It’s human nature to need to be wanted, praised, thought about, and validated by everyone. Unfortunately, this sentiment is an impossible expectation that leads to multitudes of frustration, sadness, and insecurity.
Anecdotally, it’s not hard to believe that I, a perpetually overweight and formerly extremely overweight guy who has struggled long-term with clinical depression, have a deep and continual awareness of insecurity. I was the guy writing poems and telling every girl who gave me a second glance or a pity smile that I was into her.
All of us have talents, passions, and unique aspects of our personality and physical form that are worthy of admiration from onlookers, but after every compliment we get, our focus immediately shifts to obsessing about each person who isn’t fond of, drawn to, understanding toward, or envious of us. How do we, as humans, deal with this kind of pressure? We serve the interests of others and forever walk on seas of eggshells in the hopes of universal acceptance as social creatures.
This loss of self starts with personality mirroring, fake laughs, and forced smiles and leads to lying about our hobbies, feigning our likes/dislikes, betraying who we are, forgetting what we believe, and even going as far as succumbing to complete loss of identity by matching our clothes and behavior exclusively to the expectations of others.
This practice of devoting oneself to pleasing others is unhealthy and emotionally disastrous, though, and I speak from lifelong experience.
I’ve always had a constant and nagging part of me that seeks continual attention and praise lavished upon my person. I want your incessant Snapchat messages, DMs on Instagram, texts that you’re thinking about me, calls, stops by my desk. I don’t as much need praise or compliments as I do the social validation of being thought about and included.
Typically, the quest for validation is due to lingering self-doubt. I don’t particularly doubt myself, my worth, my abilities, or my intelligence, but socially I want to be envied and included and wanted by everyone I meet. I want people to crave my company. I want them to think about me every day. It’s the most vain, pointless form of validation thirst.
By allowing the need for external validation to craft your ways of thinking and acting, you never really take the time to get to know yourself. Your 24/7 obsession with cramming yourself into a mold forged by other people cuts off your ability to explore perspectives, activities, lifestyles, hobbies, beliefs, careers, love interests, and pursuits that could be necessary keys to your personal satisfaction, happiness, and sense of purpose.
It’s not worth trading your wishes, dreams, or wildest ambitions for the sake of avoiding judgment. Appeasement is the death of self.
It’s also a self-fulfilling prophecy: the more we worry about pleasing people in platonic and romantic relationships, the more likely the relationships are to fail miserably.
Your internal desperation has an outward appearance and most people avoid easy conquests, clingers, and the baggage of overly needy friends/lovers. This neediness has jeopardized and ultimately ruined more platonic and romantic relationships in my life than I care to admit. I wasn’t being me. I was obsessing over the comfort of endlessly being told that things are perfect and everything I said or did was well-received. In doing so, I lost people I cared about by being so unstable and possessive.
Just like the fact that we’ll all be dead someday, humankind needs to accept that, despite our forced utterances and actions of appeasement, there will always be people who dislike, are apathetic toward, or hate us and this is fundamentally okay.
When have you ever heard of a genius inventor, philosopher, scientist, writer, artist, or public figure who achieved great things and was also simultaneously adored by everyone? It has never happened.
People who hate you to your core or don’t care about you are much better used as motivation, ignored noise, or welcomed obstacles that lead to personal growth instead of justification for self-abuse.
Just like when I was at my fattest, the niceness of not being instantly liked is that the people you are closest to are true friends and lovers. They’re not just there because you’re a physically attractive, affable, fake, “yes” person.
The more you embrace your inner unique freak, the more you get to understand, appreciate, and accept yourself. Self-validation is one of the hardest, but also one of the most rewarding pursuits in human life. Love yourself first, always, and the rest tends to fall into place.
However, this is not to say that everyone is perfect and should be devoid of criticism. If you’re racist, sexist, homophobic, rude, entitled, unchanging, stupid, a Trump voter, or any other example of an unflattering adjective of a person, you should accept some criticism for these faults. The key is to be honest with yourself. If a criticism is valid, accept the reality and try to change for the better. If criticism received is examined and you find it false, dismiss it as noise and don’t let it shake up your world or cause you to hurt yourself emotionally.
The best ways to achieve this state of consciousness are simple in definition but exceedingly complex and difficult in execution.
The keys to self-validation are:
- Be true to yourself and your convictions.
- Be honest with yourself and others.
- Communicate frequently and openly.
- Take personal responsibility.
- Never give up on growing.
- Take social risks for the purposes of self-discovery.
- Own all positive aspects of yourself as equally as you own your faults and imperfections.
In the end, paying any mind to the instilled guilt, judgment, appreciation, or validation of others will never be as satisfying as following your own feelings.