Stop Seeking External Validation: Healing Codependency From the Inside Out
By Michelle Farris, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
One of the major pitfalls in codependency is constantly worrying about what others think of you. Codependent people spend most of their time and energy trying to help, fix or change others because that’s how they feel valued. Because codependents don’t have a solid sense of themselves, they rely on others for external validation.
In codependency you sacrifice your needs for the sake of others. This creates a pattern of self-neglect and low self-esteem that lingers.
When you are codependent, you lack self-worth, which makes seeking external validation easier than trying to give it to yourself. Over giving and people pleasing give the codependent person a means of getting the
recognition they crave.
When you struggle with codependency, your self-worth comes from:
● How much you give in relationships
● What other people think of you
● Your physical appearance
● Your marital or financial status
● Your career or volunteer positions
● How well your kids are doing
While everyone needs external validation, when these things become your only source of validation, you lose the ability to validate and affirm yourself.
In this blog, you will learn how to validate yourself from the inside out instead of always relying on others for approval and love.
Why do codependents seek external validation?
Codependents don’t get much praise or validation growing up. In dysfunctional families, their thoughts, feelings, and experiences get discounted regularly by the adults.
As a result, these children experience gaslighting – which means their feelings and experiences get denied and replaced with painful issues of self-doubt and low self-esteem.
Most parents don’t have the tools to validate their children because they didn’t get validated either so the cycle continues with their own children.
As a result, codependent people learn to dismiss their own feelings and perceptions. Expressing feelings is avoided because the codependent assumes they aren’t important or judge themselves for being too sensitive.
In relationships, it’s very difficult for them to be honest.
When you struggle with codependency, you hide your true feelings.
But you have a right to feel what you feel.
Why is external validation such a huge problem for codependents?
Relying too much on external validation reinforces an unhealthy dependency on others which is the hallmark of codependent relationships.
The need for external validation makes codependency like a relationship addiction. The codependent gets addicted to another person’s love and validation. They crave attention and outside accolades to
affirm their value because they can’t give it to themselves.
That’s why a significant number of men experience a mental health crisis after losing their job. When a job (or something else) becomes their only source of validation, the codependent person will feel completely lost when it’s taken away.
Similarly, when you are codependent, you can’t cope when a relationship ends because you’ve put all your emotional eggs in the other person’s basket. You need them to make you feel complete.
The codependent’s identity gets wrapped up in what they do for others instead of who they are as independent people.
As a result, most codependents become people pleasers and can’t set healthy boundaries. Pleasing others and not setting boundaries makes you look agreeable, but you end up feeling resentful, like your needs don’t
count because you aren’t honoring them either!
So how do you stop seeking external validation?
Getting external validation could be a compliment, an award, or some kind words, which may feel great at that moment, but these feelings don’t last. In fact, people who need external validation tend to need more and more of it because it dissipates so fast.
Here are some ways you can stop seeking external validation and begin to give it to yourself.
1. Recognize where you are getting external validation:
Awareness is the first step towards positive change. You can’t change a behavior without recognizing what it’s costing you. To begin healing, make a list of all the external sources that give you validation or make you feel loved. Knowing where you are seeking validation will help you recognize what needs to change.
Seeking external validation helped you survive your childhood but in adulthood, it’s probably hurting you.
2. Change your negative self-talk:
Self-talk consists of your own private thoughts that create a non-stop dialogue in your mind. It plays like a non-stop movie all day, every day. Listen to how you talk to yourself and identify self-defeating thoughts that are hurting you. These negative thoughts play a huge role in self-esteem and ability to validate yourself.
The more you can listen to these thoughts the more motivated you will be to transform them into positive, loving messages. To get you started, pick someone who has always been kind to you and adopt their loving words as your own self-talk. Use compliments you have received in the past to develop new self-talk.
3. Find healthy ways to validate yourself:
For instance, how can you validate when you do something well? Tell yourself out loud that you’re doing great. Write yourself a little love note appreciating who you are. Give yourself a reward for doing
Acknowledging yourself can help to shift your sources of validation from external to internal. With practice you will come to rely more on your own approval not just other people’s praise and kind words.
4. Practice self-acceptance:
To accept yourself means to accept all parts of you, warts and all. Trying to measure up to other people’s success isn’t fair. Instead, appreciate what’s unique about you because if you don’t take the time to recognize that, you will always be chasing outside approval and validation.
What does internal validation look like?
Validation is the ability to affirm your own experiences as valid.
For instance, when you do something good, you can feel good about it without anyone else acknowledging it. When you’re hurt and in pain, instead of making yourself wrong you can give yourself compassion.
Internal validation means you can…
● Tell yourself you did a great job.
● Remind yourself everything will be ok.
● Write yourself a love letter.
● Work to change negative self-talk into loving messages.
Everyone has the right to feel validated but when external validation becomes your only source of self-worth, you start changing who you are to be liked and get the external validation of others.
Practice healthy behaviors to fill yourself up. For instance, find activities you enjoy and make them a priority. Fulfill a dream to increase your sense of feeling empowered. Learn to appreciate the little (and big) things about what makes you unique. Don’t always seek agreement from others. By creating a healthy balance between validating yourself and seeking external validation you will find yourself becoming whole.
By Michelle Farris, Codependency and Anger Management Therapist. See how Michelle can help you heal codependency and create self-trust. Grab her free journal prompts for improving self-care, boundaries and codependency here: https://counselingrecovery.lpages.co/codependency-council/