Whether you’re hoping for hundreds of likes on Instagram, help and support from friends, or a simple pat on the back from your parents, seeking validation from others for a quick boost of confidence is a natural tendency. People want to know that they’re smart and cool and on the right track in life, and these external things (read: likes, pats on the back, etc.) are definitely helpful.
It’s totally fine to look for others’ approval on occasion. But there comes a point where it becomes a habit — which is when it’s important to take a step back and recognize that you do not need someone else’s approval to feel good about yourself.
Essentially, confidence and validation go hand in hand. “A lack of confidence stems from a lack of trust in ourselves,” confidence coach Lisa Philyaw tells Bustle. “When we don't trust ourselves, then we look to others for approval. We trust their opinion more than our own, so we see their opinion as more valid because we're not trusting ourselves or our perspective.”
There is a positive, though — you can totally turn this around and learn how to build better trust and confidence in yourself. Read on for expert tips on how to stop seeking validation from others and to feel extra great about yourself instead.
1. Replace That Mean Voice In Your Head
According to Cheri Timko, MS, LPC, a licensed professional counselor and coach, everyone is their own worst critic. “If the way that you talk to yourself is critical, judgmental, or harsh, it will undermine your confidence,” she tells Bustle. So take the time to catch these thoughts as they happen, possibly by meditating or journaling, and note how they make you feel. “When you hear them, acknowledge the thoughts, but counter them with reminders that you are capable and valuable,” Timko says. Work on replacing harsh thoughts with more positive reflections that make you feel good instead.
2. Surround Yourself With Nice People
The need for validation can creep in when you’re surrounded by people who don’t have your back. Think judge-y friends or that person from Tinder who won’t text you back. Those folks will leave you feeling insecure and scrambling for approval, which is why it’s so important to have at least one person in your social circle who builds you up. “That person can be a friend or mentor, or it can be someone who is able to inspire through their social media feed or writing,” Timko says. “You need to hear other voices that remind you of how important your contribution to the world is.”
3. Check The Accuracy Of Your Beliefs
While there's nothing wrong with collaborating with other people, you don't want to be persuaded because you may not truly believe in your voice yet. "By checking the accuracy of your beliefs, you will recognize that your story is not stable and therefore will be able to consider other perspectives, such as: 'I can consider I am good enough', or 'I can consider I am equal to everyone else', or 'I can consider the only person who can truly grant me confidence is myself,'" says occupational therapist and well-being coach Shira Gura.
4. Remember To Practice
When you aren’t totally proficient at something — or even kind of OK at it — you’ll feel an increased need to check in with others to make sure you’re on the right track. Though there’s nothing wrong with asking for help, one surefire way to provide yourself with a little more confidence is by practicing on your own. This could apply to work skills, hobbies, relationships, making decisions, etc. “Confidence comes with competence,” Timko says. “The more you practice a skill, the more confident you feel in your ability.” And (you guessed it) the less likely you’ll be to seek approval.
5. Try To Understand Why You’re Seeking Approval
Comprehending why you're constantly seeking approval from others can make it easier to eliminate the behavior altogether. "Before you turn to others for approval, stop and ask yourself, 'What do I think about this?' Then, 'Why don’t I trust my own opinion in this matter?'" says clinical psychologist, speaker, and founder of the AZ Postpartum Wellness Coalition Christina G. Hibbert, Psy.D. "Perhaps you’ll find you are seeking approval because you’re uncertain, or perhaps you feel certain, but you’re seeking approval because you want someone else to like or accept you. Understanding the motive behind your need for approval is an important step in overcoming it."
6. Make A To-Do List
It may also help to create a list of all the things you’re afraid of or think you’re bad at — start with the smallest thing, like talking to strangers at a party, then go on to bigger obstacles, like speaking in front of your boss.
Once you have your list, start doing those things, says Dr. Kinga Mnich, a social psychologist, lecturer, and speaker. “Confidence is a feeling and a belief that you can do things no matter how hard they are. Once you complete these fears you will not require approval from others.”
7. Write Down Five Daily Accomplishments
You can also try this tip for a faster boost of confidence: Write down five things you have accomplished that day — no matter how small or big — before you go to bed at night, suggests Mnich. Jot down that you walked your dog, called your brother, answered a tough email, drank some water, vacuumed — literally anything you checked off your list.
“This works because you are shifting your focus on things that are working and not on the things that aren’t, which people who lack confidence do,” she explains. It’ll also serve as a personal reminder that you’re doin’ pretty great, even if it doesn’t always seem that way.
8. Keep Your Goals Realistic
The best way to build confidence is by keeping your goals manageable, at least in the beginning. “We often set high expectations for ourselves,” Erin Dierickx, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist associate, tells Bustle. “When they aren’t met, we usually find ourselves disappointed and discouraged. So, set yourself up for success. Develop small, attainable goals you know you can meet and slowly change them to further challenge yourself.” One example? Say that you’d like to go for a walk two days per week as opposed to every day.
9. Stick A Positive Note By Your Desk
There really is something to be said for positive mantras, quotable sticky notes, and songs that make you feel good. Choose a mantra or quote that helps remind you to stop seeking validation from others — then say it to yourself every single day. “Even better, have it in front of you to consciously and subliminally remind you of your worth and what you are striving for,” Dierickx says.
10. Take A Break From Social Media
Sometimes you just need to take a break from being overstimulated by social media. Try to focus on other things (like fixing up your resume or reading a new book) to help your mind unwind. "In a world full of media — social, television, print and beyond — we're bombarded with images of idealism,” says holistic wellness coach Pax Tandon. “We end up in a state of constant social comparison to others, knowing someone else had '100 likes' and needing the same to feel validated.” The downside to that? You can end up second-guessing yourself if you don’t get that approval, he explains.
11. Pause Before You Speak
If seeking validation from others has become a habit, try taking a second before communicating. “When you pause, you're taking a moment to check in with yourself first,” says Philyaw. You could ask yourself things like, “Do I need their opinion” or “What feels true to me?”
“This pause is your gift to yourself to help you hear you,” Philyaw says. “As you continue to do this, you'll find your urge to seek the opinions and approval of others decreases because you'll be building your trust in you each time you hear your own opinion.”
12. Learn To Accept Yourself For Who You Are
Another key tip: Don't worry about what other people are thinking, but instead solely focus on what makes you happy. "It can be challenging to accept all parts of ourselves, but that is truly where self-confidence begins. As we accept who we are, we find we don’t need others’ approval or input anymore, because we know the truth about ourselves," says clinical psychologist, speaker, and founder of the AZ Postpartum Wellness Coalition Christina G. Hibbert, Psy.D.
13. Try Not To Compare Yourself To Others
The best way to shatter your confidence? Comparing yourself to others. So instead of measuring yourself against your siblings, people online, or your coworkers, try to strike a balance between being cool with where you’re at while also thinking about where you’d like to be.
“Accept yourself for who you are right now and understand you can learn, grow and change in positive ways,” says Dr. Kruti Quazi, MA, LPC, licensed professional counselor and clinical director of therapy platform Sesh. “Do not try to attain perfection — that is unrealistic! Just be your own best version of yourself.”
14. Work On Being Brave
If you find yourself faltering — and it’s a moment where you’d normally ask for validation or approval — give yourself permission to do it anyway, even if you make a mistake or mess up. “Don't wait for confidence to come,” Philyaw says. “Instead, lean into courage when confidence is lacking. If we think we need to feel confident to move forward, we'll stop ourselves from getting started.”
One way to push yourself? Focus on that courage instead of confidence. “This allows you to move forward without having to feel like you've got it all figured out,” she says. “Being courageous also means you don't have to have all the right answers, so you won't have the same urgency to seek others' approval. Instead, you courageously move forward, supporting yourself along the way.”
15. Learn To Accept Mistakes
Everyone messes up and says or does the wrong thing on occasion. And the chances for that increase tenfold when you’re trying new things and stepping outside your comfort zone. So try to be OK with it. “Remind yourself that we all make mistakes, even [people] you may compare yourself to,” Quazi says. “Through mistakes comes learning and learning lends itself to gaining confidence through practice.”
16. Become Aware Of Your Positive Traits
According to therapist Keischa Pruden, LCMHCS, LCAS, to stop seeking validation from others, it’s a huge help to ask yourself questions about what makes you great. Zero in on things you handle well on your own and things you’ve already accomplished. Ask yourself, “What is my proudest moment?” or “What brings me joy?”
“Answering these questions can help bolster your self-esteem and increase your self-confidence,” she tells Bustle. “If you find yourself having difficulty answering these questions on your own, ask someone you trust to answer them for you. While that may seem like seeking outside validation, it helps someone who may have a low self-concept see themselves in a more positive light.”
17. Be Nice To Yourself
It takes a lot of work and self-care to replace bad habits, meet goals, speak kindly to yourself, and generally recognize that you do not need someone else's approval to feel good about yourself. So go ahead and bask in that positive vibe.
“Building confidence is an ongoing process, but it can be a lot more fun and exciting when we approach ourselves with understanding,” Dierickx says. “Embrace the process, trust yourself, and soon enough you will be building your confidence and relying less on others for approval.”
Lisa Philyaw, confidence coach
Cheri Timko, MS, LPC, licensed professional counselor and coach
Dr. Kinga Mnich, social-psychologist, lecturer, and speaker
Erin Dierickx, LMFT, licensed marriage and family therapist associate
Keischa Pruden, LCMHCS, LCAS, CCS, therapist
Pax Tandon, holistic wellness coach
Christina G. Hibbert, Psy.D, clinical psychologist, speaker, and founder of the AZ Postpartum Wellness Coalition
Shira Gura, occupational therapist and well-being coach
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