External validation comes from other people affirming your feelings, behaviors, and accomplishments. When a child says her first word or takes her first step, we clap and cheer, encouraging her. This external validation affirms the child and gives her courage and drive to take the next step.
At every stage in the development of a child, loving parents, teachers, coaches, and siblings, encourage children to explore their potential. This external validation takes many forms and is natural and normal, and over time should lead to a healthy sense of self.
One sign of a healthy sense of self is the ability to validate oneself. This is called internal validation.
If you feel angry over something that happened, it is unhealthy to repress, deny, avoid, or ignore that feeling. Your healthy self is able to say, “Feelings are messengers, I wonder what message this anger is sending.”
Internal validation also allows us to affirm our accomplishments, even and especially those that nobody else witnesses or will ever know about. Great champions affirm every little success, they validate their efforts to reach the next level. This internal validation is one sign of a very healthy sense of self.
The ability to internally validate ourselves is especially important in the face of the inevitable criticism we all encounter sooner or later in life. A healthy self is able to hear criticism, embrace what is true as fuel for improvement, and set aside what is not true.
One of the biggest problems in our culture today is that so many people are addicted to external validation and lack the healthy sense of self needed to internally validate. This is why so many people feel unworthy or worthless.
Liberate yourself from the need for external validation. Francis of Assisi understood this perfectly when he wrote, “I am who I am in the eyes of God. Nothing more, and nothing less.”
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