Why Seeking Validation Is Pointless

An Adlerian concept that redefines happiness.

Why Seeking Validation Is Pointless
Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Unsplash

An Adlerian concept that redefines happiness.

Alfred Adler was an Austrian psychiatrist whose ideas are not only very relevant in today’s age but also applicable in our day-to-day lives.

At its core, Adlerian psychology suggests that as humans, we do not live to satisfy other people’s expectations. When a person’s first instinct upon the completion of any action is to seek recognition and praise from others, they end up leading a life focussed on fulfilling expectations held by other people. This leads them to lead life dictated by others rather than their own wishes. In other words, they risk giving up who they really are and lead a life designed by the people around them.

Freedom can be achieved when a person stops caring about what others think of them. If they are able to detach the need for validation from others from their actions, they become aware of what task is theirs. Then, they stop seeking recognition from other people for completing their task. Summing up, true freedom lies in the courage to be disliked.

Adler discusses a simple way to understand how to discern whose task it is. Simply ask yourself this: who is going to be at the receiving end of the result brought about the action?

The Importance of the Separation of Tasks

If we are able to delineate what is our duty and what is someone else’s, we would learn to save precious time and energy spent in trying to teach others how to do their job better.

First, we should ask, “Whose task is this?”

The next step is to proceed to separate tasks. Calmly demarcate up to what point one’s own tasks go, and from what point, they become other people’s responsibility. Once that is set, refrain from intervening in other people’s tasks. As an extension of this, do not allow even a single person to intervene in your own tasks.

Adler’s texts stress the fact that when other people dislike us, it is proof that we are exercising our freedom. Instead of feeling bad that we cannot please everyone, we should rejoice that, at least, we are living life according to the principles we have set for ourselves.

The Key to Happiness Lies in Your Hands

When one is so focussed on the desire for recognition, their key to happiness resides in the hands of other people. When they start equating praise from others with their own sense of self-worth, the feeling begins to sink in that they cannot be happy on their own.

At this point, a pertinent question arises: when one’s life goal is receiving recognition, are they truly living their life, or are they merely pleasing others so they can get some validation?

One can become truly happy only when they are able to separate tasks and have the courage to be disliked. In other words, happiness is a choice that needs to be made every day.

The Sense Of Self-Worth

One of the critical tenets of Adlerian psychology is for a person to learn to attach their sense of self-worth to how much impact they are making on the community. Rather than depending on other people’s judgment for their performance, they should accept their strengths and weaknesses and act accordingly to leave behind as much of a legacy as is possible.

Before trying to work on our flaws, it is crucial to accept that no human is perfect. Once we have resigned to that, we can separate tasks and ascertain the things about ourselves that we can change. This level of self-awareness also involves knowledge about the parts outside of our control. Letting go of the things that aren’t in our hands will help us focus on what aspects of ourselves and our work that we can improve.

This knowledge will kickstart our journey towards being the best version of ourselves. Adlerian psychology terms this concept as affirmative resignation.

Embracing Emotions

It is inevitable that no matter how careful we are, life wouldn’t always be a bed of roses. While we cannot change how we feel about the things that happen to us, we can stop trying to immediately escape them or make them alright.

So, when we are sad, instead of trying to let go of the sadness, it is healthier to be wallow in as much self-pity as we can muster, and then move on. Only when we try to “escape” sadness, that we get stuck in the vicious circle of always lamenting our “bad luck”, and find it impossible to get past the phase.

The healthy way out is to embrace whatever emotions we are feeling without trying to run away from them or (in case of positive emotions) try to hold on to them for longer than their designated duration.

The Circle of Positivity

Self-acceptance, confidence, and a positive impact on society aren’t independent entities. Adlerian psychology argues that these three are interconnected in a circular structure.

  • When one learns to accept oneself as they are, that they can cultivate confidence in themselves.
  • When they have confidence in themselves, they can strive to contribute to the community without fearing being taken advantage of.
  • When one knows that they are valuable to society, they can cherish the feeling that they are of use to someone just by being who they are. This will help them accept themselves, flaws and all.

From Acceptance to Self-Love

Adlerian psychology argues that the greatest dissatisfaction in a person’s life stems from not being able to love themselves. The most straightforward solution to this is the affirmation of “I am beneficial to the community” or “I am of use to someone”.

There is no other aspect needed for happiness than one that can give people genuine awareness that they have some worth.

In other words, joy stems from a feeling of contribution. That is the Adlerian definition of happiness. If one truly has a sense of contribution, they will no longer seek recognition or validation from others. Then, they will be truly free.

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