AS FAR AS shitty life choices go, I think relentlessly pursuing emotional validation is in competition for the top spot with cowardice and immorality. Sure, the other two make the bold claim of making you incapable and inhuman, but pursuing emotional validation is pretty much the life choice equivalent of opting for a life of torture.
And I don’t mean bamboo fingernails off to the execution block torture. I mean slow, mind-destroying, water drop torture. It just drips, and drips, and drips, until you’re a shell of the person you once were.
This is really what the pursuit of emotional validation is like. Why? Because, as a result of your unhealthy motivations, your resultant behaviors have the unfortunate side effect of turning everyone off, and rarely, if ever consistently giving you the validation you want and feel you need.
But sometimes you do get it.
So like a gambler down on his losses, you say to yourself “it’s gotta happen this time!”.
And you keep on playing.
Now, I’m gonna dive right into this and make a bold claim:
When you have problems with pursuing emotional validation from others this really stems from a desire to get it from your parents. In other words, I’m saying you have a big old dose of mommy and daddy issues.
And sure, I know what you thinking. You’re thinking fuck you, what do I know, that’s gross, I have no problem with my parents I only keep pursuing toxic relationships by accident. Sure, that could all be true, but if you’re honest with yourself… we both know it’s not.
Let me explain.
PROBLEMS WITH MOMMY AND DADDY
Here’s how this whole thing works:
When you have validation issues with one or both parents, you operate from a place of “why doesn’t he/she love me?” And when you’re operating from this place, you are constantly trying to validate that it isn’t correct, that they do in fact love you, but you go about this in a fucked up way.
What you do is that you seek out relationships that actively make you feel the same “why doesn’t he/she love me?” feeling so that you can “solve it” when they give you attention.
Aloof partners, chasing women who aren’t into you, staying in relationships where you’re treated like crap. That sort of thing. These relationships are all proxies for your mommy and daddy validation issues.
(Feel sick yet?)
To make this clearer, let me use an example. And as this site is geared at helping men, I’m going to stick to mommy issues. Sorry ladies, but feel free to swap it out for daddy – you know you want to. 😉
So go ahead and wrap your head around this:
- Mommy acts aloof. Child you thinks “why doesn’t she love me?” And as a result feels worthless and chases validation to stop feeling that nasty worthless feeling.
- Mommy then gives you attention. Child you thinks “she does love me!” And as a result no longer feels worthless.
- Mommy is aloof again. Rinse and repeat.
Now this, with age, becomes:
- Woman is indifferent = “Why doesn’t she like me?” = I feel worthless = Chase validation.
- Woman gave me attention = “She does like me!” = I’m no longer worthless.
- Rinse and repeat.
See how it’s the same thing?
THE WAYS YOU PURSUE EMOTIONAL VALIDATION
You’re probably thinking that this is one fucked up way to live. And you’d be right. Not only is it a fucked up thing to have boiling away in the back of your head, but it has a lot of nasty consequences in terms of your behavior.
Here are some examples:
- You will pursue women who aren’t that into you because you’re addicted to chasing their (or rather, mommy’s) validation. You will often pursue these women at the expense of women who genuinely like you because they don’t give you that same feeling of worthless that you want to validate yourself against.
- In order to get this validation, you will likely adopt a number of toxic strategies. You’ll either try to out aloof their aloofness (“Mr. Cool Guy”). Degrade their self-esteem (“Mr. Asshole Guy”). Be incredibly nice to them so that they’ll owe you something(“Mr. Nice Guy”), and so on. In other words, you’ll be a manipulative piece of shit who’s just chasing an emotional bandaid.
- If you get rejected by a woman you’re seeking validation from you will take it extremely personally (“I knew it! I AM worthless! Woe is me”) regardless of whether that rejection had anything to do with you personally. (Spoiler: it almost always doesn’t).
- You will then pursue women who have rejected you (i.e. exes) in order to heal that negative validation you’ve perceived yourself as receiving. This won’t end well.
- You will generally attract into your life women with similar issues, who have, as a result, developed problems with attachment. This makes it more likely that your relationship will 1) suck 2) end in disaster, and 3) validate your emotional issues.
How about that for a bad cocktail?
HOW TO STOP CHASING EMOTIONAL VALIDATION
By now you should be thinking one of two things. Or maybe both.
- This sounds just like me!
- How the fuck do I avoid this shitshow?
But don’t go gouging your eyes out just yet Oedipus. There are a number of simple things you can do.
The first thing you need to understand is that having a screwed up relationship with emotional validation is pretty normal. The vast majority of people are like this, so you’re not some abnormal weirdo, and you don’t need to start beating yourself up and telling yourself how much you suck.
(That is what’s motivating all of this after all).
On the flip side, however, having a screwed up relationship with emotional validation is not an emotionally healthy way to live and won’t benefit you (in any way) in the long run. So it pays to sort it out.
The second thing you need to do is bring awareness to your behaviors. If you accept that your process of pursuing emotional validation isn’t that healthy, then you need to figure out what exactly it is that you are doing.
For example, I was the kind of guy who consistently chased women who were hot/cold on me. I would then act like I didn’t care, and get in some kind of game with them. Either way, I was pursuing, trying to force, or run away from validation. This is something have to bring awareness to and manage even now.
You might be someone who constantly supplicates and acts like a friend, or you might be a complete jerk. The key thing is that you look at your behaviors and ask yourself “what motivation does this behavior really serve?”. “What need am I trying to get met?”.
It won’t take long for you to unmask the ones that are after validation.
YOU ARE YOUR NARRATIVES
On the surface, calling something “mommy and daddy” issues probably makes you think you need to go lie on someone’s couch and cry for 200 dollars an hour. But this isn’t quite the case.
Sure, if you hate your parents, I’d probably sort that out. Carrying around that baggage is going to do you a world of hurt. But if you have issues with emotional validation that you connect with your parents, yet at the same time, your parents are actually kinda okay – the problem lies less with them and more with the narratives that you live by.
When you’re a kid, running around in your diaper, building legos, and getting your penis out for no reason it’s easy to misinterpret things. Whilst your parents are all around good people, they make mistakes (parenting is hard after all), and these mistakes are part of the way you come to understand the world.
Mom can’t come to your birthday because she’s overseas on work? Oh, that must mean I’m worthless, unloveable, and the rest of my life will follow this belief. Cue years of bad relationships.
The issue here isn’t some massive issue stemming from your dark, terrible past. It’s just some dumb, misinformed, childish narrative that you adopted mistakenly, and held on to for far, far too long. So long that your behaviors and identity began to form around it.
This is what the stories you tell yourself do. They sit there in your brain repeating over and over, branching out into thoughts, beliefs, and even actions themselves, which validate and continue the narrative ad infinitum.
“I’m not as good as other people.”
You get the idea. I believe this doesn’t just stop with issues of lovableness, but also relates to people’s conception of life, morality, and their role in the world. But that’s another issue.
The answer, then, to your pursuit of emotional validation isn’t to cry to Dr. Phil. It’s to pay attention to how you’re forming your narratives about yourself in the small day to day moments. Specifically how those narratives relate to your pursuit of emotional validation.
So to bring it back to your mommy and daddy issues. The key thing here isn’t that the issues are about mommy and daddy, the key thing here is that they’re yours.
SORT YOUR BEHAVIOUR OUT AND THE REST WILL FOLLOW
You are what you choose to do. But you are also what you choose not to do.
Every time you take an action motivated by your desire for emotional validation, you reinforce that desire. Every time you do not take an action because of your fear of being negatively emotionally validated, you reinforce that desire.
I.e. every time you play games with someone over text because you want them to validate you, you reinforce your need to be validated. Or alternatively, every time you avoid approaching because you fear being rejected (and the “confirmation” of being unlikable/unlovable) you reinforce that desire.
Your actions, in a sense, are a discussion you’re having with yourself. When your actions are based around validation, you are telling yourself that you NEED to be validated. You’re telling yourself that there is something wrong with you and that you need to confirm that it isn’t true.
And it’s a conversation you keep having to have over and over again. Because it never stops needing confirmation.
(This is something like the self-hatred version of James P. Carse’s infinite game idea).
On the flip side, when your actions are based less on the desire for validation (which will always be there), but rather on what you genuinely want to do, you are telling yourself that you don’t need to be validated. You are telling yourself that you are OKAY regardless of the outcome.
Sure, a negative outcome isn’t enjoyable. But you’ll live. And you’re not going to base your actions around avoiding it.
THE MOMENT BY MOMENT PRACTICE OF SELF-ACCEPTANCE
This conversation you’re having with yourself is what I like to think of as the 1% improvements of self-acceptance. There’s an idea, popularised by James Clear, that says you either improve by 1% or regress by 1% every day. That these percentages compound over time to produce massive changes. For good or bad.
Now I think when it comes to self-improvement this is an easy way to get really insecure. However, I do think that it is this way with emotional issues and self-acceptance. Sure, you can stare in a mirror and explain what you accept about yourself, but your actions demonstrate this as well. And they’re happening moment by moment.
Each action pushes your 1% in one direction or another. Playing games? Oops, you’ve fucked it up. Approaching because you want to? That’s my boy.
At first, you’re going to struggle with this. There’s another idea popularised in self-improvement that says “happy people don’t need to try to be happy”, “confident people don’t need to try to be confident”. But this idea is predicated on the fact that “happy” or “confident” people are universally the same. Which is comically untrue. You’re different from me (thank God) and everyone else. Your level of acceptance, your beliefs about yourself, and the techniques you’re going to have to use to improve your relationship are going to be unique. So if you struggle at first, that’s normal.
Why wouldn’t you?
1% changes in the right direction are often imperceptible. You have to keep making them. Keep acting from a place of indifference to validation. Challenging your behaviours and questioning their motivations. So that in a year, you’re 365% better. And you accept yourself and interact with your need for emotional validation in a way you never really believed you could.
Because at the end of the day, it’s like L’oreal says.
THE OPPOSITE OF CHASING EMOTIONAL VALIDATION
To wrap up, as frankly, this article is getting too long, I want to put a final note on vulnerability. The opposite of chasing emotional validation is allowing yourself to be vulnerable in a way that you would normally avoid.
To bring it back to mommy issues (thought you’d escaped didn’t you!?), this would be allowing yourself to take actions that would risk “confirming” that you’re “unloveable.”
This means getting rejected for authentically expressing your interests, values, boundaries, opinions, and so on. What would otherwise be called your identity. All things that you’d typically hide or alter to avoid being rejected and the “confirmation” that comes alongside it.
At first, this is painful, and your behaviours will be based around avoiding this at all cost. By either desperately pursuing a “confirmation” of the opposite, or trying to manipulate the other person into pursuing it from you.
But the opposite of chasing emotional validation is to accept it and take the hit. And sure, it’ll suck now. But over time, if you keep moving in the right direction, you’ll just be better at being you. And the only person you’ll be looking for validation from is yourself.