Photo by Dalya Holder

The one thing that most people are looking for is validation. Validation that their feelings make sense, validation that they’re okay, and most importantly, validation that they are loved. But what happens when that need for validation takes over one’s life and becomes all-consuming? When other people’s opinions become the only thing that matter? This can lead to obsessive thoughts about others, constant worrying about being judged and second-guessing your own opinions and actions. It leads to unhealthy and unfulfilling relationships.

For many years, I coped with this “need”. I would always look to others to see how I should feel, what I should think or how I should act. I didn’t understand who I truly was, because I never reflected inward. I relied solely on what insight others could offer me about myself or my situation. As if somehow, they knew what I should do better than I did, in every area of my life. My personal relationships, my friendships, the way I parented—it was all dictated by others. I never thought about the answers for myself.

Living in a constant state of uncertainty caused me to develop major trust issues…with myself. I couldn’t trust myself to pick the right friends or relationships. I couldn’t even trust myself to buy the right shower curtain without asking for someone else’s opinion on the subject! This constant “need” for validation caused many problems in my interactions with others and made me feel like there was a growing void in my life.

This void I felt within myself continued to spread, because how could I feel fulfilled when I was sure every little thing I was doing was wrong? Even worse, this prevented me from knowing who I truly was. I was just a mash-up of others’ opinions and views. I found that I was slowly losing myself. Losing myself in friendship, relationships and really anything that made me feel valid and whole, even if it was fleeting. And it was always fleeting. I would run into an issue and ask 12 different people their opinions and ideas. Getting so many different responses felt confusing and overwhelming, but I would still continue this cycle because I just needed to “know” that others approved of my choices. I never checked in with myself and wondered if these things were right for me. And of course, any temporary validation I received left as quickly as it came.

I lived this way for a long time. It’s how I picked the people in my life. It’s how I decided what to do for a living. This lifestyle also made me feel miserable and void of any substance. It contributed to my lack of self-worth and self-esteem, because ultimately, by trying to do what everyone else thought I should do, I was mistreating myself. By so obsessively chasing validation from others, I ended up never feeling validated by anyone, including myself.

All of this validation-seeking was subtle. On the outside, I was extremely “confident”, and my need for validation came out in very select ways. In ways only I knew about. I would cover it up with a tough exterior—one that was completely made up…which only left me feeling even more weak and empty inside!

When I started my journey of healing, I had to figure out why I was always feeling so empty and as if nothing was ever good enough. I began researching my feelings, went to therapy and started delving into the world of personal development. I would literally read every article on “How to Emotionally Feel Better” I could, watch every YouTube clip, find every book recommended. I also began asking people who seemed happy what they did differently than me. I found myself asking anyone and everyone, but this time, asking for people’s opinions was actually about helping myself and not about seeking validation.

I asked them how they stopped unwanted thoughts, I asked how they had confidence—I asked and asked. I started to share my own true feelings of emptiness and about the void I felt. I took everyone’s advice, because I was desperate to find a solution. As I did this, however, I found that not everything which worked for others also worked for me. This was an important discovery, because until then, I had assumed everyone else had the right answers for me. This taught me that there could be another way. Maybe there was a balance between hearing others’ advice and seeing for MYSELF what actually worked and what didn’t. I had to learn to listen to my soul and my own thoughts. I began to ask myself better questions. These questions weren’t what do other people do?; they were about me. These questions made me turn inward. This was a key component to my healing. I was able to hear other people, but began to see what worked for ME. I would try different things, and then I would start asking myself, “What do I think?”, “What do I want?” and “What do I feel?” These are questions I had never truly asked myself or thought about before. I had always assumed everyone else had the right answer, so I had never needed to ask them.

Learning to tap into my intuition helped it become stronger in all areas of my life. I began to apply it in my personal development, business, love life, friendships and even my parenting. I started with small steps, like meditating to monitor my thoughts and journaling about my own opinions on a subject, and I also learned how to trust myself. To trust that I could make good decisions and was capable of knowing what was right for me without asking everyone else. Even if for some reason, the decision which I made in the moment wasn’t “perfect”, it was okay, as Iong as I had learned something from it so I could make the next decision better.

Now when I ask others for their opinion, it’s for input, not validation. I’ve learned to trust myself, and therefore trust others in my relationships. I have learned to look inward and know that the only person I need validation from is myself. Once I started to step into that more, all my relationships changed drastically. I became a better friend, daughter, sister, mother and partner.

A person who accepts and validates themselves is automatically accepted and validated by others. I can honestly say that once I stopped looking to others for validation, and that “need” changed, I started to feel more validated and loved by those around me than ever before!

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Malky Werczberger is an Empowerment Coach and the founder of Empowering Coaching and Parents of Teens Talk. She specializes in building communication between parents and teenagers so they can overcome conflict and achieve lifelong, peaceful and trusting relationships with ease.