“Does this seem right to you?” “Do you think the way I’m doing this is okay?” “How does this look?”
These are questions we’ve probably all asked, along with many others in the same vein. We constantly seek approval from others in an effort to validate our feelings and actions and make sure we’re on the right “path”.
Striving to make sure your actions are accepted is certainly a gallant notion, but when does the endless search for approval result in us being less sure of ourselves? When do we stop being able to make decisions on our own?
If we are constantly waiting for someone else to tell us that our choice was the right one, where does our own self-assurance go? How will we be able to make decisions on our own without someone telling us they’ are “right”?
While it’s certainly extreme to assume that a person would become helpless without the opinions of others, there is an extent to which relying on validation would deteriorate one’s confidence. How do we stop relying heavily on others when it seems to be an essential part of our nature to check in for assurance?
You probably make a lot of decisions entirely by yourself, right? What to wear that day, what to have for lunch.... Start doing the same for bigger decisions. Maybe it’s what to do for a project for a class, or maybe it’s what piece of furniture you should buy to replace the old one. Choices like these, without confirmation, start to make you more sure of yourself.
Many people like the thought of others confirming their thoughts just so the blame doesn’t completely fall on them if something goes wrong. If that project choice was a totally failure, at least you can say, “well, I wasn’t the only one who thought it was right”. While that can be helpful after a mistake, it’s equally helpful to take on the blame yourself: you take full responsibility for your actions and learn from them. No more deflecting the blame. Just because a choice you made didn’t have the best end results doesn’t make it a mistake; it’s likely that that problem will teach you something or be a part of a long-term plan. In the words of the beloved Bob Ross, “There are no mistakes, only happy accidents”.
This isn’t to say that there isn’t a time and place for validation. Life-changing decisions generally lend themselves to a need for approval, such as what house to buy or what career to strive for. However, even in those cases, it’s important to consider your own opinions just as much as you value those of others. They may be able to offer advice and opinions to help you get where you want to be, but in the end it should be just that: where you want to be.
Stephanie is an undergraduate student at Washington College. She is an English major with minors in Journalism, Editing, and Publishing, and Justice, Law, and Society. When not writing, you can find her either at a concert, reading a book, or petting a cat.