A satisfied man seeking validation as other people give him a thumbs up around him.

Do you look for other people’s approval? Why should you stop seeking validation?

If you rely on other people’s approval or permission, you’re not going to be as happy as you should be. Wayne W. Dyer has a few tips if you have approval-seeking behavior, so you can play by your own rules.

Continue reading to learn how to stop seeking validation.

Don’t Rely on Other People’s Approval or Permission

Dyer explains that there’s nothing wrong with asking for other people’s input, but it becomes detrimental when you trust their opinions more than your own and can’t act without someone else’s go-signal. By behaving in this way, you give more value to what others want or believe than what you want or believe. This is why everyone needs to learn how to stop seeking validation.

(Shortform note: Relying on other people’s approval or permission is a form of codependency, a stress-induced pattern of behavior that dictates how you treat another person and how you allow the other person to influence you. While Dyer discusses how this behavior means you put too much value on someone else’s input, he doesn’t go into detail about how you can be on the other end—dependent on another person’s compliance. In Codependent No More, Melody Beattie writes that codependents spend their time and energy trying to control other people without recognizing that this too is a form of ceding control.)

According to Dyer, we’re trained to need other people’s approval and permission from an early age: At home, well-meaning parents may solve problems for us because they don’t like to see us struggle; thus, we grow up conditioned to ask for their input or consent before doing anything. For example, when deciding on a career path, you might choose something that your parents think is practical (such as engineering) instead of pursuing something they deem impractical even though you’re passionate about it (such as art).

Other institutions likewise condition us to seek approval, says Dyer. At school, we’re given high marks for following the rules; in church, we’re expected to adhere to norms and traditions. When we behave in ways other than what’s expected of us, we’re called disruptive or self-absorbed. Thus, we learn to stay within the bounds of what’s “appropriate” so we don’t upset others, even if it runs counter to what we want or believe. This stays with us as we grow up. 

For example, you might not want to chip in for a birthday gift to a coworker you’re not close to, but you contribute anyway because your coworkers might think you’re selfish if you don’t. Or you might keep going to church service every Sunday just to please your religious mother even though you no longer believe.

(Shortform note: These examples of trying to fit in and conform with other people’s expectations are the opposite of what Brené Brown calls “true belonging.” In Braving the Wilderness, Brown writes that true belonging means feeling comfortable communicating and living out your values despite what others (your family, friend group, or church) may think. Choosing to conform rather than striving for true belonging is damaging not just to individuals but to the larger world because it ultimately results in divisiveness—Brown says that conforming to fit in and strengthen our ties with a group leads us to forget the humanity of anyone whom we view as “other.”)

Dyer says you rely on other people’s approval or permission because it’s the path of least resistance—it’s easier to go along with something you don’t want than it is to fight for what you do want. In the earlier examples, becoming an engineer might be easier than dealing with your parents’ disappointment if you choose to become an artist; spending money on someone you don’t care about or spending an hour in church seems easier than saying “no” and ruffling people’s feathers.

(Shortform note: Constantly agreeing to go along with what other people want is a sign that you lack healthy boundaries in your relationships. In Set Boundaries, Find Peace, Nedra Glover Tawwab defines boundaries as your standards for how you’d like to be treated in your relationships. She writes that setting healthy boundaries enables you to feel safe in your relationships; on the other hand, not setting boundaries often leads to resentment, anxiety, and exhaustion. So even if you think going along with something is easier than fighting for what you want, it will take its toll on you in the long run.)

How to Stop Relying on Others’ Approval or Permission

To free yourself from the need for approval or permission, Dyer has the following tips:

1) Accept that not everyone will be happy with your choices. There’s no pleasing everyone, so you might as well do what makes you happy. Dyer says that one way to train yourself to accept this reality is to make decisions without asking someone else. If another person expresses disapproval over your choices, reflect on their concerns; if they’re valid, use their comments for self-improvement. Otherwise, just ignore them. 

(Shortform note: Dyer’s advice of putting your happiness above others’ happiness may resonate more with those in individualist cultures. Studies suggest that those in individualist cultures emphasize having the freedom to make their own decisions and pursue personal happiness, and so any unhappiness is an admission of failure. In contrast, those in East Asian collectivist cultures—which prioritize the interests of the group over the individual—believe that they don’t have the full capacity to dictate their own happiness.)

2) Focus on your thoughts and emotions. When you worry that your actions will upset another person, you’re taking away that person’s agency, says Dyer. Do what you want to do, and let the other person take control of how they react—it’s out of your hands. (Shortform note: Other experts disagree with Dyer’s advice, particularly when it comes to relationships. In How to Be an Adult in Relationships, David Richo argues that you should practice compassionate validation, which means mindfully accepting the other person’s present reality and making sure they feel safe enough to feel whatever it is they’re feeling. This helps you foster strong, healthy relationships, which research has shown contribute to your personal happiness.)

3) Communicate your needs. If you tend to go along with someone who has a more dominant personality, discuss how you feel. Dyer also recommends arranging a visual cue—such as tugging on your earlobe—to let the other person know when you’re feeling pressured into something you don’t want to do. 

(Shortform note: When discussing a difficult topic, such as how you feel when someone tries to dominate you, you can prevent the conversation from escalating by using nonviolent communication (NVC). In Nonviolent Communication, Marshall B. Rosenberg describes NVC as a form of communication that is grounded in compassion rather than a desire to make another person do what you want them to do. Additionally, be mindful of your body language. Dyer suggests having a visual cue if you can’t verbally express how you feel, but keep in mind that you can also inadvertently send signals with your stance—the authors of The Definitive Book of Body Language say that people intuitively respond more to what they see than what they hear.)

How to Stop Seeking Validation From Others: 3 Tips

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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