We tell people what not to say to each other, what not to declare, and what not to express as a means to be polite, to be agreeable, to avoid rustling feathers, and to altruistically exist for the comfort and convenience of others. But as a collective, we simultaneously preach and indoctrinate the narrative that one should not want or value external validation of who we are. The cognitive dissonance that this narrative creates within the minds of humans distorts our perception of the fabric of humanity itself.
In Western culture, the feelings and acts of desiring, seeking, and valuing external validation are generally seen as a weakness within the self, a representation of insecurity, and a lack of self-worth. By definition, to validate someone means to recognize or affirm that a person, their feelings, or opinions are valid or worthwhile. Furthermore, the definition of valid means having a sound basis in logic or fact; reasonable or cogent. And this belief about and attitude towards the human desire to be seen and treated as valid amongst our fellow humans is a direct affront to the core of humanity: the need to belong.
Researcher, Brené Brown, says that humans are “neurobiologically hardwired for connection, and in the absence of connection, there is always suffering.” For this reason, human beings not only need each other to survive and we also need each other to thrive — physically, emotionally, and mentally. And how we help each other survive and thrive is by intentionally using our gifts and skills to support, help, and propel others forward.
Because in truth, every human being on this planet possesses abilities and knowledge of unique and unparalleled value and worth — this alone warrants deep admiration and deep respect for the self, or self-reverence™.
Self-reverence™ is self-love, is self-validation, in action, which is also self-advocacy in action. Therefore, when we navigate life from a place of self-reverence™, we strengthen our ability and capacity to validate others because humans are mirrors for each other, reflections of our individual perceptions. Consequently, if we take action to deeply respect and admire ourselves, we are more likely to take action to deeply admire and respect others.
External validation exists within all types of interpersonal relationships — intimate relationships are the most relatable. “An intimate relationship is an interpersonal relationship that involves physical or emotional intimacy”, as defined by Daniel W. Wong, Kimberly R. Hall, Cheryl A. Justice, and Lucy Wong Hernández in Counseling Individuals Through the Lifespan. To specify this further, an intimate relationship is “a type of partnership between friends and lovers”, per Rowland S. Miller, author of Intimate Relationships.
Within an intimate relationship, both individuals involved sought the relationship out of the need to belong. Furthermore, both individuals nurtured that mutual relationship with the other person because each person chose to validate the other’s personality, character, and humanity. A romantic relationship results from each person reciprocating in the validation of each other’s humanity. Likewise, the friendships we possess result from an aligned choice to validate each other’s individuality and truth. Additionally, when the boundaries we have set within those relationships are honored, we are receiving validation that our boundaries are seen and respected as worthy, real, and significant to the preservation of our peace, wellness, and integrity.
I still study from psychology textbooks that I kept from college because the teachings inform my work, professionally & personally. One such book is Intimate Relationships by Rowland Miller. That book was from my favorite class in college, also called Intimate Relationships. I LOVED that class. A close friend at the time and to this day, Mallory, who was also a psych major and is now a clinical therapist and LPC, took the class before me and sang its praises. So I anxiously awaited the opportunity to enroll in the course during my senior year at SLU. I immediately joined to volunteer in the psychology lab for this class and wrote my most profound piece of academic literature: a 25-page paper. Might as well have been a master's level thesis! And now, I can't even remember the topic of the paper, nor do I have it in my possession. What a shame.
The book, Intimate Relationships, underscores the significance of human connection via the human need to belong, enlightening how the human psyche and quality of life are affected by external validation. My biggest takeaways from this text’s lesson on The Need to Belong are as follows:
- “Wounds heal faster when others accept and support us” (Goin et al., 2010).
- “People lacking close ties to others were 2 to 3 times more likely to die over a 9-year span” (Berkman & Glass, 2000).
- “The quality of our connections to others also affects our mental and physical health” (Kim & McKenry, 2002).
- “Happy, contented partnerships lead to greater well-being than unhappy ones do” (Dush & Amato, 2005).
- “In general, our well-being seems to depend on how well we satisfy the need to belong” (Miller, 2012).
From this evidence-based information, I have surmised that human connection creates human progression. And the way we form a human connection that serves both people is by championing each other’s full humanity — by validating each other’s unique existence as a person of unparalleled and infinite worth and value.
Human life is preserved as a result of external validation. A person experiencing suicidal ideations who receives external validation of their life’s worth and value is more likely to survive. This form of external validation expressed through resources such as crisis hotlines, therapists, and homeless shelters do, in fact, preserve the sanctity of human lives who have questioned, revoked, or been nullified of the value of their one, precious life.
External validation is also widely exchanged in non-intimate relationships. Receiving an accepted book proposal, a job offer after an interview, a promotion above your colleagues, a letter of acceptance from an institution of higher education, or a declared title as the winner of any competition are all examples of valuable and rewarding external validation.
In essence, providing external validation tells and shows someone that they belong — we are declaring to another: you are needed, you are valued, you are worthy, you are important, you are cherished, you are loved completely.
Ready to validate others while validating yourself as well? It starts with self-advocacy. Take the leap by enrolling in my new course called Becoming a Highly Sensitive Radical, tailored for HSPs & Trauma Survivors who are ready to harness their sensitive superpowers and begin advocating for themselves and others.