How do you stop seeking validation from others? I’ve heard that positive thinking can be toxic, although I’m not sure why. I think some of us who have been in dark places at times in our life view positive thinking as an anchor, a life jacket that keeps us from sinking when we’re feeling down. That’s not toxic, that’s survival. I think optimism, love, and gratitude are good for mental health and well-being, and the research out there supports what I’m saying. What can be toxic is relying on others for validation and self-worth.
When you’re saying positivity from others feels toxic, what you’re really saying is that you don’t feel others are validating your feelings. Other people can’t possibly know what you’re feeling. They’re not you.
Why we need external validation
Why do we need external validation and is it bad for us to get too much? The reality is that validation from others is good for our mental health too. As a child, we seek praise and encouragement from our parents as we build healthy attachments. This helps us become more emotionally aware of others, build trust, and feel secure. When you develop an anxious attachment, you can grow up having difficulty trusting others, living with anxiety and fears, and feeling confused.
On the other hand, it can be just as harmful to receive too much praise. You can develop a sense of entitlement and need constant validation as an adult, which can lead to a variety of personality treats that don’t serve you, such as dependence.
How to get internal validation
Internal validation is the ability to recognize your strengths, talents, positive characteristics, and achievements. It’s also the ability to regulate your own emotions through self-talk and self-soothing mechanisms. This can be done in a variety of ways. Here are just a few :
- Exercising and moving your body to ground yourself and optimize your mental health.
- Expressing yourself through creative production like dance, writing, sculpting, music, painting, or theatre.
- Meditating or praying to connect with something bigger and greater than yourself.
- Doing energy work to create more awareness in your body. This also has a grounding effect.
- Conscious and deep breathing to calm yourself and reduce anxiety.
- Journaling to talk through fears or negative emotions and find solutions to problems.
- Stop making decisions out of fear and instead listen to your intuition and practice mindfulness.
Emotional regulation is a skill you can learn and use at any time throughout your life. When you grow up having learned not to trust your world, you likely didn’t learn how to self-regulate. A great place to start is noticing what you feel and becoming aware of how you react when you feel that way. Your body’s reactions are clues to how you’re feeling. As you journal or meditate, ask yourself where the feeling is coming from. Recognize the feeling, accept it as normal, and let it pass you by.
How to develop psychological flexibility
Psychologist Marissa Berman says that developing a mindset that tackles problems head-on and using that information to make intentional decisions lets us navigate difficult situations with more clarity. She calls this ‘psychological flexibility’.
Psychological flexibility is the ability to remain in the present moment when difficult situations arise, to be open to experiencing our thoughts and feelings, whether they are good or bad, and to take intentional (mindful) action that serves us. This means learning emotional regulation, strategies for reducing anxiety and strengthening emotional resilience, building a stronger support network with family, friends, and professionals like coaches and therapists, and getting in the habit of being proactive instead of reacting to situations and people as things happen.
While I don’t deny we need validation to feel secure, I do suggest that we can get a good amount of it from ourselves by learning to be more proactive, developing the ability to self-regulate and be psychologically flexible are two concrete ways you can do that. I recommend Dr. Robert Leahy’s book Don’t Believe Everything You Feel as a starting point. If you’re not a big reader, try one of Jon Kabat Zinn’s guided meditations or learn about how you can use mantras to maintain a sense of wellness and calm. For more information about mantras read my article: How to create more abundance and flow using daily mantras and affirmations.
Copyright Michelle Thompson 2022.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
My name is Michelle. I have a PhD in cultural studies and over twenty years of experience as a group facilitator, zen meditator, and public educator. I help people re-imagine their lives and create concrete plans for self-improvement. I’ve facilitated loads of workshops and support groups on topics like stress management, mental health and wellness, goal setting, grief counselling, safety planning, and confidence building. I create self-study courses to help you learn to practice self-care and master your self-doubt. I’m a former social worker and non-profit consultant, and after struggling for years with my own feelings of anxiety, low self-worth and uncertainty about who I was and what I wanted, I did the work. What I learned helped me get out of my own way and create a life that allows me to be myself and feel happy. Now I teach others to do the same. I created Authentic World Inc, to offer a supportive space for people who want to learn these important skills.
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