As more of us are struggling to attain society’s view of perfection, self-validation is becoming a hotter topic. But self-love and being your own biggest fan don’t happen overnight. What I’ve found is that you have to practice self-validation mindfully before you can genuinely begin to love yourself.
Here are three ways to validate and love yourself.
1. Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
I’ve put this one first because it’s perhaps the most important aspect of self-validation. It also happens to be the most difficult aspect, and it is an area that requires concerted effort, day after day.
When you are born, you don’t have the capacity to know or care what others think of you. You cry when you want something (milk, sleep, a change of nappy), and you cry as loudly as your lungs will allow. But soon after, you start becoming conscious of how to operate in society. As a natural extension of this, you learn how to fit in society. This “School of Life” teaches you right from wrong. It also teaches you what is acceptable or polite in society. But sometimes, it might seem overkill or unnecessary.
For example, have you ever been told to keep your elbows off the table when eating? Surely, somebody who puts their elbows on the table at dinner can still be a good human being, right?
My point is that we are judged for our actions—large and small—constantly! Sometimes, it’s so second-nature that you don’t notice it happening. As such, even before we hit our teenage years, it has become completely normal to look outside of ourselves for validation about whether we are doing well or not. And sadly, it’s not just our table manners that we are judged for—it’s almost anything and everything.
Am I skinny enough to be popular? Does my smile look crooked? Do I own the latest iPhone? Why did I get picked last on the baseball team? Will my friends make fun of me if I stop drinking alcohol?
Every time we don’t measure up to the implicit standards present in our surroundings (whether that’s at work, at home, or in society), we are made to feel like failures. And that can sometimes be the case even when we’re trying to better ourselves.
Over time, that can really take a toll on our self-worth. No wonder the concept of self-love is so alien to many of us. That is why making an effort to stop comparing yourself to others is such a crucial part of self-validation. But it’s not easy—we’re talking about potentially undoing brain programming that spans 20+ years! So, if you’re after overnight results, think again.
I have written a short article on my battle with consumerism in my article, Nicky vs Michael Kors, which goes over some of the thoughts I experienced when my income dropped to zero.
My own experience brought to life that true self-validation comes from being okay with yourself as you are, regardless of your status or position in society. It’s not about being the best, or the richest, or the fittest. You have your own path in life that is likely different from the path of many of those around you. The worst thing you can do is turn your life into a competition wherein you are constantly exposing yourself to criticism.
Instead of judging yourself based on what job title you have or the quality of your marriage or how much you earn compared to your peer group, focus instead on what brings you happiness. This brings me to…
2. Don’t Look Outside of Yourself for Happiness
How many times have you said to yourself, “once I have ___, then I will be so happy”?
We are all guilty of deferring our happiness to an unknown point in time by contingently pinning our happiness on things that are quite make-or-break in nature—a bigger house, finding your soul mate, or getting a better-paying job. Whatever happened to being happy after having a great cup of tea?
And sometimes, even when we do end up obtaining those bigger things—the better-paying job perhaps—it doesn’t always make us as happy as we thought we might be. That’s because true happiness is very much a mindset and something that you have to cultivate from within.
I agree that external events and circumstances can make our lives better or worse—the death of a loved one is a clear example of something that can shatter your world. But, overall, your day-to-day levels of happiness come from inside you and from practicing gratitude.
Which mindset do you currently have?
- Do you focus more on what you have or what you don’t have?
- Do you focus more on what you have or what someone else has?
3. Speak to Yourself as You Would Speak to a Good Friend
We are our own biggest critics. I can almost guarantee you that you are tougher on yourself than you are towards someone you care about. The standards we set for ourselves are high. That’s because we want to be—and to achieve—the best in our lives. And that’s great—it can be energizing to set yourself a target and then smash it.
But what happens on those occasions when you don’t meet the target you set for yourself? Do you punish or criticize yourself? In essence, this would be the opposite of practicing self-validation.
For the next month, consciously assess your actions as if you were your best friend. So, if you didn’t get that promotion at work, monitor what conversations you have with yourself. What stories do you tell yourself? Perhaps you tell yourself that you’re not good enough. Or you might think you definitely deserved that promotion and therefore, you’ve concluded that life must suck and there is no point trying again.
Now, how would you console yourself if you were your own best friend? Maybe you’d congratulate yourself for trying or reassure yourself that you might have better luck next time and not to give up. Thus, self-validation includes treating yourself as you would a dear friend.
Instead of putting yourself down when things go wrong, be proud of putting yourself in a situation where you put your head on the line in the first place and cheer yourself on for the future. Remember all the struggles and challenges you have successfully overcome in the past—those moments when you thought you might never recover but you slowly did.
If you really think about it, you’re pretty bad-ass. Your friends might tell you this, but try and remind yourself as well. When your life doesn’t go exactly as planned, notice that your true friends don’t think any less of you. So, why should you think less of yourself either?
Self-validation has a lot more to do with contentment rather than achievement. And it arguably has more to do with shifting your mental mindset than actually changing your external world. The saying “Happiness comes from within” holds true for those who have mastered self-validation and self-love.
If you want to focus on one thing to start with, it is to stop trying so hard. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. Don’t compare yourself to others. Don’t try to put everyone else first. Do you know how hard it is to play an act all the time?
That calm and content feeling you get when you step into your own personal space, breathe a sigh of relief, and do your own thing while being your true self—that’s what you are aiming for. That is acceptance and self-love. The goal is to feel like that almost all of the time. And that is rarely achieved by putting yourself in a position where you are open to unnecessary pressure, expectations, and judgment.
More About Self-Validation and Self-Love
Featured photo credit: Elle Cartier via unsplash.com