When other people agree with us, it feels good.
As human beings, we are wired to have a strong desire to belong in a community – whether it’s our family, friends or colleagues – and seek validation from it.
But this can be a problem when seeking this approval from others becomes a need – and takes over.
It can leave us with a confidence crisis and incredibly low self-esteem. After all, if you’re placing the worth of all your decisions and actions on others – where does that leave you?
Coach and mentor Natalie Trice tells Metro.co.uk: ‘Seeking approval from others can be an exhausting, time-consuming exercise, leaving us needing more and more reassurance and an inability to believe in ourselves.
‘It isn’t always easy to trust yourself, but it is something that is worth working on as it not only frees up time but also headspace – and allows you to truly become yourself.‘
The good news is that, as with any behavioural habit, there are ways to stop doing this.
Experts have shared how to go about it.
Be aware of it
Dr Becky Spelman, a psychologist and clinical director of My Private Therapy Clinic, says the first thing to do is to acknowledge that’s how you behave.
She tells Metro.co.uk: ‘Be aware of your need for validation from other people, and to consider where that might come from. Where has this need not been met in your life? Where have you not felt good enough or what has happened in your past that has caused you not to feel good enough?
‘Particularly consider early life experiences and relationships with family members, because this is where self-esteem comes from.’
Simply put, if you’re aware that you seek validation from others, you’ll be more likely to recognise when you’re doing it and then cut down on it from there.
Try to cut out bad behaviours
Once you’re aware of it, try to set out with the aim of stopping.
Becky adds: ‘The rest of the intervention that you want to be carrying out is all behavioural, so actually looking at what behaviours you do to seek validation – whether it’s posting pictures on social media, or saying statements that would try and elicit compliments from other people – and you want to cut out this behaviour.
‘This is because the impact is very short-lived. You might feel good in the short-term, as a result of getting the validation from other people (or, in some cases, you might be very disappointed because you don’t get the validation that you’re seeking).
‘However, this is a short-term confidence boost and not something that will enhance your self-esteem in a more permanent way.’
Build up your self-esteem
Looking for approval from others is a big sign you’re lacking in the self-esteem department. So this is one of the most important things to tackle.
Dr Becky says: ‘The only way that you can enhance your self-esteem in a more permanent way is to live your life in a way that makes you feel proud of your actions.’
She adds you can do this by showing up for yourself and putting yourself in situations that make you feel good.
It’s also about being proud of the way you’re living your life.
Becky says: ‘This can be more valuable that looking outward for validation – so really it’s about the way you care for yourself and the actions you take in your life: how you allow people to treat you, what you walk away from and what you invite into your life.
‘All of these things will help build up your self-esteem so you no longer feel the need to seek validation from others.’
Of course, it’s only natural to like compliments but it’s about changing the need for them.
Becky says: ‘Compliments are nice, it’s not that you don’t want to be receiving these and, when you do, you want to accept it and feel a sense of gratitude, when it’s offered. But it’s best not to try and elicit these from other people.
‘The compliments will come anyway when we least expect and when we least desire or need them.’
Look at your past record
One way of helping to build up this self-esteem is to look at your recent achievements and acknowledge where your strengths lie.
Natalie says: ‘You might not be great at everything, no one is, but there will be things that you love doing and you know you are good at and when you can pinpoint these and do them well – without the help or validation of others – that’s the road to confidence and self belief.’
Get into the habit of asking yourself first
‘Rather than checking in with someone else on whether they think your decision to move job or to leave a toxic relationship, ask yourself “is this the right thing for me?”’ says Natalie.
It’s easy to turn into the habit of asking friends and family their opinions first – but stop and think about what you really want before you do.
Natalie adds: ‘No one knows what is going on in your life like you, so rather than get a third party involved, look inside and see what you think is right.
‘It’s totally fine to chat things over with a friend or your boss, but if you can start believing in yourself and trusting your instincts, not only will you be happier but doing so can really empower you to make bold decisions that are right for you.’
Lay off social media
We all know social media is a hotbed of self-esteem issues.
Posting a picture to get likes really is the very definition of looking for validation.
Natalie adds that in order to break the habit, it can be good to lay off social media – or at least think about your reasons for posting.
She says: ‘Stop using social media to get quick confident hits. Yes, likes on Facebook and comments on IG can boost your self-esteem and validate your choice in shoes, but that will quickly die down and if you are constantly relying on the praise of strangers to make you feel good, you aren’t going to ever feel that great.
‘Yes, post, but don’t do it just to get approval – that has to come within, and anything above is a bonus.’
Natalie Trice is a career coach for PR professionals, mentor and trainer.
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