Validation: It’s Not a Cure For Insecurity
Over the last number of weeks, I’ve addressed a number of topics which I find myself considering quite often. We’ve talked about what it means to be productive, begrudgery, talking shit about people and being grateful for what we have. These aren’t topics that are unique to the modern world, but they may be more prominent due to our advanced technology, which allows us to be within an arm’s reach of the lives of others at all times.
If you follow this blog’s Instagram page, you might have seen the question I asked yesterday. I wondered whether people perceived themselves to individuals who think for themselves, or whether they go with the flow of the majority. Most people (95%) who voted said they think for themselves. This is hardly surprising, considering nobody want to believe the inverse of this to be true. None of us want to own the possibility that our beliefs and our decisions and all the rest are influenced by what others might think.
But they are, and as much as we like to post edgy quotes about not caring about what others think about us, most of us do. Some more than others of course, but in general, most of our decisions are influenced to some degree by what that decision might cause other people to think of us. It’s a uniquely human problem. What other members of our species may think of us affects how we act. This doesn’t happen in any other species. They realization of insecurity is one of the costs that came with having more complex brains and higher intelligence, and it’s also why we think our decisions are made by us when most of them are really made by external factors that affect us (If you wanna get into the harder details of this, have a look at philosopher Baruch De Spinoza’s work on free will).
Why is any of this relevant? It’s relevant because I think this is the common thread that brings about a lot of the toxic pressures we put on ourselves. We feel we have to be productive because other people appear to be, and we don’t want people to think we’re not working. We talk shit and berate others for stepping away from the majority and doing something differently, because it causes us to face up to the fact that we are part of the majority, and the idea of being mediocre doesn’t sit well with a brain that thinks itself unique. We often see people going out of their way online to make their lives look amazing and fantastical, all so people will think of them in better favour and be jealous of a life that may not exist. All of these behaviours can be boiled down to one simple truth; We allow the opinions of others to impact how we behave.
This isn’t in and of itself a negative thing. You can’t avoid this to an extent, and you should care what some people think about you. You should care about what your family and your close circle think. But you shouldn’t care about what all people may think. In reality, most of us are suffering from a bad dose of the spotlight effect, a belief that everyone notices every small thing we do. The reality is, we’re all so caught up and self-involved that we don’t think too much about anyone else besides ourselves.
In order to break this cycle, you need to stop caring what others might think, obviously. You need to genuinely do things for yourself. Work out once in a while and don’t post it on the Gram. Not every coffee needs a boomerang. Not every piece of progress needs to be plastered online.
Ideally, we stop using social media entirely and focus on what’s directly in front of us. But until then, stop posting pictures and tweets that you believe will ‘take off’ and go viral. Post about things you’re passionate about and forget about the numbers. It’s very easy to tell the difference between someone who’s desperate for validation and attention and someone who knows who they are and loves what they do. Try and move into that second camp. You may not have ‘clout’ but you won’t care what others think because you’re being authentic. I think the opinions of others carry more weight when we’re being fake for validation.