We have a problem and it’s a big one. So big that we’ve become better at being in denial about it than dealing with it. Its what’s driving most of our behaviours, secretly funding social networking platforms and is sadly also contributing to the mental health industry. It’s called seeking social validation, a need that’s on the rise like never before.
As relational beings, we are inherently wired for connection and belonging which explains our longing to be recognised and to fit in. Anyone who’s made it through school is familiar with this. Hanging out more with the popular kids, wearing trendy clothes and sometimes even jeopardising personal academic goals to do crazy stuff with the ‘cooler’, rebellious ones.
The idea is not to challenge a natural human need for acceptance but simply to ask, have we gone too far?
Fair to say that instant gratification provided by social media has amplified the need for validation. Added to this is platforms like Instagram and Tiktok that have dramatically raised both visibility and publicity for the general public. Combine that with the constant exposure to the ‘perfect’ glamourized lives and we have a vast majority of young people thinking ‘what am I without any of these things or achievements?’ And this is exactly where we seem to have lost the plot a little.
As a content creator or even a regular social consumer, the anticipation of likes and comments is almost inescapable. Quite often one ends up being disappointed by the lack of engagement or expected reciprocation and ending up in the unsettling zone of negative personal narratives- Am I not appealing enough? Is this picture not as inspiring as I thought?
I’ve been there too. Feeling let down and demotivated by not receiving enough engagement to the content that I would put out. It was only a matter of time before I realised this way of functioning is simply not sustainable. When you outsource your motivation to external factors its literally like giving your power away to things you have no control over. Not a good place to be in.
Social media may only be a symptom of what is a deeper systematic problem of society. Right from a young age, we’re conditioned such that to be loved and accepted one needs to be a high performer, an all-rounder, achieve more else we ain’t cutting it.
Unfortunately this model is flawed in more ways than we realise. Its increased the obsessive need for constantly proving ourselves and making comparisons to those at a different level, inevitably leading to inadequacy and self-doubt. In today’s digital age, this reality confronts teens as young as 13, who while may have built a large audience for themselves are most likely suffering from the unrealistic pressure of rushing into making it big and quick!
Having a high number of followers and likes seems to have become some sort of metric that defines our worthiness which reinforces our validation seeking tendencies. The effect of this starts trickling down in other areas of life, none of which result in any positive gains.
Keeping up with external expectations is only going to lead to self-sabotage because pursuing goals that are directed towards gaining others’ approval is an endless and exhausting race. That’s where knowing your worth comes in handy. Taking pride in your journey and doing things out of your own love and inspiration is the best way to become naturally confident, and that confidence is to stay with you.
Having high self worth is the magic pill that builds immunity against any of these externally driven disorders. But it takes work, because Building inner worthiness comes from being in acceptance of all that you are. When you embrace your quirks and imperfections, nobody else can throw criticism at you and even if they do, it’s got no hold over you. But reaching that stage requires becoming aware of your guiding values, being intentional about how you talk to yourself and embracing self-compassion. Remember you can be your own best friend or your own worst enemy. When you fall to the latter, that’s when you become more susceptible to relying on others to make you feel better about yourself.
It’s also helpful to regularly question your beliefs ‘does failing in this endeavour really make me a failure’? Understanding the internal dialogue is critical because its often the culprit to undermining our own worth, further creating self-loathing. The best way to counteract this is by staying curious about these thoughts and focusing on evidence that contradicts them. As the saying goes we become more of what we focus on.
In the distressing rut of feeling rejected followed by futile efforts to proving our superiority, realising true self-worth is the only permanent cure. Its about finding peace within yourself, trusting your inner judgement and recognising that your self-worth is not necessarily defined by your net-worth.
So whether you have a Million followers or not, whether you make it to Forbes 30 Under 30 or not, know that you are smart/beautiful/appealing enough in your own right.
Trust your journey and be your own validator because no one else will ever know your inherent worth and value more than you do.