Lately I’ve been thinking about the concept of seeking validation. I’ve noticed some people around me and asked myself, “What are they trying to prove? Who/what do they feel threatened by? What void are they attempting to fill?”
But then suddenly, I realized I needed to take Bob Marley’s advice — before I pointed the finger, I needed to make sure my hands were clean. That’s when I realized that the people I’m observing might not be the only ones seeking validation. It looked like I was doing it too. Here are some examples of ways I’ve been doing this and ways I’ve noticed others doing it too, in case you need to take a step back and ask yourself the same thing.
What does it mean to seek validation?
When I use the term “seeking validation” I instantly think of someone who feels the need to brag about their life or to make their life look perfect on social media. One telltale example of course is the couple who looks perfect on the outside but are completely unhappy behind closed doors. Ultimately, seeking validation basically looks like attempting to gain the approval of some else. Often when I notice myself seeking validation it isn’t actually for other, it’s more of me seeking approval from myself (if that makes sense).
I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve witnessed myself seeking validation by trying to appear a certain way on social media, talking about accomplishments without having been asked first, and by making sure to look my best with the thought that if I look good, everyone will assume that I am doing very well in all aspects of my life.
When I was working as a nurse, I just remember making a lot of money and feeling the need to justify the work I was doing by spending the paycheck. I remember shopping impulsively, getting my nails done regularly, and just generally buying things the moment I decided I wanted them without thinking twice, all the time. I thought that these items and my reminding myself of my ability to acquire them would make me feel happy. The reality was, I was extremely unhappy with the amount of time and energy that my nursing job forced me to sacrifice. I didn’t feel involved enough in my daughters life and it was breaking my heart. I thought the shopping or “self care” excess on my days off would make me happy. I thought that going to brunch and getting my nails done and wearing new clothes and drinking all the time would fill a void and fix my unhappiness but it didn’t.
Shortly before I stopped working as a nurse, I was considering buying a new car. My current car is not old, it is reliable and most importantly — it is almost entirely paid off. Although I would like a larger vehicle soon, I don’t need one right now. When I was working as a nurse, I fantasized about a brand new car with nice tires, tinted windows and all the bells and whistles. I still dream about that car and I’m excited to own it one day, but I came close to impulsively upgrading not only my car but my monthly bills by nearly $500 every month, simply because I felt like it was within my reach and it would give me validation.
The validation I was looking for was that I was doing the right thing by working at a job where I felt unhappy and sacrificing vital time with my daughter. Just like when I inadvertently start rambling about my income when no one asked, I’m not even really talking to the people who are in front of me, I’m more so talking to myself. I’m reminding myself, don’t worry, you’re doing well, you’re where you’re supposed to be, because my insecurities have caused me to ask these questions, along with so many more.
Are my friends true to me?
Do people find me obnoxious?
Was quitting my job a bad idea?
Have I made the right decisions as a mother?
I’ve noticed not only myself, but countless other people spending money or pushing a certain narrative in their life for the purpose of seeking validation. It can be easy to do this without even realizing it. Before you make a big decision ask yourself, where is this coming from? What am I hoping to accomplish with this?
I’m excited to get married, I’ve found myself dreaming about our wedding day. I also dream about our honeymoon, and our future home that we’ll buy and the family vacations we’ll go on in the future. These are fun and exciting things that I’m lucky to have at my fingertips, but they aren’t yet real. Although, I believe in making my dreams a reality, I have to find contentment in my current reality or else I’ll never be really happy.
My current reality looks a little less like dreamy wedding plans and traveling. It looks a little more like long days at home being a mom. Avocado smears on my shirt and hair that hasn’t been washed in who-knows-how-many days. It looks like picking up the same living room mess 10 times in one day and sweeping lentils off the floor over and over again. It looks like pushing the stroller up and down our same street and saying hi to the same neighbors, day in and day out. It looks like a tight budget and the fire that I’m feeling under my ass to hustle, it’s time to make money and save up for all of these big plans. It looks like fear and self doubt, remembering the paycheck that once was and although I would never go back, man financial security was nice.
Sometimes this monotony makes me feel a little crazy. Sometimes I feel bored, and scared. I feel self doubt and I question my past decisions all the time. I’ve realized it’s a temporary feeling though. I’m just letting my mind wonder a little too much and falling into the “grass is always greener” mindset. But I know better than that. So I’m working on accepting more and practicing patience. I’m trying to connect more with God and count my blessings more often. My life really is beautiful and I am happy. I don’t need validation right now but I know shifting your mindset can be easier said than done.
Telling yourself that achieving something in the future is the final piece missing in your puzzle of happiness will most likely set you up for disappointment. It’s great to set goals and achieve them — don’t get me wrong — just don’t think that a lack of contentment now simply needs to be filled with some type of materialistic solution in the future.
If you’re constantly filling voids and finding yourself displeased by what you thought would bring you great joy, it may be time to take a step back and re-evaluate a few things.
Have you ever noticed yourself seeking validation in life? What about other people in your life? What does seeking validation look like to you?