Understanding the Psychology of Validation: A Path to Self-Awareness and Growth

18 November 2023
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In this article, you will learn:

  • The psychology of validation and its evolutionary roots.
  • The modern phenomenon of seeking validation, particularly in the digital realm and under societal pressure.
  • The pitfalls of external validation, highlight the false and destructive nature of seeking validation solely from external factors.
  • The psychology of validation discusses theories such as social comparison theory, self-determination theory, confirmation bias, and self-esteem theory.
  • How to cultivate internal validation, focusing on self-acceptance, recognizing the harmful effects of seeking validation, and cultivating internal validation.

The Evolutionary Advantage of Seeking Validation

The quest for validation within a group is a fundamental aspect of human behavior, rooted in our evolutionary history as a survival mechanism.

Since the beginning of human existence, being accepted by social groups has played a significant role in our ability to survive and reproduce.

This need for validation keeps driving us in search of acceptance, recognition, and approval from our peers and social circles.

As we strive to fit in, belong, and be valued within our communities, it influences our choices, actions, and decisions, sometimes in very destructive ways.

This fundamental aspect of human nature continues to influence how we relate to each other, how we interact socially, and how we feel about self-worth in the modern world.

The Modern Phenomenon of Seeking Validation

In today’s world, the need for validation, though divorced from physical survival, persists and has a significant impact on our lives. The current landscape, dominated by social media platforms, has changed the dynamics of seeking validation, opening up new avenues and challenges.

Seeking Validation in the Digital Realm

We have swapped the dangers of the wilderness for an iPhone and now pursue validation through metrics such as likes, comments, shares, and follower counts on social media.

In addition, the possessions we acquire often serve to signal our status within certain groups so that we can, yes you guessed it right, feel validated and accepted.

Societal Pressure and Seeking Validation

The frantic pace and competitiveness of modern society perpetuates the search for constant validation, and the saddest part is that it’s often from people we don’t know or like.

The pressure to meet societal expectations, achieve success, and gain recognition drives individuals to seek validation from their peers.

The Pitfalls of External Validation

Seeking validation beyond the confines of a vulnerable and loving relationship can be a precarious endeavor.

We must remain mindful of our innate human need for connection and belonging, which remains unchanged.

The False and Destructive Nature of External Validation

Anything and everything based solely on external factors is not only deceptive but also harmful. Validation is no exception.

Why? Because it fails to facilitate the acquisition of life-changing skills or improvements in mental and physical health.

The Illusion of External Validation

The criteria for validation—whether set by social media, advertisements, or fleeting trends, lead to a futile pursuit. It erodes our sense of authenticity and all personal growth.

We become imprisoned when we live a life in pursuit of validation.

The Psychology of Validation

Social Comparison Theory

Our natural tendency to evaluate ourselves by comparing our skills, opinions, and attributes with others fuels the constant search for validation.

Self-Determination Theory

We have three innate psychological needs: autonomy, competence, and relatedness.

Validation becomes a vehicle for fulfilling the need for relatedness, fostering a sense of connection, acceptance, and affirmation.

While autonomy, competence, and being able to relate our important traits we have taken it too far and it has become destructive for our mental and physical health.

We do things in the name of “see me, validate me” that we would never do if we knew we were accepted just as we are.

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias, the tendency to seek out information that confirms our existing beliefs, turns the search for validation into a mechanism for validating preconceived notions and biases.

The best way to work with confirmation bias and the current attention economy that you’re navigating is to get to know yourself.

Not the version you present to the world so they can accept and validate you, but the version you like when you look in the mirror.

Self-Esteem Theory

We seek validation to maintain or increase our self-image and self-esteem.

Positive feedback acts as a social reward, reinforcing our positive self-image.

But remember feedback is just like a letter in your mailbox.

You don’t have to open it

The antidote to being enslaved by validation lies in understanding psychological theories and mental models that provide insights into the natural and deeply ingrained human behavior of seeking validation.

How To Cultivate Internal Validation

To navigate the complexities of the modern era while preserving authenticity and personal growth, a delicate balance between seeking external validation and fostering internal validation is crucial.

Focus on you. Instead of seeking validation, seek self-knowledge.

Embracing Self-Acceptance

Wholeheartedly embracing and accepting ourselves is pivotal, as seeking validation often stems from a lack of self-acceptance.

If we want to free ourselves from everything, we have to identify with nothing.

Recognizing Harmful Effects of Seeking Validation

Seeking validation may provide reassurance, but it is detrimental to our authentic self and inhibits personal growth.

Cultivating Internal Validation

Internal validation involves recognizing and appreciating our worth and achievements independently of external validation.

By understanding the psychological factors behind seeking validation and embracing self-acceptance, we can reduce our reliance on external validation and stimulate personal growth.

Final Thoughts

Rather than engaging in the social media likes and followers game or acquiring unaffordable possessions to impress people who are indifferent to your actions, seek and nurture relationships with empowering people.

Intentionally surround yourself with people who embody the qualities you admire. This creates an environment that fosters personal growth and development.

Presence and influence become wellsprings of inspiration, propelling you toward becoming the best version of yourself.

These relationships will have a positive impact on your journey toward self-improvement and self-actualization.


  1. Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117(3), 497-529.
  2. Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2000). The “what” and “why” of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self-determination of behavior. Psychological Inquiry, 11(4), 227-268.
  3. Festinger, L. (1954). A theory of social comparison processes. Human Relations, 7(2), 117-140.
  4. Leary, M. R., Tambor, E. S., Terdal, S. K., & Downs, D. L. (1995). Self-esteem as an interpersonal monitor: The sociometer hypothesis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 68(3), 518-530.

Book I have read and can recommend

  • Brown, B. (2010). The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. Hazelden Publishing.
  • Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Random House.
  • Neff, K. D. (2011). Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind. William Morrow.

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