How I Deal with My Constant Need for External Validation
Part 1 of 2 I started the we-will-break-the-stigma.medium.com/reflecting-on-five-years... to share my story of growing up with mental health issues to accomplish two main goals. My first goal is to destigmatize and normalize sharing mental health issues. I believe when we normalize talking about mental health, then more people will reach out for the help and support they need. My second goal is to show others that by being vulnerable and sharing previously hidden details about my life; I became a stronger and more empathetic/relatable person rather than someone who people think is weird, damaged, or messed up like what our society teaches us to believe currently. I hope by continuing to share my story, people will start to feel comfortable talking about their challenges with their mental health furthering the destigmatization of mental health.
“My Constant Need for External Validation” is the second blog in my series focused on my experiences with mental health issues. In this blog, I will focus on how I believed that I needed to be someone different than who I was while hiding my differences in order to be loved, valued, and appreciated by my peers.
For the first two decades of my life, I hid all the things about me that I thought made me different rather than appreciating my gifts and unique qualities that make me the special person I am. It was only recently that I started to understand that this obsessive and urgent need to feel “loved” and “valued” by others was actually something called www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-objective-leader/201506/.... While learning about external validation, I also discovered the concept of mental models. “Mental Models are our deep-rooted ideas and beliefs about the way the world works and how things ought to be. The mind forms patterns, or models that define our sense of reality, and lead us to expect certain results, give meaning to events, and predispose us to behave in certain ways.” (Frye, 2015) External validation is an example of a mental model and is when you rely on others for validating and feeling good about yourself. The challenge with mental models is that they subconsciously cause us to think and act in certain ways. I have always been someone who has sought external validation in everything that I do. I have sought this validation without even realizing I was doing it. Like with anything, the first step to working on something you want to change is acknowledging and recognizing that something exists that you want to change. I now understand that my intrinsic need to be “valued” and “loved” is called external validation and it is something that I am actively working on living with as I write this blog.
Although making friends came easy to me and I always had a busy social life, I did not possess much self-confidence and self-esteem while growing up. I constantly worried about what others thought of me and whether they liked me. I made almost all my decisions based on what I thought would cause people to like me and accept me rather than just simply being myself and doing what I wanted to do.
My low self-worth was caused by my belief that I did not possess the same amount of intellect or talent as my peers due to being told I had things that were wrong with me. Things like being born with a club foot, being diagnosed with ADHD in 4th grade, and receiving occupational therapy (OT) all contributed to my belief that I was damaged and inferior to others. To compensate for not having much self-confidence and believing I had things wrong with me, I focused on being an entertainer and tried to be well-liked by everyone. By acting as the entertainer, I frequently made self-deprecating jokes putting myself down, and got in trouble frequently for my behavior that was motivated by trying to be liked and accepted. My self-proclaimed identity as an entertainer drove me into frequent overindulgences of alcohol at social events which I used to numb the pain caused by my low self-esteem. I knew from an early age that I was different than my peers in many ways due to experiencing challenges related to ADHD and having undiagnosed OCD. I hid these differences and felt as though these differences made me inferior and worse than my peers rather than embracing and using my differences and uniqueness to my advantage which I try to do now in every aspect of my life.
Had I recognized my gifts, passion, and where I fit in naturally while being myself while growing up, I truly believe that I would have approached so many things differently. The epitome of not being myself as a kid occurred when I ran for student council President of my class as a joke with no real intention of being the student body president and made my who