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Why Do We Always Seek Validation From Others

by Chloe Lee.

Before posting a photo: Is this framing nice? Will people like it? What if it doesn’t get a lot of likes?

We are very different from slips of paper with a stamp on it to be handed over for a discount, validation is actually a way we communicate acceptance – of ourselves and of others. In this day and age, validation has evolved from subtle nods and reassuring words to, most commonly, how many followers and likes you have on Instagram. I would be lying if I said it has never concerned me to lose a follower or not have as many likes as xyz.

So why is it so important? Why do we always seek validation from others?

The Self and Social Identity Theory

Before we can dive into why validation is so important, we must first know the concept of self. Self-image is how we perceive ourselves, it’s basically how we recognize ourselves and answers: “who am I?” – we realize that we are existentially different from others and experiences things differently as well.

Source: Disney Wiki

Our self-esteem, or self-worth, is how we value and accept ourselves, when we are high in self-esteem, we are confident. However, the people around us can influence how we feel about ourselves when we don’t feel confident enough, and that’s why we seek validation. Like whenever we try on a dress and ask our boyfriends if we look fat (sounds familiar?).

How we relate to other people and how they react to us influences how we perceive ourselves. For example, if I tell a joke and someone laughs, I believe I am funny - mastering the skills of being thicked-face and accepted the fact that I am funny whether or not people laugh at my jokes.

Being validated is a reminder that you’re on the right path which boosts our self-esteem and makes us feel good about ourselves. Like when someone tells me, “you smell good today!”, I feel good about myself and will probably put on that perfume again.

The social identity theory also suggests that we get a gauge of who we are based on the groups we hang out with. For example, we want to hang out with the cool kids so we are perceived as cool (like in 13 Going on 30, or High School Musical, Mean Girls – every movie based in high school has a relatable example). When we are validated and are accepted into a group, we feel good about ourselves and feed off good energy.

Validation Satisfies Us

A recent study revealed that making good memories and spending time with people whose company you truly enjoy contributes to long-term satisfaction towards life. Therefore, when we are accepted and validated by such company, we will feel some sort of satisfaction.

The author, Kahneman, also suggested that the social media-driven culture makes people focus on presenting themselves as enviable rather than actually spending time with people – which would make us feel sad. You know those moments – those that can never truly be captured? You have your cameras ready but it can never encapsulate the perfect combination of your emotions, the ambience, the company you’re enjoying and the peace or contentment you feel in your heart. These are the moments we actually long for, but rarely have nowadays.

As much as we tell ourselves, “our likes and followers does not define us” (which really doesn’t), as a society, we have allowed social media to influence the way in which we perceive ourselves. It becomes a cycle, wouldn’t it? Because you think having more attention from social media means you’re heading in the right direction, but when you realize that it doesn’t actually contribute to your needs, you just turn to it again hoping to get more short-term satisfaction or instant gratification in order to boost our self-esteem.

Be it on social media or in real life, we seek validation because it feeds our self-esteem – not necessarily in a needy or narcissistic manner, but it helps us get a sense of our strengths and weaknesses. It also helps us understand what is important to us, for example, we post a photo that we genuinely like even though we know these aren’t the kind of things that gets more likes, but we do it anyway because it’s something that truly matters to us.

Is it all bad?

To a certain extent, we need validation. Seeking validation doesn’t equate to us being attention seekers. Receiving validation also allows us to tell right from wrong, it’s a mechanism for us to realize the norms - for example, if your best friend tells you that you shouldn’t be wearing sweat pants to a ballroom event, you probably shouldn’t.

Ultimately, there is then nothing wrong with seeking validation, you have the autonomy to attribute importance to things or people: if you think that social media is a legit platform to search validation and shape how you perceive yourself, so be it – but don’t be obsessed with it because what you see online may not be a true reflection of reality. If you choose to rely on the judgment of the people you trust dearly, sure! At the end of the day, just realize that we have the power to decide how we want to allow different spheres of life to shape us.

You may find Chloe on Instagram as well.

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