It is a part of human nature to connect with other people. Even the most introverted people need at least some, albeit often minimal, human interaction.
We are social creatures by our overall nature. Not quite pack animals like lions or wolves, but we do tend to form groups and communities that work together, play together, and so on.
While it’s totally healthy to be social and interact with people, sometimes we need more. Sometimes we need to be validated by other people. This usually comes in the form of acceptance.
There is nothing wrong in desiring for people to accept you as a part of their group/community/tribe or what-have-you. At least, not on the face of it. But when all of your personal energy goes into acceptance, and you change who you are fundamentally in order to BE accepted, that this gets problematic.
The reason it gets problematic is that, in being someone you are not in order to be accepted by others, you lose yourself. Being someone other than your true self takes a toll eventually. This can impact you physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
Because our society is so obsessed with quick-fixes and instant gratification, we are often pushed to be someone we are not, in order to be popular, loved, respected, successful…take your pick. There are numerous movies and books where the storyline involves someone taking on another identity to change in order to be validated and accepted.
When you get fed that enough, you start to think it’s your only option.
The truth, however, is very different. Validation doesn’t come from without — it comes from within.
It’s about you
Looking for acceptance and validation from other people is not actually about other people. It’s about you.
Do you know who you are? This can a super-loaded question for many people. Why? Because for any number of reasons they fear getting to know themselves. It’s possible they fear that they might not be a good person; that they are unworthy or undeserving of, well, anything and everything; or even that who they are doesn’t really matter, so it’s not as important.
The truth of it is that you are the only you that there is. You exist in your own reality, in that you are the only one capable of perceiving the Universe as you do. This is because there is nobody inside your head but you.
You are the only one who can think for you, feel for you, and act from there. Nobody else has the ability to actually get inside your head, and see how it is that you perceive the world around you.
As such, it is equally impossible to know what anyone ELSE thinks about YOU. Finding acceptance and validation from others, as such, is totally fleeting. Why? Because you don’t know how they are really thinking.
For example — on an episode of The Simpsons, Milhouse’s Dad, Kurt, thought Homer was his new best buddy. Homer, on the other hand, was being Kurt’s friend so that he’d continue to act as the kids’ lacrosse coach. Kurt found validation of his self in Homer’s friendship…and when he learned it wasn’t what he thought it was, he lost the feeling completely.
This might be a fictional example — but that doesn’t make it less apropos. Acceptance from others can and will shift. Looking without does not provide a mirror for what lacks within.
What about depression, anxiety, and other mental issues?
A lot of people get upset when you tell them to “get over themselves” or work out their own problems on their own, in especial if they have mental health matters. That’s not the point here, though. The point is recognizing that seeking acceptance and validation from without is actually a form of displacement, because it may seem a lot easier to find acceptance and validation outside of yourself.
But since feeling valid, and feeling accepted is about YOUR feelings, it’s an inside job. Only you can feel what and how you feel. So it goes to follow that only you can recognize the trap of such displacement when you come across it.
Yes, if you have depression or any similar issue, this is even harder to work with. But placing blame, even on your mental state, doesn’t fix it. It doesn’t address it. The only way to do that is to, in fact, address it directly.
How can you validate yourself? What does it take for you to feel accepted?
You can read endlessly that you are worthy, worthwhile, deserving, and loved. It’s possible you can be bombarded with this idea again and again. That doesn’t mean that you will believe it.
Yet it is the truth. You deserve to feel valid, accepted, and like you are worthy. Because YOU ARE.
It can feel a lot easier to look outside of yourself to find this. However, since it’s part of how you think and what and how you feel, only by looking within will you find real answers.
We need acceptance and validation from others because it tends to provide a potentially less-scary answer than looking within ourselves. But in truth, it really is all about YOU accepting yourself.
You ARE the best you that you can be.