Have you ever considered social validation? You know, that funny little thing that could completely change the way you behave, something we would never admit we need.
However, many people in this world need social validation as a drug, a nice ‘fix’ to their mood and self-worth. It follows us ever since the youngest age.
We do what other kids do because we don’t want to be laughed at. This reaches its peak when we step into our teenage years.
We don’t wear things or say things that would make us stand out because we are afraid of what our peers would say about that. And teenagers can be ruthless. Then, as we move on to later points in our lives, we crave our parents’ approval, social media approval and so on.
This can become an unhealthy obsession over other’s opinion of us and it could become our only way to feel worthy and confident.
The society dictates who we are and what we should look like. Just think about fashion trends – you wouldn’t wear something that’s out of style because then what would people think of you. However, this is one of the lightest forms of that need for social approval.
It could even be dangerous – bystander apathy, for instance. In one case, 38 people stood by in their homes, watching a man murder a woman and they did absolutely nothing. Not one of them went to help her or called the police.
This is all because all of them were afraid of what the others would think or thought that someone else would probably call. Yet, the woman is dead and no one helped her because of the groupthink and social validation.
This doesn’t mean that it’s always dangerous. However, it’s something that deeply affects our lives. Just count the number of people in your proximity whose lives went against the social norm.
Not so many of them, right? And those whose lives were different are probably seen as outcasts or eccentric.
But have you ever considered that in the sea of voices ‘that know best’, you could listen to none of them?
Here are some signs that you seek social approval too much and some ways to help yourself.
You compare yourself to others
This is one of the most common mistakes people make in their everyday lives. It’s a toxic behavior because not only are you judging yourself and your actions based on someone else’s opinion but you are also judging others based on yours.
For example, a mother goes to the playground with her child. More mothers are there and they are all talking. One of them says that her child, aging a little over one year, can already speak. Other mothers start to feel shame – their children, older or of similar age – don’t speak yet.
The mother will feel less worthy or self-confident. But as an addition, she will start noticing all of the things that are wrong with the one-year-old that can speak, compare him or her to her own child and pick on those things with her friends later just to validate her own worth.
This is a true example of the toxicity of social validation. You compare yourself to others – whether to validate that you are better or to realize that you are not.
How to fix:
In order to avoid being a toxic person who needs to constantly pick on others’ and your own failings, you should stop comparing yourself to others and start comparing yourself to – well, yourself.
Measure your actions and results against your goals, not against someone else’s actions.
You always expect positive reinforcement
For every action you make, you expect a positive reaction of the society. For instance, you planted some flowers. However, you don’t feel happy unless you call your mom to tell her what you did.
As soon as she gives you positive reinforcement, you like your flowers much better and you feel better about what you did.
This example seems harmless enough, but it’s damaging to our lives. You would never do something that cannot lead to positive reinforcement. The same happens with good deeds – if no one is there to see it, you don’t feel like doing anything.
This happens on social media a lot. People crave for likes and positive comments of other people to confirm that their action/outfit is a great choice. Many people even report that they delete a post or an image that doesn’t receive a lot of likes.
How to fix:
Instead of always looking for others’ approval, find approval within. Don’t do things just because you expect for someone to clap at your choices, do it because you want to. This isn’t simple to achieve, but the next time you stumble across such an occasion, try to do the right thing and choose yourself over others.
Your happiness depends on people around you
Picture this: You are out with a group of friends. You are having a great time even on your own or with other people you just met. Then your best friend decides to leave and you start feeling sad and like you shouldn’t be there.
This may be a simple example and doesn’t seem to be harmful in any way. But it goes much further than that. People start depending on others and their happiness is a matter of who stays and who goes – not at the party this time but in real life.
They rely on those people and once they are gone, the happiness is no longer there.
This, again, seems understandable – our lives are intertwined with others and we put love and time into various relationships. However, those relationships are not what validates our happiness.
How to fix:
Instead of relying on others for good mood and happiness, be your own person. Learn to be happy and at peace on your own, alone. Other people should just be there to share your happiness with you, not create happiness for you.
When someone doesn’t approve of your choices, you feel sad
Another sign that you need social validation just too much is that you feel sad when someone criticizes you or doesn’t approve of your choices. So, instead of defending yourself, you start to re-evaluate the choices and actions you felt so confident and happy about just moments ago.
How to fix:
When someone attacks you based on the choices you made or if they discourage you, stand up for yourself and your personal beliefs. Allow yourself to make choices without seeking or conforming to the societal perceptions of right and wrong.
You never speak first in a group
This you can mostly see in school or in various workplaces. The problem is simple – you fear that you’ll make a mistake or that someone will laugh at you so you don’t say anything. However, this is wrong.
How To Fix:
Speak up if you feel like you have the answer or if you need to ask for something – it’s that simple. Even if you do make a mistake, who cares?
You Don’t Need Social Validation
Learn that approval should always come from within, not the outside world. Once you let go of the societal norms of what is wrong or right, you will get to be happy and at peace. Hopefully, these tips will help you with that.
Author Bio: Joel Syder works as a business analyst and writer with Academic Brits. His main goals are to help young people realize their potential in IT and prosper. Joel also loves writing helpful articles for online publications on various topics that excite him.