‘I’m not what I think I am, I am what I think you think I am.’ is a popular idiom that accurately describes the mindset of a lot of people.
We often look to those around us to let us know that we’re doing fine and that we’re good enough, but too many people rely on external validation from others to feel good about themselves. Unfortunately, this can turn into an addiction where people constantly seek external validation from others. While it’s great for others to inform you of their admiration for you, it’s important for you to value your own opinion of yourself most. After all, it’s your life and you get to define what success and failure look like to you because you’re playing a game that’s unique to you, and one in which you generally don’t need to adhere to external standards set by someone else.
Strive to show yourself some love and be a good friend to yourself, by keeping these seven tips in mind:
- Be a good friend to yourself because talking down to yourself, especially during less than ideal times, breaks down your morale and motivation. Be honest with yourself, but don’t beat yourself up, give yourself encouragement instead. Sometimes the voice inside your head is a jerk, so remember to give yourself the same sort of support that you’d give your best friend.
- When it comes to loving and valuing yourself, it’s less about your circumstances and thoughts, and more about how you react to them. Life and thoughts happen, both of which you can’t always control, but you can control how you respond to them.
- We often see and fixate on the negativity in our lives because our brains scan for problems and threats. Just because we primarily notice the negative, it doesn’t mean that our existence is actually entirely (or mostly) negative – It just means that your brain is on the lookout for things that could go wrong. Simply put, your brain is just doing its job to help you.
- Joy comes from your own personal advancement and not from social comparisons. Periodically take a look back to see how far you’ve come, and also take a look at those around you so you can see what’s possible for you to achieve, but keep your primary focus on your path and what you’re doing.
- Having doubts doesn’t mean that you lack confidence or are weak. Even the most successful and confident people that you meet are prone to moments of doubts, and moments of uncertainty because no one knows the outcome ahead of time. Refuse to allow doubt and uncertainty to paralyse you, and continue to keep moving forward.
- Don’t judge your emotions or your thoughts because emotions and thoughts happen, so embrace them and let them pass through. You’re neither your thoughts or your emotions, they’re just something that passes through you from time to time, so let them come and go.
- You don’t need someone else’s permission to love yourself and to be happy. Give yourself that permission to be happy and to love and care about yourself, because if you don’t love yourself, why should anyone else?
Practise these seven tips, and eventually, you’ll find that you don’t need the external validation as much as you thought you did because you’re fully capable of validating yourself.
Matthew Buckley is an organisational psychologist. He holds a master’s degree in organisational psychology from the University of New Haven.