When you post a picture to social media, are you posting it for yourself or someone else? Probably a little bit of both. Once you post that pic, you might wait to see how long it takes before your first notification pops up. A like, a heart, a thumbs up, that is what we want. The more accolades that a post receives, the better we feel about ourselves. And if our post doesn’t get as many reactions, we wonder what is wrong with it? Or even worse, you may think, what is wrong with me? We are living in a world where we are fully immersed in social media and there is a need for us to feel loved.
But this is not just about adults. We are raising children in a time when individual happiness is dictated by other people’s reactions to us. When they are little, our children rely on us to give them positive feedback. But as they get older, they are reaching for feedback from a much wider audiences. And it is starting to become a real addiction for people. It is no longer enough to just have a like. We need 10, 15, 50 likes before we feel satisfied.
We are looking for validation from the time that we are small children. Mory Fontanez, executive purpose coach and CEO of 822 Group, told Scary Mommy that it starts when children are toddlers. It is our instinct to look for validation from someone else. “A five-year-old sings a beautiful song and looks to their mom or dad to see if their song is in fact beautiful. An eight-year-old scores a goal at their soccer game and immediately their head turns to the sidelines to see if their caregivers saw and are proud. This is natural and it’s our job as parents to give them that positive and constructive feedback while teaching them how to also assess for themselves how they are feeling about what they’ve accomplished.”
As children grow and their digital imprint becomes greater, so does their need to feel validated. But it is important to encourage the value of self-worth and validating ourselves. Fontanez suggests that when a child brings home a good grade or does well in a sport that instead of praising them first, “Immediately say — you must be so proud of yourself. This instills that their opinion of themselves is what matters more, way more, than my opinion.”
She warns that children also need to understand that everyone struggles with self-validation and that can create trouble giving validation. “Teaching our kids that negative reactions and insults are not about them, but about the hurt the other person is dealing with, not only teaches them empathy but it allows them to develop a healthy distance from other people’s opinions of them,” Fontanez said.
She fears that if our children do not learn how to self validate, it could lead to a crisis of joy and fulfillment later in life. Relying solely on outside validation can make people doubt their own ideas and perceptions. Children who subscribe to this way of thinking often have trouble trusting themselves and following an inner voice guiding them to what is best for themselves. She said that this is why there are so many adults who cannot speak their own truth and ultimately aren’t living their truth either.
We must help our children to self validate. We need to point out what they do well and encourage them to congratulate themselves on accomplishments. Helping them to build up a strong amount of self-confidence can also help. When a child is confident in themselves and their abilities, they rely less on others’ validation.
The Child Mind Institute offers tips to help raise a child who is self-confident.
Be A Role Model
Become a role model of self-confidence, even if you aren’t feeling it. Try new things. It is OK to point out any difficulties or anxieties, but focus on the positive.
Learn From Your Mistakes
Teach your kids that everyone makes mistakes and we all learn from them. This helps kids to understand that there will be setbacks, but you can overcome them.
Try New Things
Help your kids to diversify themselves and try new things. New skills help to build confidence and make kids feel capable.
Let your child fail. It is hard to see your child struggle, but failing and learning from those failures can help spur greater effort.
Try To Persevere
Don’t let your child give up. Perseverance leads to feelings of great accomplishment when a child reaches their goal.
Make goals, big and small. Setting goals gives a child something tangible to work for. Achieving those goals marks success.
Know That Failure Is OK
Let your child know that it is OK to be imperfect. It is important for them to realize that all of the perfect people that they see on TV and online are not perfect. It is totally normal and OK just to be human.
Show Them Love
Make sure that your child knows that you love them, win or lose. And let them know that you think they are great all the time. This can help bolster self worth when they are down.
Validation addiction can be detrimental, but it doesn’t have to be. As parents we need to focus our efforts on building our children’s self-confidence from within. While we cannot keep our children from the world of likes and followers, we can arm them with the proper tools to lesson the tendency to need approval from others. Outside validation will always be there, but true success comes from be proud of yourself and your accomplishments.