• Seeking approval and validation from others is natural – our relationships are vital to our survival

  • But taking it too far can lead to people-pleasing and losing sight of your values, says therapist and coach Jay Rai

  • We have coaches available to support you here 

I’m fortunate to have received great input from my personal board of advisors over the years who are not shy about giving me their honest input, rather than just validating my accomplishments. Rest assured, they’d be brutally honest if there was room for improvement. As a result, they constantly give me the opportunity to fine tune and improve. Of course, there is a time and place for validation. But, at work you won’t always benefit from hearing little white lies that make you feel better.

Of course, It’s natural human behaviour to want to seek approval from the people around us. Knowing that we’re approved of, valued and included is something that dates back to the beginning of humankind when being accepted meant survival and being rejected meant your life would be at risk.

These feelings still linger on from thousands of years ago and now people constantly seek validation from others in the workplace to know they’re doing their job properly, are valued members of the team and are liked by their colleagues.

However, it’s impossible to please everyone and seeking approval from people who don’t have our best interests at heart is a battle that simply can’t be won. It leads to shaping our lives to fit the expectations of others and tying our self-worth to what other people think of us which can be stressful and debilitating.

Instead of seeking validation from those around us, breaking the cycle and working towards self-validation is an incredibly powerful thing to do. It stops us focusing on how we’re perceived and lets us focus on what truly matters – who we really are. When people self-validate it means getting clear on values and what matters most to them.

Ask yourself what kind of person you want to be, how you want to be known and what personal values are most important to you. These answers will paint a clear picture of the type of person you want to be and what things are most valued in your life.

With this picture in mind, your choices will become easier to make as you can make every single decision based on whether it will help to move you closer to this ideal version of yourself or whether it will move you further away from this.

As you have this clear vision of yourself in mind you’re less likely to become lost and tied up in pleasing others and seeking validation from them as you have a direction to follow and can focus sharply on this.

It’s vital to remember that you can never reach your full potential if you’re trying to be all things to all people. Instead of seeking validation from everyone around you, focus on the approval of the people who inspire you and motivate you to believe in yourself and focus on getting your own approval first.

If you find this is something you struggle with, focus your attention on the people you trust and value. Whether it’s colleagues, friends or family, concentrate on their feedback to your actions if you know they truly want the best for you. When you have approval from those who you trust most, you’ll be able to use this as motivation for self-approval because, when all is said and done the only person you need to answer to in life is yourself!

Jay Rai is a verified welldoing.org therapist and coach in London and online

Further reading

Coaching for more confidence

How can coaching help me further my creative career?

3 simple steps for confidence in public speaking

9 questions to help you live in line with your values

Co-dependency, authenticity, and saying no