When was the last time you validated yourself? When I say validation, I’m not referring to your parking ticket from the mall last week. I am referring to positively recognizing your thoughts, emotions or actions.
When was the last time you took a moment to stop the negative chatter in your mind and say, “Things are hard right now, but I am doing my best.” Or, “That meeting didn’t go as planned, but it’s a learning curve. The most important thing is I tried something out of my comfort zone.”
You may be thinking, “Oh… that kind of validation! No, I wait for a friend or my mom to tell me those things. I don’t generally do that for myself!”
This is where I come in. This is where I tell you it’s time to change your ways. If you’re not validating yourself, if you’re not your biggest champion, then what happens when your mom is busy or your friend is out of town?
When you rely on other people to make you feel important or worthwhile, you’re placing your sense of self, your feelings of acceptance and your identity in other people’s hands.
This is a frightening and somewhat irresponsible thing to do, because what happens when no one is around? What happens when that person you’ve been relying on to make you feel better is the person that is making you feel bad? What happens when no one agrees with you, but you know in your heart you’re doing the right thing?
We all love it when we get a text from someone we respect or admire and they say, “Everything is going to be OK.” or “Don’t worry you will get that raise/promotion/new apartment.” There’s nothing wrong with this but you must be your number one source for validation. This should not come from your mother, your best friend or social media. This comes from you. You can only, truly rely on you!
Before we go any further, this is how I define validation: praise for a job well-done and words of encouragement when we need it most. This boost of confidence helps us stay motivated and it reinforces our choices and beliefs.
Stop waiting to hear the positive words, praise or encouragement you’re craving. Tell it to yourself because you’re the only person you have complete control over.
Here are my dos and don’ts for learning to validate yourself:
Do: Become aware
The very best thing you can do for yourself is to learn how to become more aware of your thoughts and how they affect your feelings. Our thoughts are incredibly powerful and how we decide to see an event or situation becomes our reality. This is the first step in learning how to validate yourself. You want to start the process of recognizing your thoughts, so you can stop the negativity and reframe how you see a situation.
Reframing or looking at something differently is what you are doing when you validate yourself. You are asking yourself to stop mentally beating yourself up and start appreciating the things you do well. You are recognizing the ways you are growing as a person.
Do: Accept that you need acceptance
Each and every one of us needs to feel loved and accepted. I don’t care who you are or where you are from. Being accepted and feeling like you belong is incredibly powerful. Essentially, it’s part of our DNA. We have to be accepted in order to survive.
As babies, we’re innately vulnerable and need to be accepted and cared for by our family. As we get older, we need to be accepted and cared for by the people around us. At the same time, we must recognize we won’t always get that acceptance in the way we need it. It’s on each of us to love and accept ourselves. In order to start the process of validating yourself, you have to start the process of loving and accepting yourself.
Do: Be the best member of your support team
The first person you should go to when things are rough is yourself. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “Talk to yourself the way you would talk to your best friend.” We tend to be our worst enemy when, in reality, we really need to be our biggest advocate.
In Brené Brown’s latest book, Braving the Wilderness, she defines belonging as, “something that doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.” As the best member of your support team, you must love the person you are. You must be willing to be who you are. Once you do that, validating yourself is the easy part.
Don’t: Listen to all of your thoughts
One of my favorite expressions is, “Just because you have a thought, it doesn’t make it true.” We have 30,000 to 50,000 thoughts a day and research has shown that about 80% of our thoughts are either regrets from the past or fears about the future. Unfortunately, our thoughts aren’t always completely reliable or truthful.
When you validate yourself, you’re asking yourself, “What else can be true?” The act of validation is about looking at a situation and thinking, “OK, this didn’t go as planned. I made a mistake and now I have to decide how I’m going to think about this situation.” In that moment, you can beat yourself up and break yourself down or you can challenge your thoughts and decide to ask yourself, “What else can be true?”
Don’t think all validation is equal
We all do it. We write something on Facebook about last night’s dinner, our relationship status, the trip we took, our dog, or anything else along those lines. What are we really seeking? We have the sense that we need to be seen and heard. In a word: validated.
We live in a crazy social media, “How many likes/followers/subscribers do you have?” world. Social media is all about validation! The problem is when we confuse a “like” from a stranger or a friend of a friend with real validation.
Now I’m not saying you have to get off all social media or if you post something you’re automatically looking for “likes” but I do want you to ask yourself, “Is this my only source of validation?”
If you lost your phone or if the Internet goes out, would you be able to seek comfort, love, confidence, or acceptance on your own? If you’re unsure if you would survive this apocalyptic moment, then you’re thinking your value is based on “likes.”
It’s time to change your thought process. Your value is based on how much you like yourself. Taking the time to validate yourself will allow you to take control of your life so you can stop waiting for some stranger to “like” you. You can learn to like (maybe even love) yourself.
Don’t: Worry about feeling silly or getting a big head
I understand, you may have rolled your eyes several times reading this article. You may be thinking to yourself, “You’ve got to be kidding me. I’m not going to stand in front of a mirror and say ‘I love you.” There’s also this misconception that if we praise ourselves we are being vain and we may soon start to develop a huge ego.
The act of validating yourself is about you and how you see yourself. There’s nothing silly about learning how to love and accept yourself. People with huge egos who are “full of themselves,” don’t have the level of awareness to even recognize their behavior.
I want you to make a pledge right here and now. “I’m no longer going to wait for someone else to validate me. I’m going to validate myself.” This is your mantra. Repeat it as many times as you need.
I want to leave you with a Maya Angelou quote (and the inspiration for Braving the Wilderness).
“You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.”
Angelou was ultimately saying she belongs to herself. To belong to yourself, is being able to stop looking around for love and acceptance and realize it’s all right here inside of you.