The purpose and pitfalls of social validation


I’ve been thinking a lot about social validation lately. I’m realizing that I’m addicted to Facebook. I post constantly, like/comment often, and seek out drama so that I can put in my two cents, often unsolicited and dripping with sarcasm. I’ve been working to curb this behavior and instead trying to focus on content that I find enjoyable, current events, the goings on of my friends and loved ones, and commenting in a more positive and thoughtful way. I’ve been considering doing a culling of my friends list and pages I’ve liked so that I can focus on the people and outlets that matter to me and not be inundated with content that I simply couldn’t care less about. Coming to this realization, I’ve been trying to understand the drive behind the need for social validation.

For me, my search for social validation has not been limited to Facebook. I realize I’ve been doing it my entire life with my lovers, my friends, my family, my parents, my teachers, my coaches, my supervisors, and even my dog. And the sheer fact I’m writing a blog about it in hopes that my thoughts will be acknowledged and also hoping to receive feedback is more proof to how much I value the way other people see me.

We live in a wonderful time where the wealth of human knowledge and experience is readily available to us any time of day. So, I dove into the depths of the internet (which is to say that I googled “social validation”) and found several articles. I’m quickly learning that my favorite site is PsychologyToday. There I’ve found so many useful articles about the plethora of ponderings I have on the daily. I came across an article titled The Theory of Social Validation and found these two excerpts:

Robert Chialdini’s ideas on social proof (theory of social validation) [states]: “When we are uncertain about what to do we will look to other people to guide us. And we do this automatically and unconsciously.”

But let’s go beyond the Internet, how often do we apply this principle to our own lives? How often do we try to influence the opinions that people make about us or the things we do that depend on others’ recognition of us for success? No matter the field, if we look to progress, we have to depend on people to say we are not only capable, but the exact person to fulfill a need. To go a step further, we need gatekeepers to say this.

And lo and behold, I was finding even more social validation in this article! There’s an entire theory! There’s someone else out there writing exactly my thoughts and reciting my motivations! Praise be to the internet!


So, then I had to ruminate. If it’s known that we seek out validation from others, and theorized that it’s inherit in our very nature to do so, then why do I feel I have a problem with it? Here’s what I’ve deduced:

I’ve been incredibly critical of others who seek out social validation and have directed many unkind and harmful words their direction. Shouldn’t they just be secure knowing that they are good enough? (I know that apologies are usually self-serving to alleviate one’s own guilt but to those of you I’ve been judgmental towards, I am truly very sorry.) I came to realize that I was projecting my own insecurities onto others who exhibit the very behavior I’m most ashamed of: I’m not secure in knowing that I am good enough. I rely on others to tell me I’m good enough like it’s a life raft, when really it’s been an anchor, while it keeps me from drifting off course during turbulent times it also hinders me from navigating to the shores of self-acceptance, rowing to the point of exhaustion with no progress. (Shout out to the person I used this metaphor on to point out your insecurity, I’m not proud of my behavior and I’ll do better, but I’m glad for the metaphor because it gave me clarity to see my faults.) And instead of focusing on building myself up so that I’m more secure with the person I am and focusing on the hope of being someone better, I instead have chosen to tear down those around me.

Uh….isn’t that your purpose though?

My criticism of others has been keeping me from being compassionate to those who also seek out social validation, so I’ve resolved to focus on my own problem with it instead. I’m not saying that it’s unhealthy to value it because I know every person out there needs some level of social validation and it’s good to have external objectivity when it comes to aspects of one’s life that may be clouded by insecurity, ignorance, or naivete. It’s when social validation becomes the only way for me to feel good about the person that I am that there’s a problem.

Shouldn’t I just be secure knowing that I’m good enough? I’m going to focus on being good enough for me and work on treating those I care about with compassion. I have to treat others the way I want to be treated.

So, like this, comment on this, share it with anyone you think it’ll help or because it resonated something within, but I’ve got some work to do on myself and I’ll take my social validation in smaller doses.



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1 thought on “The purpose and pitfalls of social validation”

  1. Just so you know, I, too, feel as you. That need for approval is strong. I think a lot of it came about as a result of how we (meaning your dad, Gina and I) were raised. It was fairly tense most of the time, especially with our mother. The key for me now is letting go of all things from the past, the proverbial baggage. I am learning to love me. Better late than not ever.


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