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External validation - is it ever okay?

wantstorepair posted 2/8/2020 10:25 AM

My life has been very transactional and dependent on external validation to satisfy my lack of self-confidence. Itís most certainly the reason why I cheated why I lied cheated again and repeat repeat repeatÖ Always looking for validation from others. I did it growing up from my parents, from coaches, I did as an adult it from work and bosses and coworkers and even people subordinate to me.

The need for external confidence building and assurance that what Iím doing is right has now become paramount to me And from what everybody including my BW tells me that that is the wrong way to live. Iím trying to understand how to validate myself when I donít have any confidence that my actions are the right ones my decisions are the good ones and that my motivation is actually selfless the way it should be.

How did all of you conquer the need for external validation That your affairs gave you. How have you changed and been able to live itís self validating life? What has worked for you?

EllieKMAS posted 2/8/2020 10:56 AM

No stop sign - BW here.

This is a really interesting question. Mostly just because I was reading it and I was thinking to myself that I really don't have a lot of confidence in myself about a lot of things either. Which is thought provoking - why I am over here and you're over there?

I guess... I don't think there is anything inherently wrong with enjoying that kind of validation. I think everyone enjoys compliments and atta-boys and back pats about what they're doing. I know I do! If I'm reading you right, I think the issue is that you NEED that to recognize if you're actually doing good or not. And I'm not sure how to speak to that.

A suggestion though. When I start on a new habit or trying to change a behavior, I really try (and it is really hard until you practice it) to be conscious in my thinking about it. So for you, when you are needing that validation, stop and think. Why do you need it? If you do behavior A, what happens? Behavior B? Maybe it would be helpful for you to start retraining your brain to think of your behaviors in terms of the cost, rather than the transactional value. And it's ok to think of the cost to yourself when you start out. I think with enough of that the 'right' decisions will start feeling more natural in your mind.

cptprkchp posted 2/8/2020 11:33 AM

Wants to repair-

Iím not sure if you read the post I told you about (advice by Woodlandlost) but I was the fucking queen of needing external validation. The moment I did what I had to do to *earn* my self-confidence the need for EV went away. Now, I donít give a damn about other peopleís opinions - unless I care about them - but thatís it. When you earn it fair & square nobody can take it away from you!!

EvolvingSoul posted 2/8/2020 14:38 PM

It isn't so much a conquering as it is a softening that happens over time and many repetitions of

1) Recognizing it when has happened, is happening or is about to happen and

2) In the moment making a different choice.

There is really nothing wrong with getting a good feeling from someone elses approval. The problems start when it becomes your motivation for how you interact with people. In the vernacular of Brenť Brown and her work on shame, vulnerability and worthiness, what you are describing is "hustling for your worth". Instead of being able to believe inherently in your own worth as a human being, your own worthiness of connection, you are being driven by the fear or feeling that you aren't and so you're seeking it from other people. When that goes pathological, well, you've seen the result. Your integrity is in tatters and you've hurt many people.

There is no magic bullet or recipe, and it's not a quick fix. You have to start by developing critical awareness of your thoughts and feelings and especially the story lines you are attaching to them. Once you can see them, you can learn to not be so reactive to them (anger, defensiveness, all the stuff you've described as not being able to stop doing). IC, journaling and a daily meditation practice can help you start to develop critical awareness. Are you doing any of those?

sisoon posted 2/8/2020 14:51 PM

Are you in IC? This is a good topic for IC.

For a lot of people it's a matter of changing self-talk from attacking to nurturing yourself.

Zugzwang posted 2/8/2020 15:21 PM

^^^Yep. I would also include finding pride in the healthy things you do. In accomplishing it. Not in finding pride from others view of what you do or who you do it for.

hikingout posted 2/10/2020 08:42 AM

I struggled with this concept as well. I have decided providing & receiving validation to some degree is part of every healthy relationship.

The problem is some people instead of allowing that occasional external validation to be the sole source of their good feelings. They become a black hole that someone is always trying to fill up, and it's exhausting. It's selfish as well.

We are responsible for our own happiness. If we base it on doing things that we enjoy, taking pride in the things we do, working on our own fulfillment, we will have an overall sense of peace and wellness. Our relationship will then complement that with added joy by enjoying and appreciating each other. But, in a good relationship, we should exchange complements, appreciation for what the other does, etc. That's not a bad thing, it just can't be the sole source of our feelings.

For a long time I did things to get love. Instead, I have learned to do things out of love. Being very aware of our motivations for doing things is an important aspect of WS work.

Lionne posted 2/10/2020 14:57 PM

some people instead of allowing that occasional external validation to be the sole source of their good feelings. They become a black hole that someone is always trying to fill up, and it's exhausting

I'm married to a guy who continually needs external validation. It is exhausting, and, IMO the reason for his cheating. I was very proud of his accomplishments, let him know that regularly, but it is a black hole, it was never enough. He has addressed in in IC, in MC and in his step work. But this happened last week.
We had work done outside. He decided to do the small paint touch ups while I was raking and cleaning garden beds. I told him it looked good. He never mentioned my chore. He then asked me at least 4 times if I like the painting. I answered once, then asked him if HE liked it. I ignored him once and once pointed out my accomplishment. It was two days later that he apologized for being an attention whore.
Oh Saturday we went to a singing group, people bring instruments of just come to sing, very informal, very non judgmental. He was sitting two chairs left of me, playing a guitar. I just sang. It was fun. Several people had one or more instruments, quite talented. On the way home he wanted to know if he sounded alright, if he embarrassed me with his playing! I wasn't even listening for him. I was listening to the group, and trying to sing unfamiliar songs on the fly.
This stuff is deadly. It demonstrates extreme self centered thinking and demonstrates extreme insecurity.
You have taken a huge step, you recognize the dysfunction. Now out a stop to it. Learn to appreciate your own successes and validate yourself.
It's stinking thinking.

fooled13years posted 2/10/2020 15:39 PM

wantstorepair, you asked:

External validation - is it ever okay?

Short answer is sure it is okay.

I can't think of anyone who doesn't appreciate it when their boss recognizes the hard work they do and they receive a raise or a bonus.

I can't think of anyone who doesn't appreciate it when their spouse compliments them.

Are you seeking professional help in dealing with the situation of your confessed lack of self-confidence and the need to seek outside validation?

timetogrowupat46 posted 2/10/2020 16:07 PM

I don't think there is anything wrong with wanting appreciation or acknowledgement sometimes for what you do. It is the word validation that sticks for me. Validation sounds like you need this in order to judge whether you are right or wrong or to feel better about yourself.

Nothing wrong with your boss telling you that you are doing a good job, that is good right?

But the AP telling you that you are a good person, a good dad, or whatever other crap to boost your ego and validate you then that is wrong. Look at the person who is giving you this validation. They are as broken, they are liars, they are manipulators, they are cheating on their own spouse and family, they are putting themselves in the way of your family. So it means nothing.

As EvolvingSoul pointed out, look at what the motivation is here. Are you doing something to look good, to get praise, to get thanks or are you doing something because it is right, nobody is getting hurt, you are doing it because you want to do it because it makes you feel good in yourself, selflessly. If the driver is to expect validation, then it is wrong, if it is just nice to be appreciated, acknowledge, then great, but it shouldn't be the main reason.

If you go through life expecting things, expecting to be thanked, praised, validated, then you are setting yourself up for disappointment.

ThisIsSoLonely posted 2/10/2020 16:32 PM

I have thought about this so many times, and my answer to this question is Yes. Absolutely yes.

There is nothing wrong with feeling good about yourself when someone compliments you, or thanks you, or asks for your opinion because they value it. It's NORMAL to get a little boost from that.

Each of us have an element of narcissism in us - it's HEALTHY to want to protect yourself because you care about you - narcissism is self-love and healthy self love allows for enjoying positive interactions and compliments one receives. On the betrayed side, one of the biggest things that is "preached" is finding confidence in yourself and boosting your own self esteem in healthy non-destructive ways. The words you are looking for here are other ones that is used on this site all the time:


Is it okay to feel a bit of an ego boost or for a smile to come across your face when someone who isn't your partner tells you that you look nice? Of course. Is it okay to seek validation of the job you did on a project (e.g. "what did you think about ____?") and to feel good when someone praises you? Of course. That's all about personal connection. You can't get those feelings just from you all, no matter how hard you try, unless of course you are someone on the fringes of psychological disorder. Hearing something positive from someone else reinforces what you already believe - or better yet (in terms of feelings) tells you something you may not have believed that makes you feel good about you...and that shit is fantastic when it happens...and you ARE supposed to enjoy it. But there are LIMITS and BOUNDARIES to where and how you take it...

Do you NEED that validation. Do you NEED those compliments to feel okay about you??? And if you think you do, that's something to dig into. Who you get it from is also important to consider. Do you appreciate it when praise comes from your partner/spouse or your mom as much as from a random stranger or co-worker? Why?

I consider myself pretty healthy, and if my Dad or my WH had told me they liked something I did or appreciated it, or loved it or whatever, it usually meant more to me than if an acquaintance complimented me on job well done. Admittedly, especially post-A, when a man at the gas station made a flirty comment directed at how I looked, I liked it in some ways more than if my WH had said it because my WH is "expected" to tell me that on some level. The fact the gas station comment was unsolicited made it seem more genuine at the time. That being said - the boundary that I have about engaging in flirty behavior told me that while I liked that attention, I wasn't interested in getting any more of it from that person. That was the maximum it was going to afford me, and I didn't need to hear more and did not want to.

When you have limits, when you have boundaries, there is a bit more of a set level of self-assuredness that resides within you that tells you that you don't need that other validation. It's like a bonus instead of a must-have. That being said, in a relationship, I want to have some shared validation and appreciation because it bolsters me - makes me feel BETTER - but not because otherwise I'm feeling bad, but because it enhances my enjoyment. And I think that's the key:

A relationship - any one - at it's best, enhances your happiness instead of being the source of your happiness.

[This message edited by ThisIsSoLonely at 4:35 PM, February 10th (Monday)]

JBWD posted 2/11/2020 14:13 PM

External validation happens. When it happens, be grateful it did.

When you actively seek it, you focus on when it doesnít come, and ultimately blame the source you were EXPECTING to provide it.

This is how mindfulness and presence make this balance easier to achieve- The less energy you devote to trying to create it, the more energy you can devote to simply SEEING it when it does come along.

Trapped74 posted 2/11/2020 16:17 PM

BW here. My WH is right there with you, needing external validation. After DD #3, I demanded he go to therapy to deal with his lack of self-esteem. We may not stay together, but one way or the other, he needs to address this issue. The irony is that if you didn't know him like I do, he comes off as one cocky SOB. I think part of his issue is that he actually, regrettably, has very little of his own to feel proud of. Up until recently, we owned a business together, but he barely worked for it. He hung around drinking with the regulars acting like the BMOC, but didn't really DO anything. But for every little thing he might have done, he needed BIG back pats, which as someone else said on here is fucking exhausting. "Yay, you got out of bed this morning, good for you." Meanwhile, I worked 10 hrs between 2.5 jobs, took the kids to their activities, did the grocery shopping, and vacuumed the house. But here's your gold star for breathing.

In short, IMHO people who need external validation need it because they don't have anything intrinsically valuable going on. A) I know what I do is important and fulfills me; B) when I do get external kudos, I know I did something to earn it; C) even if I didn't get the external kudos, my contribution is still valuable, and it's enough that I know it.

[This message edited by Trapped74 at 4:54 PM, February 11th (Tuesday)]

MIgander posted 2/12/2020 14:44 PM

I have a question to add on to this. Part of my problem was feeling a NEED for external validation (I was a black hole for it...), which was fed by my AP. I've since done some work post affair to shore up my self confidence so I'm not such an endless pit for validation. I'm now at the point where, when praise is received, it's nice, but I don't need it to feel good about myself.

Anyway, part of what I was reading about recently is intimacy/emotional anorexia. Where one of the partners uses various techniques to purposely distance themselves from their partner in the relationship. I see now that my husband did this to me in reaction to my post-partum depression. That coupled with the abuse and deep seated insecurity on my end spelled disaster for our emotional bond. It's now to the point where he's desiring intimacy again, but I'm putting up the walls (mainly by not initiating quality time with him and by not opening my heart to him). I do this because I don't trust him to not reject me when I do become vulnerable again.

Either way, haven't heard this topic discussed here on the forum yet, but it really resonated with me. The emotional/intimacy starvation coupled with my insecurities are the primary driving force behind my affair. Not excusing it, but at least I understand better where it came from. Please google emotional anorexia and intimacy anorexia- it's a real eye opener!

MrCleanSlate posted 2/12/2020 14:51 PM


External validation for me was not just my A. It went to being the Scouts Leader, Head Soccer Coach, Head Hockey Coach, the lead hand at my first job, etc. It was about getting others to praise and recognize me.

As my W put it once - I was having emotional affairs for years prior with all my volunteering because I was looking for the ego kibbles.

So I am going to call you out now. Give us some concrete specific examples of past external validations that you sought. This way we can actually tailor an appropriate response.

Lostallalone posted 2/12/2020 15:59 PM

Gosh maybe I should start my own thread on this subject. I would value everyone's opinion. I am watching closely what people say here. The short story from me is all my life I felt I worked hard and tried to be easy going. Have 2 college degrees that never paid off. Bullied, harassed, cheated on, so I constantly seek validation from wherever I can find it. Which in turn makes me a ws in my mh combo. Should O start my own thread? Also when I came here a year ago to seek help I felt ganged up on(maybe unjustifiable.)

[This message edited by Lostallalone at 4:01 PM, February 12th (Wednesday)]

timetogrowupat46 posted 2/12/2020 16:27 PM

Some of the examples for me of seeking external validation, for example:

I would arrange everything when we went on vacation, booking the hotel etc. I would then ask my wife several times what she thought of the hotel I had booked, did she like it, was she sure it was ok. To the point where I would really stress about going away and if my wife was going to be happy with my choice. I would look for validation from my wife that I had done a good job in finding somewhere nice.

Even petty things like vacuuming the house. I would do it, not just because I wanted a clean house and to help out, but I would be looking for thanks, praise for doing so from my wife.

If we had people over for a BBQ, I would cook the meal, to the point where I would want to be in charge of everything, and then get stressed out about what our friends would think. I would ask them if they enjoyed the food. Ask my wife if it was ok, do you think they liked it. I wanted all the praise for it, that was the driver, rather than making the meal together with my wife, just getting the satisfaction of doing it together and enjoying the fact that I liked cooking and trying different recipes and enjoying spending time with our friends.

With work I was always taking over work from my colleagues. I would take over the job, so I would get thanks and praise for it, instead of actually helping them and teaching them how to do something, or giving them the responsibility, by supporting. They did not learn anything from me taking over, just so I would get thanked for it.

With the AP it was all about getting compliments and validation. The AP was a compliment machine and wanted the same back.

From my childhood I always was trying to please my parents, always wanted them to think good of me and I would seek that out all the time. My mother is a narcissist, and I was the golden child, and so I sought her approval all the time and didn't want to upset her, so I sought validation for everything I did.

So, yes, for me it was not only during my A, but right back to my childhood and the insecurities I had then and carried through my life.

cptprkchp posted 2/12/2020 18:36 PM

Slight T/J


Yes!! Start your thread!! I think every WS feels ganged up on when they first come here. We are honestly just trying to give clarity. Go back and try to read your old posts as if you didnít write it. See what you think now!!

End T/J

MrCleanSlate posted 2/13/2020 09:40 AM


Some of the examples for me of seeking external validation, for example:

I could have written your post - So much of the same

I still get worked up with my cooking and constantly pick apart my results. My BW always reminds me that I am a great cook.

I've been working on the fixing my need for external validation for years now. I'm a lot better. One thing that helped me was becoming totally open with my BW. I find that by sharing she is able to set me back on track.

Unhinged posted 2/13/2020 18:03 PM

Have you read Melody Beattie's books?

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