The problem with “What would people say?”
Lately I realized that I was seeking a lot of approval for my blogs from the people around me. I would regularly ask them if they like my posts or not. I would assume that if two out of three friends appreciate my post, I would consider it worth promoting. There feedback were always a mix of good and bad. Thus seeking lot of feedback from them was not only decreasing my enthusiasm for writing my heart out but also the purity of my blogs.
Our psychology is evolved in a way, we seek validation. We live in a society where we are taught to be a nice guy from the very first day of our childhood. Not because a nice guy can contribute to the society in a better way but because other people keep an eye on us – they are always judging us. I still remember what my mom used to say all my childhood – “लोग क्या कहेंगे?” (“What would people say?”). This consciousness of being judged by other people gets ingrain in our subconscious mind. We start to do things just to impress people around us.
The confusion between appreciation and validation
You would argue that how this become an issue for the people. After all, this is a way of getting an appreciation for what we do. The problem is that there is a big difference between appreciation & validation and most of us don’t know. Validation is asking for others approval about us being the better than the others; either explicitly or implicitly. Thus seeking external validation is an act of judging self-worth based on what others may think of us. This is a dangerous path and most of us tread upon.
We find our self-worth in the cars we drive, cloths we wear, houses we live in, food we eat and the friends we have. When you see these things as the yardstick of your self-worth, you start comparing yourself to others. And, here lies the problem – one to one comparison with others. When you don’t find something comparable to others you seek validation for what you have. The allusive approval of others relives your brain of wishful ‘short comings’ you have. The problem is, it is very hard to know when this external approval seeking becomes addition. When this becomes an addition, it start to dictates our life. In most of our life’s decision other’s opinion start to matter more than our own.
Seeking validation from friends and families
Some parents talk about their kinds ambition of becoming doctor or an engineer although the kid is interested in playing football and does nothing about the studies. You too might be talking about your plans to go to some big business school just to feel accepted in your group. Or, you may have a friend who just brags about anything he has. He always talks about what he has and how he plans to do something wonderful in future. He is actually trying to convince you that he is not a damn looser. Seeking external validation from external friends and family members is a disaster in long run. This is because the person’s main focus shifts from improving his realities to hiding his realities from the others.
When we talk in a group, we try of saying something which can get the validation from the group and not what is correct or important. We fear that people will reject our suggestion and if they reject our idea or the suggestion we will loose our worth in the group. A person with high self-esteem will steer the group in right direction. He will not let all dictated by the ‘vocal-fools’ of the group. Had Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela feared the rejection of their ideas by the people – non-violence and anti-apartheid movement would not have been known to us.
Seeking validation on social media networks
The main reason behind the fast growth of Facebook and Instagram is also the same. That is the people’s hunger for appreciation and validation. For instance, suppose there had been no button to like & comment. Could the Facebook be such a big company? There is mainly two reasons for Facebook phenomenal growth:
- People love to show-off the bright side of their life. (More like meaning more likable!)
- They want to see whats going on in another person’s life (Are they better than us?)
Let’s assume you had a vacation trip to some place and enjoyed a lot. You posted few photographs of your trip and some from your friends posted her photos too. She got lot of likes and comment on her Facebook status and you got quite less. Then, you start to feel that your vacation was less enjoyable than hers. This means you need other people’s ‘LIKE’ to tell you that your vacation was better than others. In other words, other’s perception about you shape how you feel about yourself. External validation has nothing to do with the actual happiness of a person. It deprecates self-worth and one’s self esteem. Hence, you should learn to live without external validation on social networks.
The Trap of External Validation and Self-Esteem
The main demerits in seeking external validation is that it becomes a norm and you will seek validation from everyone for every small and big decision of your life. This will lead you to a life where you don’t choose what you do in your life but the people around you. It is like trying to live everyone’s life and not the self.
The fear of getting rejected or invalidated will end up not trying something you were dreaming all your life. You end-up refusing things you always thought of having them. So when you move towards the end of your life you will regret not having chosen something for the fear of people. The people who will no longer be playing any part for betterment of your life. The people who will be unimportant to you. Those people are already around you and their opinion should not be the yardstick for your self-worth and self-esteem.
In my opinion, you should be crystal clear on the concept of appreciation and validation. Put simply. You are doing something and people praise you. This is appreciation. You should accept it and move on with a smile. But to get the praise you are doing something. This is seeking external validation. Here lies the problem. You are giving more importance to what people think of you instead of what you think is right.
Choice is yours: Live and be you or be someone else and live their life
Don’t give people around you the permission to determine your worth and value. Realize the fact that there out to be millions of people who are not so ‘cool’, and being called one of them is completely okay. You are not the only fat or the lean girl in the whole world, and there is no reason to feel bad about it. You are not the only person in the world who has got a smaller car than his neighbor and, there is no point buying bigger one just prove your worth to your neighbor.
Remember that people do not consider you the biggest looser. So don’t try to prove them otherwise. You are not yet proven to be the biggest looser. Because there has never been a competition of losers and you never won it. I still remember the most ‘dude’ boy of my school turn out be a ‘failure’ when he entered the college. It is important to realize that you are a super-man and the right time has not come yet to show-up. Till then, keep doing what has been interesting to you all along.