The inability to feel validated is something many of us struggle with. We routinely identify certain parts of our lives that we are not satisfied with and are thus led to believe that we are not enough. Though the reasons for our dissatisfaction can be complex, diverse, and multi-faceted, I believe that the way in which we understand validation is central to the construction of a negative self-image. It is therefore vital that we alter this understanding in order to improve our own mental well-being and that of everyone around us.

It is important to state that what follows is my own perspective; the conclusions I reach are based on my own personal experiences and, as such, will not necessarily speak truth for everyone. However, when it comes to maintaining a stable mental health, learning about the coping mechanisms used by different people can be extremely useful. I therefore hope that by sharing my thoughts on validation, others who are struggling in a similar way might be helped.

Most people wish they could improve at least one aspect of their life; maybe they want to be better looking, or lose a bit of weight, improve their grades, get a promotion, and so on. We often want these things because it seems that in their absence we are not enough. In short, without these things we do not feel validated.

Validation is frequently seen as something that can be gained, lost, or never found. For many of us, it is dependent on our physical appearance which cannot always be changed. Or, our validation might be constructed through socio-economic status, a platform that can fall away as quickly as it is reached. It could also be something that we receive from other people, though this supply of validation may very easily be cut off.

Furthermore, when validation becomes synonymous with appearance, status, or other people, it is no longer perceived as something we either have or don’t have. Since we can always be subjectively more attractive, or of a better socio-economic standing, or held in a greater esteem by our peers, we can seemingly always acquire more validation, and it is thus easy to fall into a trap where we never feel validated enough. 

However, validation is not something we obtain through meeting certain materialistic or bodily standards. Validation is unconditional; it is something everyone has, regardless of their circumstances, because all people are of equal worth. Simply put, validation is a state of mind. It is not earnt, sought, or proven, only realised. The trick is not to find validation, but to understand that you possessed it all along.

Obviously, attaining this state of mind is easier said than done, and there are no simple answers as to how it is done. Nonetheless the point remains, if you do not feel validated without something, you will not find validation with it. To quote Cool Runnings, “a gold medal is a wonderful thing. But if you’re not enough without it, you’ll never be enough with it.”

I would like to finish on a disclaimer. Whilst your validation should not be dependent on the completion of personal goals, this is not to say that achieving these goals won’t bring you happiness, or that pursuing them is wrong. Self-improvement – be it academic, physical, or material – is always to be encouraged. However, we must be careful to ensure that self-improvement does not become an exercise in determining self-worth as it can lead to us feeling invalid.