Sonia Dogra
Jul 20 · 4 min read
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My paternal aunt loved to dress up. Short and chunky, she carried her bronzed skin tone and fuller body with much panache. Although fond of rich, bright and vibrant colours, I often found her in neutral shades like grey or ivory or beige. It left me befuddled because I had spotted her eyes devouring an iridescent red dupatta or a magenta kurti that hung carelessly in the local bazaars. But when it came to dressing herself up, it was taupe or black. Apparently, my uncle, whose opinion mattered much to her, firmly believed that light shades complemented her dusky looks.


More often than not our choices and decisions are motivated by what is called as external validation. The desire to be liked and appreciated is rather compelling in humans. The nods of approval from friends and family hold such a prominent place in our lives, that we also tend to ignore our own inner voice. Even though we’ve feared the censure of others for a long time now, social media has thrust the problem right into our faces.


The era of social media is literally the age of seeking approval. Likes, likes and more likes. Have you ever found yourself going back and forth on a picture or a post just to check how many thumbs-up has it garnered? Or, has a lack of engagement by your friends and followers on your posts and pictures left you feeling ‘not good enough’? Have you secretly shunned those who have failed to convincingly engage with you on social media? Taking a cue from ‘The Bookstore’ by Deborah Meyer, I call this complete exercise of approving social media emojis as being intoxicated by the marijuana of validation.


Another spin-off of seeking recognition from without is the desire for achieving perfection or almost achieving it. What drives one towards being a perfectionist? One of the major causes for seeking perfectionism is the belief that you are worthy only when you achieve something. In other words when you are recognised by external agencies for what you do. As a result, countless hours are spent in pursuit of perfectionism. Hence, enjoyment and passion give way to relentless working hours. Although it does lead to high achievements, but often at the cost of several other things.


Yes, the world is highly judgemental and we are often made to feel like we are on the hot seat. Care to look at another example from your social media life? At a time when there is a barrage of opinions around us, not everyone may conform to our ideas. Which is as fine as the fact that we needn’t agree to everything they have to say. If I put up something and it attracts a thought which is not aligned to mine, I NEED NOT defend my point of view or even try to convince others of it. It is in attempting to get that approval that we land up quashing our own voice. Also, it is stressful to keep worrying about what people think of us and why; of how they misconstrue our words or our actions. By the end of it we are only left, sapped of energy. Therefore, if you have a thought that you must share, do so without the aim of seeking approval. You do not need anyone to validate your words.


Finally, one last point for your checklist to help you decide how much you invest in approval. You all like to believe that you are open-minded, but what if I put you in a room with people having contrary opinions. Do you find it easy to hear them out? Or, do you prefer hanging out with those who are like-minded, have a similar taste and most-importantly AGREE with you? In other words, those who validate your thoughts!

The truth is that we all wish for loving family and friends and it’s okay to be in the company of those who concur with us. What’s dangerous is when our focus shifts from what makes us happy to what makes others happy. If you have been doing any of the above too frequently, then probably you have been trying too hard to seek the approval of others.


Now, that it seems easier for you to figure it out, why not tell yourself that you’re doing the right thing rather than wait for others to cheer for you.

-Sonia Dogra

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