External Validation Hinders Self-Acceptance by Camille Williams, MA, LCPC

I am worthy.

I am good enough.

I am ok just the way I am.

These are statements of self-validation and acceptance. Living in a society that sends the opposite message to us, often for marketing purposes, can make it difficult to believe these statements.

Companies need people to feel a void or find flaws in order to sell products. The goal is they want people thinking the opposite. I am not good enough. I need to be less this or more that. These thoughts can negatively impact emotional and mental wellbeing. Results of persistent judgment and criticism of self can lead to an increase in addictive behaviors and an increase in emotional distress. Therefore, it’s not uncommon for people to seek validation and reassurance externally.

External validation may be sought indirectly with people-pleasing behaviors. An individual may do or say things, as well as dress or look a certain way, to seek validation from others. This is particularly dangerous if the person is going against their own values or beliefs just to receive the validation of others. And unfortunately, when this validation is provided, it is often rejected or dismissed quickly. As an example, I may subconsciously be aware that when I am overly friendly and generous with a co-worker it results in receiving compliments about my character and appearance. I may spend extra time, money, and disregard my own boundaries or values to go out of my way to please that co-worker because of my need for external validation. However, if I do not like myself or believe these compliments, then it will not be meaningful because I will most likely discredit and argue the compliments and turn to the negative internal dialogue that is most often present.

Therefore, we should not seek external validation for an internal struggle. If a sense of worth and acceptance is missing, that is not going to be found through other people’s acceptance of us. Even if a million people saw worth in someone, if that individual does not see it in self, it will not matter and will ultimately be ruled invalid by that person. So, it’s time to stop seeking the praise and reinforcements of others and start looking to self for validation and support. It starts by beginning to identify strengths and positives rather than relying on others to do it.

Are you willing to give yourself one compliment per day (rather than waiting for someone else to)? Are you willing to be proud of yourself for at least one thing per day (rather than waiting for others to notice)? Are you willing to start praising yourself today (rather than relying on others to praise you)?

Whenever you are ready, this is when change towards acceptance can happen because it will be authentic, meaningful and internalized.

TK Contributor: As the Timberline Knolls Eating Disorder Program Coordinator, Camille Williams MA, NCC, LCPC, supports the development of curriculum, supervises the eating disorder specialists, and provides group therapy. She also educates and trains all staff on campus and advocates for eating disorder awareness through publications. Timberline Knolls serves as an iaedp™Presidents Council Member.


*The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders and not intended as endorsement by iaedp Foundation, Inc. or its Board of Directors.*

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