I wrote this in response to a post from David at How to Beast. It’s a great post but I’m going to give it my own slant.
First, I want you to admit that you have a problem.
It’s ok. I had this problem myself for many years.
“What’s the problem?” I’ll tell you what it is:
You care too much.
Mainly, you care too much about the opinions of other people. Not only their opinions… but their approval. Their validation. You know the kind I’m talking about.
I’m talking about that high you get when someone likes your photo on Facebook or when they re-tweet your status on Twitter.
This “high” even extends to your personal life, with family and friends.
Here’s the problem: validation is a drug that can lead to validation addiction. You’ll never have enough. If you try and “get enough” it can lead to a ruined life.
I’ll tell you right now – if you want any shot at “success” or “happiness”, you need to get rid of your validation addiction ASAP.
By the end of this article, you will:
- Understand why it is so easy to develop a validation addiction
- Learn why so many people seek validation like it’s the last thing on earth
- Discover how to undermine the effect validation has on you
If you continue down this path of seeking endless validation…you will be easily used and manipulated by others, no better than a puppet on a string.
Your locus of control will become diminished..
I don’t want that and I know you don’t either.
So let’s start with the basics.
Why is validation so alluring?
Everyone wants to be liked. Everyone wants to be accepted.
It’s alright if you feel this way. It’s human to feel this way. This desire is a remnant from your ancient ancestors.
Dopamine and approval addiction
Alright, let’s talk about dopamine.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for motivation.
It’s the “go get it chemical”
Your brain releases dopamine every time you do something that will possibly ensure or promote your survival.
Food and sex are two of the biggest reinforcements of this neurotransmitter. This is why so many people are addicted to food and this is why a lot of people are addicted to sex.
How does it relate to this example?
Well, you get a hit of dopamine when you’re told you did a good job or when you please someone who you consider your superior or slightly above you in social standing.
Validation is nice. It can be a sign that you’re doing something right!
Despite external validation’s ability to give us solid feedback, it can be abused.
Social media is validation on steroids.
Social media takes this human fixation on validation and ratchets it up to a new level.
You can get “external validation” from your friends on social media…doing absolutely jack and shit.
This is why it’s so easy to become a spectator in today’s world. You can sit on your couch and make rants about the state of the world and you’ll be rewarded for it.
The person who’s actually going out there and making a difference doesn’t see immediate rewards (unless they take a selfie and post it on Instagram).
Social media validation can be detrimental.
Why bother going out and traveling unless someone’s going to see it?
Why bother spending the long hours to build a business unless you can document it on social media?
Being addicted to validation, especially on social media can prevent you from taking risks, something all young men should be doing.
Social media’s effect on the primal need for external validation is one of the ways in which you decrease your personal power.
After reading this far, you may say “yeah, yeah…I get it“.
But do you really? There’s more…
The validation and approval addiction trap
As you get more and more validation, three things start to happen:
- It turns into a habit
- You want more and more
- You try to “one up” yourself
Desire for validation can turn into a habit. A bad one. And fast.
A habit is formed by repetition. Repetition is encouraged by once again…dopamine. If something feels good, you’ll make it more likely you’ll do it again.
Soon, addiction to validation becomes a cycle, like a puppy chasing it’s tail.
Eventually, it isn’t enough for 50 people to like and comment on your photo.
You then need 51.
You then post something that only gets 6 likes.
You are emotionally shattered.
That’s it. You need your next update to be “out of this world”.
So, you’ll attempt to one-up yourself.
You post something wittier, something more comical.
On a long enough timeline, it gets to the point where you become a parody of yourself.
People then only know you as “the clown”. The guy that everyone expects to give them a good time, with no other redeeming qualities.
That’s only on social media. What’s it like in real life when it comes to family and friends?
As I said earlier, we all crave the attention our superiors give us. This goes for our older family and friends.
If you’re stuck in a job you don’t like, you’ll keep on doing it because your parents think it’s awesome. If you’re in a relationship you don’t like, you will stay in it.
You will live a life that’s not really yours. You’re not running the day is running you. You’re the servant, not the master.
You’re not going to see the larger picture of how there’s much more to your life than appearing a certain way to certain people.
You’re not going to see that these people themselves are not perfect. They have people that they themselves want validation from.
Knowing this, let’s go a bit deeper.
Why people seek validation
If you want to know how to break your addiction to validation, you have to understand why people look for it.
We live in a world where:
- Many people are becoming more and more disconnected from each other despite advances in communication technology
- Many people are becoming more depressed and anxious with each passing year
- Many people lack self-confidence
Everyone wants to be acknowledged on some level. Everyone wants to know deep down inside:
“Yes. I make a difference and I matter.”
People want to be seen.
Don’t believe me? Next time you check out at a store register, pay the cashier a random compliment. Watch them light up.
This doubly counts if they’re a girl/woman.
People are so desperate for attention and approval that they will do almost anything for the person who can provide that in spades (one of the cornerstones of social intelligence, by the way).
A double whammy is added when the person didn’t receive a lot of attention from their parents during childhood. They will naturally go and seek it from others.
That’s not good.
The problem with seeking approval from other people
The tastes and sensibilities of people are changing by the day. This is especially true because many people can’t focus.
You cannot build a solid foundation on something that’s constantly changing.
If you try to gain the favor of other people, you will be forever chasing the wind. You will experience no peace of mind.
You need to realize that your life is in your hands. You have to rise up and take responsibility for your life. No one else will do it for you, no matter how much “entertainment” you give them.You cannot build a solid foundation on something that's constantly changing. Click To Tweet
How to stop the addiction to validation.
If you want to break the cycle of validation it’s important that you do these things:
1. Stop the codependency, realize you have a problem
Addiction to validation at it’s core is codependency on a spectrum. Codependency is:
“Codependency is characterized by a person belonging to a dysfunctional, one-sided relationship where one person relies on the other for meeting nearly all of their emotional and self-esteem needs”
At its best validation addiction is needing little “hits” of dopamine to cheer you up. At its worst, it turns into stalker-like and obsessive behavior (something many people have a problem with on social media).
This in and of itself is a cause for concern.
Most people do not want to admit that they’re “addicted” to something because the word itself has such a negative connotation. But this is the first step to realizing that you need to step back.
Drawing back from certain activities and people is a key way to stop your addiction to validation.
This may mean closing certain social media accounts to not even hanging out with certain people.
Not surprisingly, withdrawing can lead to withdrawal. You will crave that “drug” again. You’ll want to go back. This is the part where you hold fast and don’t give in. This means that your brain is changing. This is how you establish self-discipline.
3. Establish non-negotiables
You must have guiding principles that govern your life from which you never deviate. What are they?
Are you a person of integrity? A person of self-discipline? A person of execution?
If you don’t know what these principles are or what they stand for, you are a prime sucker for…sucking up.
4. Get some goals
If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.
Anybody can just lead you down any path and you’ll gladly follow along.
Goals go along with the “non-negotiables” because they’re a destination.
With a clear destination and plans to get there, you won’t need to please anyone or do anything doesn’t correspond to these goals. The opinion of the world won’t matter.
5. Know thyself
This is the hardest one to do…but the most essential. You need to ask yourself one question:
Who the fuck am I?
Think back to when you were a young tyke. Who was he before the opinions of the world and self-limiting beliefs got in his way?
Take 10-15 minutes and sit in a quiet room and think about this. Without this knowledge, you’ll just end up following other people.
The final verdict
Am I saying social media is a bad thing? Definitely not. It has helped myself and millions of other people connect to others all over the globe.
Am I saying approval from friends and family is a bad thing? Nope. Having people who have known you for years acknowledge your accomplishments gives you an indescribable feeling.
You just need to understand that social media is a tool. Familial approval is a tool. These can let you know that you may be on the right track towards greater achievement.
You also need to understand that validation has a dark side. You need to avoid that dark side.
Lastly, you need to understand that chasing an unrealistic level of validation is ultimately a road to nowhere – one that wastes time, wastes life, and ultimately wastes potential.
That’s all I’m saying. You can’t spend your life surrounded by a bunch of yes-men, shielding you from the ups and downs of life.
Lots of people spend and have spent their entire life riding a high of validation until it all came crashing down leading to their physical or emotional demise.
Have any thoughts about our validation culture? Let me know in the comments.