people just want to get things off their chest and that’s all. They don’t want advice or to be told why they shouldn’t feel a certain way.

Take the situation below and look at these examples of responding in ways that validate the other person versus examples that don’t.

Situation: Mike gets rejected for a job opportunity

Mike is comes to Steve because he’s just found out that he wasn’t selected for the job he recently interviewed for. He starts out by saying “I didn’t get the job man, it sucks. I feel like such a failure right now.”

Responses from Steve that don’t validate Mike:

  1. “Dude, you shouldn’t feel like a failure at all. You gave it your best.”
  2. “No worries man, you’ll get the next one. I actually know of this other great role you should apply for.”

The first response is well intended but completely invalidates the way Mike feels in the moment. He doesn’t want to be told how he should or shouldn’t feel. He just wants to be listened to and understood.

The second response, also with good intentions, doesn’t validate Mike. Mike isn’t asking for advice about another job opportunity. He’s expressing his disappointment about the one he just got rejected for, one that he really wanted.

Responses from Steve that validate Mike:

  1. “Sorry to hear that man, it’s never fun to be told that you haven’t been selected.”
  2. “That’s a bummer man. I got turned down for two different roles last year and I know how you feel.”

Both of these responses acknowledge the way Mike feels and neither is an attempt to fix the situation. These responses give Mike the freedom to fully feel and explain what he’s going through.

Sure, Mike might eventually want some advice on how he should move forward. Steve doesn’t know that in the moment though.

It’s always better to let the person you’re talking to actually ask you for advice before giving it to them.

And it’s never a good idea to tell someone not to feel a certain way. They aren’t choosing to feel that way. In the moment, it’s just how they feel.

Even if you have good intentions and may be trying to compliment them, it can actually have a negative effect.

Validating others doesn’t mean you never provide any input.

You shouldn’t just be sitting there saying “uh huh”, “yeah”, and constantly nodding your head in agreement. You still need to be a good conversationalist.

The trick is to ensure that the person coming to you feels understood first.

Make a practice of consciously trying to stop yourself from jumping in with your own opinions, advice, and autobiography.

But how is this related to my own self-confidence?

When you become the type of person that validates other people in this way, you will notice them coming to you more often.

Everyone wants to be heard and understood and people are drawn to those who can provide that. Consequently, your current relationships become more meaningful and your network will naturally start to grow.

It’s not just that your network will start to grow, but these relationships will most likely be deep and authentic in the long run.

Having genuine, non-superficial relationships provides a solid foundation for building feelings of connection and self-esteem. This is partly because we originally evolved to be social beings out of necessity.

Likewise, the lack of connection can lead to social withdrawal and low self-esteem

Self-esteem is not the exact same thing as self-confidence, but it (self-confidence) is much easier to build when you have self-esteem.

In other words, validating others leads to better connection. More connection leads to higher self-esteem. High self-esteem makes it much easier to build self-confidence.

Wrap Up

So what’s the point of all of this?

The point of all of this is that you don’t need validation or approval to have self-confidence. (Hence the title)

In fact, when you need validation or approval to feel good about yourself, it’s a tell-tale sign that you don’t have self-confidence.

On top of that, it hinders your ability to build self-confidence because it keeps you in your comfort zone. It causes you to take very few risks and only do things that you know will bring out positive reactions from others.

Bottom line, if your confidence is dependent on others, it can be taken away by others.

Start doing and saying things that you know are right even if you know that no one else will agree with you.

That is the exact opposite of approval seeking validation. That is acting with courage and will build self-confidence in a hurry.

You should also make it a point to validate others. Not in the approval seeking way, but make sure you’re try to understand people and always acknowledge their feelings as valid.

This will cause your network to grow, relationships to deepen, and self-esteem to thrive. All of which are important ingredients in the recipe for building self-confidence.

If you liked this article, don’t hesitate to share it. I’m sure you know someone else that needs to get on your level!

you don't need validation to have self-confidence.  Actually, approval seeking validation shows a lack of self-confidence and diminishes self-confidence.  People should quit this behavior if they want to build self-confidence

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