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  • Writer's pictureGeorgina Sturmer

Are you hooked on praise? Exploring validation addiction

It's totally natural to seek validation from those around us. It's a human instinct. It's how we understand whether our behaviour is acceptable, whether it fits with an accepted moral code within our relationships. It's how we gain a sense of safety or security. But what happens if our drive for validation extends further? If we find ourselves prioritising the validation of other people over our own sense of happiness and our own self-esteem? If our addiction to validation means that we lose the ability to make independent decisions or choices? I thought I'd explore this idea in more detail. How we might seek validation in our everyday lives. How we might notice whether it has become a need or an addiction. And how we can learn to cope with this - and how counselling might help.

What does validation look like?

  • The body language, facial expressions and eye contact of those around us. From these observations, we determine whether or not we are feeling validated or accepted.

  • Casual everyday words of praise that we absorb from those around us.

  • Formal validation, such as report cards, exam results, and tangible achievements in the workplace.

  • Social media notifications of likes, comments and shares when we post or engage with the online world.

How do we know if we are experiencing 'validation addiction'?

  • Becoming obsessed with the activities that elicit praise from other people.

  • Feeling disappointed or anxious if we don't receive praise or validation from someone else. Even if a we could be feeling proud of what we have done.

  • Putting other people's needs in front of our own, in order to chase a sense of validation or praise from them.

  • Failing to notice or take care of our own needs or self-care, as we are so preoccupied with everyone else's needs.

  • Finding it hard to make independent decisions or choices without checking with others.

If this resonates with you, then you might be experiencing 'validation addiction'. If that's the case, here are some tips to help you to cope with it:

  • Understanding that we don't all see, or offer, validation in the same way. If we thrive on validation, this one can be a tough one to get our head around. But just because we find ourselves motivated to seek the praise of others, it doesn't mean that everyone feels the same way. In fact, some people find external validation or praise to be uncomfortable. And we tend to offer praise in the same way that we like to receive it. So just because someone else doesn't offer you lots of validation, it doesn't necessarily mean that they disapprove of you. More likely, they are following their own ingrained patterns of behaviour in their relationships.

  • Consider your 'unmet needs'. With any addiction, it's useful to consider how our craving might reflect an 'unmet need'. In this case, to explore why we are so desperately in search of validation. Maybe it's something that was missing for us when we were growing up. Perhaps a traumatic experience or difficult relationship has left us feeling on shaky ground, and in need of support. Maybe we are lonely, or anxious about being disliked or left out, or not 'good enough', in some way. Once we explore the roots of what's going on, we are better able to find ways to tackle it for ourselves. This is something that we often explore together in counselling.

  • Be curious about whose validation you are craving. It might feel as if you're seeking the approval of the person in front of you. The friend, the colleague, the stranger online. But sometimes when we do something, we are actually reenacting past relationships. We are being reminded of a figure from our past, and it's leading us to behave in certain ways. If we can understand the influence that our past relationships have on us, then it can help us to change our behaviour in the present.

  • Notice how you speak to yourself, the sound of your internal dialogue. Are you offering yourself an internal opportunity for validation too? Or is your internal dialogue characterised by criticism or negativity? By the idea of not being 'good enough'? If so, it's worth exploring what this sounds like. In counselling we can explore this in more detail, and learn why this dialogue has formed. What purpose it serves for you, and what impact it has on your self-esteem.

  • Distraction techniques. Sometimes we need short-term practical measures to help us to fight a craving. And that's no different when we are thinking about 'validation addiction'. So if you notice yourself feeling upset or disappointed about a lack of validation, consider how you can remove yourself from the situation. How you can distract yourself, and test whether the craving melts away.

  • Getting used to discomfort. If we crave validation, then we are avoiding something. Maybe it's a fear of failure or conflict or uncertainty. But the reality is that sometimes failure, conflict and uncertainty are features of everyday life. And if we can allow ourselves to sit with these feelings, to get used to them, then we offer ourselves the capacity to build resilience.

  • Spending less time on social media. Social media algorithms are designed to hook us in, and keep us there. They deliver a 'cheap dopamine' hit of validation that keeps us coming back for more. Spending less time on social media can help us to break this cycle.

Keen to explore more? In counselling we can take a deeper look at how you feel about yourself. Click here to contact me, or click here to book a 30-minute introductory call.

Are you hooked on praise? validation addiction

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