Common Signs Of Validation-seeking Behaviour in Relationships
Published on 19th January, 2024
Relationships can be difficult to navigate, given the complex interweaving of emotions, trust, and communication. Within romantic relationships, there exists a subtle yet impactful phenomenon known as validation-seeking behaviour.
Seeking validation is an innate human tendency as individuals often crave attention and recognition from others to validate their worth and identity. For example, we frequently depend on the support and encouragement of friends and family, which also includes seeking external validation. Social media intensifies validation-seeking behaviour, providing a platform for constant comparison and instant feedback. The pursuit of likes, comments, and followers can drive individuals to prioritise external validation, impacting self-esteem and fostering a culture of seeking approval through online interactions. Understanding and recognising signs of validation-seeking behaviour can be crucial for maintaining healthy and balanced relationships.
Read on as we shed light on common signs of validation-seeking behaviour, exploring its roots and potential impact on relationship dynamics.
Defining validation-seeking behaviour
Validation-seeking behaviour refers to the tendency of individuals to seek affirmation, approval, or acknowledgement from others, often to bolster their self-esteem or sense of worth. Internal validation involves recognising and appreciating one's own worth, accomplishments, and qualities, contributing to a sense of self-worth that comes from within. On the other hand, external validation relies on seeking affirmation, approval, or acknowledgment from others to validate one's identity and accomplishments, potentially leading to a dependency on external sources for a sense of self-esteem (Ferguson, 2022).
While seeking validation is a natural human inclination, an excessive and persistent need for external validation can become a potential source of conflict in relationships.
Why do we need constant validation?
According to counselling psychologist Dr. Kocchar, people seek attention for various reasons, driven by unmet past emotional needs, low self-esteem, or, in extreme cases, personality disorders (Healthshots, 2022). Attention-seeking behaviour is natural, especially in children who depend on external validation for learning appropriate behaviours. An unhealthy reliance on external approval may have the counterproductive effect of driving people away from us. It is crucial to strike a balance, accepting constructive feedback without making it the sole determinant of self-worth and fostering a healthy sense of interdependence.
Common signs of validation-seeking behaviour
Below, we take a look at some of the common signs of validation-seeking behaviour to help you recognise and understand these patterns in your interactions and relationships.
1. Constant approval-seeking
Individuals engaging in validation-seeking behaviour may display a continuous need for approval. This can manifest as seeking constant reassurance, validation, or positive feedback from their partner. For example, constantly asking, "Do you still love me?" or seeking approval for every decision may indicate a deeper need for validation.
2. Overemphasis on social media validation
In the digital age, social media has become a platform for seeking external validation. Constantly posting updates and seeking likes, comments, or shares to validate one's self-worth may indicate underlying issues with validation-seeking behaviour in a relationship.
3. Fear of disapproval
Individuals with validation-seeking tendencies may go to great lengths to avoid disapproval or criticism. For example, this individual might forsake their personal style and, instead, start dressing in a way that pleases their significant other. This fear can lead to a lack of authenticity within the relationship, as the person may suppress their true thoughts and feelings to maintain a facade of approval.
4. Hyper-sensitivity to feedback
A person exhibiting validation-seeking behaviour may react strongly to any form of criticism or constructive feedback. They may take even minor comments personally, viewing them as a threat to their self-esteem and requiring immediate validation to alleviate the perceived criticism (Neff & McGehee, 2010).
5. Comparisons with others
Constantly comparing oneself to others, especially in terms of achievements, appearance, or success, can be a manifestation of validation-seeking behaviour. This behaviour may stem from an underlying need to measure one's worth against external benchmarks, seeking validation through perceived superiority.
6. Inability to make decisions independently
A reliance on others for decision-making can be indicative of validation-seeking behaviour. Individuals may feel the need for constant affirmation or approval before making choices, fearing that their decisions may not be valid without external validation.
Impact on relationships
Understanding and addressing validation-seeking behaviour is crucial for maintaining a healthy relationship. To a certain degree, validation fosters emotional connection and reassures individuals of their worth within the relationship. However, an excessive need for validation can lead to a cycle of dependency, emotional strain, and potential conflicts. Both partners may feel burdened by the constant need for reassurance, and the relationship may become imbalanced.
Addressing validation-seeking behaviour
1. Open communication
Encourage open and honest communication within the relationship. Create a safe space where both you and your partner feel comfortable expressing your thoughts and feelings without judgement. Relationship therapy in Singapore can also help couples cultivate open communication by providing a neutral and supportive environment.
2. Encourage self-reflection
Encourage self-reflection to help individuals understand the root causes of their validation-seeking behaviour. Identifying and addressing underlying insecurities can be a crucial step toward building a more secure sense of self.
3. Promote individual growth
Encourage personal development and self-validation through providing positive feedback to validate your partner’s individual efforts and accomplishments. Emphasise the importance of each individual deriving a sense of worth from within rather than relying solely on external validation.
4. Establish boundaries
Establish healthy boundaries within the relationship to avoid enabling validation-seeking behaviour. Setting clear expectations can help create a balanced dynamic where both partners feel respected and secure.
Recognising and addressing validation-seeking behaviour is essential for fostering healthy and balanced relationships. Couple therapy also provides a structured and supportive environment for couples to explore and address these dynamics, offering guidance and tools to navigate challenges and build a foundation for a resilient and fulfilling partnership.
Ferguson, S. (2022). Approval-Seeking behavior: Signs, causes, and how to heal. Psych Central. https://psychcentral.com/blog/what-drives-our-need-for-approval
Healthshots. (2022). Why do some people need constant validation? An expert tells us all. https://www.healthshots.com/mind/mental-health/need-for-validation-and-its-effects-on-mental-health/
Neff, K. D., & McGehee, P. (2010). Self-compassion and psychological resilience among adolescents and young adults. Self and Identity, 9(3), 225–240.