I like to think that I’m independent of judgement. I like to think that I don’t care what people think of me, and that the only approval I need is self-approval. But if I’m honest with myself, I care a lot. I care about what I say in class, because I want people to think I’m thoughtful. I care a lot about what I look like, because I believe in the importance of first impressions. I care about coming off as friendly, or hostile, because I want to make friends with the right people.
So many sayings exist about ignoring the need for validation. One of my favorites is by author Bernard Baruch:
“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”
The reason this quote is better than the all too cliche “be yourself!” is that it recognizes that humans want to feel validation, which is normal, and okay. What it really boils down to is whose validation you’re searching for. We shouldn’t be searching for validation from those who don’t have our best interest at heart, or those that have low standards. We should want the validation from people that are our role models and mentors.
I used to feel guilty about the happiness I felt from validation. If someone with an Instagram feed that I really admire commented on my photo, I would dismiss the joy it gave me as “irrelevant”. If a friend told me they liked my outfit, I’d try suppress the boost of confidence it gave me, because I didn’t need other people’s approval to feel confident, right? But now I see how silly that is. Of course validation feels good. Of course it makes my heart happy. Of course it lifts my ego. I don’t want to be dependent on it, but having a reaction to it isn’t a sin.
So, seek validation, if you wish. But be selective of where you look for it.