In this day and age of social media and the internet, it’s easy to conflate “likes” as the true sign of validation. After all, this need to be validated is innate to who we are as humans. As Melody Wilding, human behavior specialist notes, “Humans share an innate drive to connect with others. We’re evolutionarily wired to crave inclusion.” Social media taps into this innate desire, but has it gone too far?
Due to the increasing connectedness of the world, we’re not only starving for recognition in person, but our biggest happiness and satisfaction now lie in how many followers we have and how many “likes” we get — even when these come from total strangers. It’s as if most undertakings in our lives have turned into opportunities to showcase ourselves so we can feel validated by those around us, but for what?
And it’s easy to see the effect that this is having on how we interact with each other and go about our daily lives. A major problem is how needing all of this social media validation in order to feel satisfied with ourselves negatively impacts our mental health. When we’re so focused on how others are viewing our work or daily routines, we lose sight of who we are as people and what we really care about. Instead, we view every activity or daily routine as simply another opportunity to be seen. At least I can say this was how my life operated before I realized how trivial all of this social media validation-seeking was and started limiting my exposure to it.
So what happens when we stop seeking each other’s approval on social media and instead validate our own work?
I can think of at least four immediate benefits I’ve gained through my own experience:
Nowadays, it’s far too easy to sacrifice our own needs and desires in order to please other people around us. We make every attempt to portray our lives as perfect on social media all the while hiding our true feelings. We’ve all developed FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), because our social media feeds inundate us with happy updates from our “friends”.
But all of these updates are just the superficial side of life. They’re not true representations of who we are, so why do we attribute so much importance to how many “likes” they get? The real meaning of life lies not in who has the most followers or who looks the prettiest or happiest in their photos. The real meaning of life comes only from living our own truth and creating our own happiness.
So, when we stop seeking recognition, we recognize ourselves and validate our own worth. We trust ourselves and follow our own inner compass on the journey of life. We stop letting others affect our happiness, because we intentionally discover what truly matters to us.
“Your focus is to improve yourself, without competing or comparing yourself with anyone. Our true comparison is with our own better or ideal self.” — Lisa Leong
2. You gain confidence
Self-confidence is one of the keys to a happy and fulfilling life. Yet when we base our worth on “likes” and comments from others on social media, we reduce our self-confidence and begin to question our choices. Instead of relying on others to give us the confidence we need, it’s important to remember that the expectations we set for ourselves are what ultimately matter. We need to take a step back and re-attune ourselves to listen to our own inner voices. In doing so, we can gain back the meaning behind our actions and project ourselves confidently in the direction we choose.
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” — Eleanor Roosevelt
3. You experience “ikigai”
Maybe you’ve never heard of this Japanese word for “a reason for being” or what author of the book Awakening Your Ikigai Ken Mogi defines as “a reason to get up the morning”. The desire to experience “ikigai” is embedded in the Japanese culture, but its meaning is a part of all humans. We all instinctively need a purpose to drive our work every day. That’s why recognition for our work is so important, because it reinforces our purpose. But, as Mogi points out, experiencing true worth — or “ikigai” — is achieved by being in the here and now and releasing yourself from the expectations of others.
But when we’re so focused on what our followers think of us, we’re no longer connected to our true purpose. Instead, we’re more concerned with finding the “best” moments and capturing them as a highlight in our social media stories.
Experiencing “ikigai” is the idea that we do our best work when we’re so focused in the moment that we experience flow and forget about what’s going on around us. This only happens when we allow ourselves to forget about external pressures and focus on our innermost joys. Only then will we get so caught up in our reason for living, that we stop caring about what others think about us or our actions.
“If you can make the process of making the effort your primary source of happiness, then you have succeeded in the most important challenge of your life.” — Ken Mogi
4. You develop a growth mindset
Another big important contributor to success in life is the ability to persevere through life’s challenges and failures. This what Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck refers to as “growth mindset” and it’s an attribute that must be developed, like any other skill or ability. Too often, however, we limit ourselves because we’re afraid of failing in front of others or risking losing their approval. Again, it’s innate to who we are as humans, which makes it so hard to overcome.
Yet social media often times gives the appearance that success comes easy. Sure we see the influencers with their many followers and “likes”, but we don’t see the hard work or effort they put into developing their brand. And through these types of comparisons we lose sight of the results that our own hard work and effort produce. We start to feel inferior by comparison to these social media celebrities and like maybe we just aren’t talented enough to be as successful as them.
But when we shift our mindset from seeking validation from others to finding validation in our own hard work and effort, we remember that life is about the journey and not the destination. We understand the connection between working hard and achieving goals. We start to find value in simply learning and growing ourselves as individuals. And we make ourselves proud for the work we’ve done, which is the best kind of recognition.
What did you learn today? What mistake did you make that taught you something? What did you try hard at today? Carol Dweck
It’s easy to get caught up in fulfilling a most basic human instinct of feeling included and valued by others. We all seek recognition in some form or another, but the modern era of social media has made it increasingly difficult to escape from the vicious cycle of letting this validation be our sole source of happiness and self-worth. When we block out this noise and value our own personal recognition, we re-discover the true meaning of our life’s journey and gain important skills that will guarantee us success.
“Work hard in silence, let your success be your noise.” ― Frank Ocean