What If The Need For External Validation Is Controlling Your Life?

5 min read              Written by: René Luisman


René Luisman
Professional Trainer & Coach

To be seen and heard is a basic human need. But what if you rely heavily on external validation? The acknowledgment from others that you matter.


In this article I explain how for some gay men external validation is an exhausting and unsatisfactory quest. And how you can get more firmness out of yourself by working on self-validation.


The feeling that you never quite belong

"There's that gay guy again." They don't say it, but you can hear them thinking when you step inside. Even if you don't think it's very visible, you'll probably be talked about behind your back. Because being gay is fine, as long as you don't show it too much.


And so you always do your best. You exercise four times a week so that you look good. You walk a little tougher, so that you are not inferior to other men. And when jokes are made about gays, you laugh along to avoid drawing attention to you.


But whatever you do, it feels like you never do it right or never really belong.


What is external validation?

Psychologist Alan Downs frequently uses the term validation in his book The Velvet Rage. The confirmation that who you are and what you do is okay in the eyes of the other person.


When you doubt yourself, it is a logical step to look for recognition. And if you do not find this recognition within yourself, you usually direct the search outside yourself. Just to hear that you did well, whether what you said was not strange and maybe whether you are still in the market.


There is nothing wrong with external validation. This is a human need in order to grow and survive. It becomes a different story when you become dependent on the recognition of others to feel good. Then it may become an exhausting and, in the long run, unsatisfactory search. Simply because the external validation never fully compensates for what is missing deep in the core.


Work harder, less satisfaction

Because of the fear of rejection, some gay men develop the belief that there is something fundamentally wrong with them. You may have come to the conclusion that it is necessary to hide your true self in order to gain love and acceptance from your surroundings.


When you think that part of you is not welcome, you sometimes develop behavior to be accepted. This can be done by hiding a part of yourself or by pretending to be different. In both cases it is hard work and it comes at the expense of your authenticity. You only show that part of yourself that you believe is welcome. And the less you feel welcome as a human being, the more you have to hide or pretend to be different (see image below). The harder you work, the less satisfying it is. Because when you receive recognition for that small part that is accepted, it sometimes feels empty or frustrating.

Shame and self-image.jpg

Three steps to get more recognition out of yourself

You may also not have learned to develop your self-validation due to a lack of external validation. In other words, to give yourself the recognition that who you are and what you feel is okay. That you matter and can have your own opinion. Instead, your focus is strongly on what another person is thinking or saying.

Step 1: Examine your shame

A first step to strengthening your self-validation is to explore your shame themes. To look for what you are ashamed of or have been ashamed of. What beliefs do you have about yourself? And are these beliefs actually true?


Beliefs are sometimes full of inaccuracies. I'm a better person if I don't stand out too much. I am only attractive if I have a toned and toned body. Or I only matter if I get enough likes on social media or dating apps.


This also makes your self-acceptance conditional. Only if you meet all the criteria are you okay. Undoubtedly there is something else that you do not meet. And so the dissatisfaction with who you really are grows and self-acceptance always remains just out of reach.


So examine your own beliefs and be critical of whether what you think is correct. Or as the German writer Eckhart Tolle once said, "Don't believe everything you think."

Step 2: Live your own values

A second step is to get clear again what you find important. Those who are focused on the other often also lose contact with their own values. And if you don't know your own values, you usually live those of others. When I ask my clients what values ​​they find important, they often answer with values ​​such as honesty, openness, happiness and respect. Precisely because they have not always felt accepted, these values ​​now have extra meaning.


And when I ask what it means to be honest or open, there is often still a lot of room to put these values ​​into practice. Express yourself more often or indicate what is important to you. Even if you experience shame or insecurity. And that doesn't have to be taken to the extreme right away; a small adjustment in your behavior sometimes feels like a big win.


Step 3: Know that what you think or feel may be there

A third step is to allow yourself more. To protect yourself, you may be inclined to divide the whole world into right or wrong. To only appear when you are sure that what you are doing or saying is right in the eyes of the other person. But there is so much more nuance between right and wrong.


You can have your own opinion, you can feel what you want, you can have your own dreams and ambitions. And the other doesn't have to agree with that. In practice, the rejection or conflict that we sometimes fear so much does not materialize. And even if someone does react negatively, you can trust that you are able to stand your ground at such a moment. For example by saying what the behavior of the other person does to you.


Getting more strength out of yourself starts with listening to yourself more often. By not immediately crossing over to the other. First take the time to feel and experience what you encounter in yourself. And by taking your own thoughts and feelings seriously and acting accordingly.