Today I want to talk about something that I think is somewhat of a taboo topic in our society and it’s our incessant need for validation. We are inherently social creatures and validation plays an important evolutionary role. We use people’s validation of us as signaling tool to help us figure out whether we are doing the right things to survive. If those around us like the things that we are doing, then that must mean that we are doing something right. Right?
I think so for the most part. I genuinely believe that if we constantly seek validation from our parents, peers, and society at large we will be able to achieve success at least in the terms dictated by our parents, peers and the rest of society. Seeking validation is a great tool for survival and it’s hear to stay.
Having said so, I think that there are two problems with seeking validation from others. First, it limits our dynamic range of emotions. By this I mean that if we constantly seek validation from others we won’t ever be able to achieve extended periods of happiness and our highs won’t be as high as they could be. This is a big claim to make but I stand by it. If we constantly seek the validation of others we will always be trying to achieve that next milestone and once we achieve that one we will go for the next big thing. There is no pause because there will always be someone more important that can give us the validation that we need. We also can’t be as happy as we could possibly be because we never truly feel that we’ve made it.
Second, I think that seeking validation limits our potential specifically our potential to do unique work. If you think about it those that seek validation from their peers will follow established paths because that’s what constitutes success for their peers. Smart kids will go to the best schools and then get the best jobs at the best companies because that’s what will impress their friends, their parents and even that aunt they meet once every two years at a family gathering.
To me the key takeaway from this thought experiment is that seeking validation limits your ability to think for yourself. I’ve recently come to appreciate more and more the importance of thinking for yourself because as Socrates once said:
“A life not examined is not worth living”
Thinking for yourself allows you to live life in your own terms. You might end up doing what impresses your friends and family but as long as you’re being intentional about it you will do whatever fulfills you the most. In the end to me that’s what it means to live a good life.