The Problem with External Validation in today's Selfie Era.
How does relying on others to lift us up sabotage self-esteem in the long run?
Sarah looked into the camera. It was the latest iPhone, with enough megapixels to make photos appear as tangible and life like as humanely possible.
She pouts over-lined red lips and flicks jet black hair. This was her signature look, the contrast of her blue eyes, pale skin and dark hair mystified anyone who crossed her path.
She snaps a photo. Hmm, a little more into the light. She snaps again and looks at her findings. Sarah beams.
Sarah was filled with feelings of satisfaction after tapping into her inner goddess. Finally, after finding her perfect pale Mac shade and highly pigmented ruby red lip, she was finally finally beautiful!
She considered...she must share this pic on her social media accounts. She had heard of models being scouted just by using the right hashtags. What if it could be her?
Well only one way to find out.
Sarah posts the picture on her self-entitled page, and waits for the likes to pour in. Her phone, on a wretched battery after her selfie session, she decided to plug inwhilst she went to catch up on her latest Netflix series.
2 hours later she returnsto her phone. Who had liked her photo? One guy she had a crush on from school had recently watched her story. What if he had liked the picture? Even...slid into her dms?
She anxiously typed in her password and logged into the app.
Sarah frowned. 10 likes? Her selfie has receive...10 likes? It had been 2 hours. Typically she was on at least 30 she had over a thousand followers. Only 10?
She analysed the picture. What was wrong? Wait maybe her hair? I mean she didn't have any cleavage out was that why it had less likes? She saw her nose it was slightly wider than typical girls. The lighting bounced of it making it appear larger than usual. Was that it?
Sarah began to feel embarrassed. What if people saw her photo sat there and no one liked it? They would think she was such a nobody. She wasn't popular at school.
Sarah's mind continued to run in circles as the love hearts sporadically popped up on her screen. Frustrated, she deleted the photo. Forget it. She was never going to be an Instagram model.
Likes. Retweets. Comments.
With the growth and expanse of social media we are living in a time period where the opinions of others matter more than ever before.
A complaint on social network websites could spell disaster for an up and coming business. The acceptance of others liking how you perfect your contour, or even play a video game, can make or break your reputation causing one to become a viral sensation overnight.
Prior generations it was only celebrities that were subject to this treatment. Actors, actresses, old Hollywood, sports starts. Now, with the creation of social media your average Joe working in McDonalds has potential to pull in big bucks and secure the bag with the right social media following.
Many regular folk have secured sponsorship deals, become ambassadors for various brands, and even become online celebrities simply due to a double tap. All of this of course sounds very attractive to regular people who possibly don't have the acting ability of Leonardo DiCaprio but know how to take a great selfie. What is fueling this online love affair?
The Dark side of External Validation
There is no doubt that our current generation is far more image conscious than ever before. We understand. What others perceive about you truly matters.
But does it?
Lets take it back to Sarah, who we met at the start of the article. Initially, Sarah felt like a beautiful woman. Like most of us do when we are feeling our best, we like to share this with the world and allow their perspective to add to our own positive feelings within.
However, as we saw in the example, Sarah didn't get the response she desired from the world. On her social media accounts it appeared that people hadn't really noticed her photo. This then lead to Sarah feeling insecure, inadequate, inferior, unattractive and simply not enough. These feelings were so strong that it lead to her deleting the photo.
Now the above may seem dramatic, but I'm sure we can all relate to Sarah. Maybe we know a Sarah. Maybe we have even been a Sarah. What ever the case may be, statistics point to their being an overwhelming correlation between poor mental health and intensive social media use. High social media users were more likely to have a negative self image whilst suffering from anxiety, depression and low self esteem, according to various studies conducted by the OECD and others.
It is clear. External validation is toxic to self esteem in the long run. However, too add extra fuel to the fire, external validation is addictive. Likes, retweets, comments all stimulate the firing of dopamine in the brain, very similar to a quick high. Casinos have made millions off the very fact that there is nothing more addictive than an inconsistent reward. The same applies with social media. Validation is a drug, and with all drugs that cause addiction you need more and more to get the same effect. Many online bloggers feel pressure to constantly produce new and innovative content, Instagram models posting further revealing photos to keep a validating audience engaged. Digitally enhanced and retouched photos that most women could never aspire to look like. A study conducted in America found that an astonishing 9 out of 10 young women were not actually happy with how they looked.
The Importance of Self Acceptance
The reality of life and existence is that the ultimate and only opinion that actually matters is the one that we have of ourselves. Two people can receive the same criticism, however have completely different responses due to how they feel within themselves. A person who feels good about themselves will disregard negative opinions, or use them for improvement for what they deem to be a good character. A person who feels bad within will internalise negativity and use it as a reason to indulge in further self loathing and low vibrational feelings.
Ironically, it is people who do not feel great within that rely heavily on the opinions of others.
Sarah did not genuinely feel enough. If she had done, she would not have needed others to confirm or deny or worth. She also would not have wallowed in feelings of sadness when she perceived rejection from others. Other people can only make us feel how we already feel within.
The Bottom Line
Receiving compliments is a great feeling. Being told we are beautiful, funny, smart by others is amazing. However, these are things that we should be telling ourselves. We should not be relying on others to tell us these things as this causes a flimsy self esteem to develop where we feel good purely based on whether others like us or not. The saying goes, if we live for others acceptance than we die by their rejection.
Developing internal, unconditional love and self acceptance protects us from the hardships of human life and keeps us safe from the assaults of the opinions of others.
Final thoughts. Are you Sarah? Can you learn not to let others control your sense of worth? Are you able to offer yourself the words of love and encouragement that you are seeking from others?
Peace and Love.