Updated: Sep 27
In a world where external voices clamour for your attention, it's easy to lose sight of your own intrinsic value. But deep within each of us lies a wellspring of self-worth waiting to be discovered and nurtured. You can develop inner validation through self-acceptance, authenticity, and the liberating power of recognising your own worthiness.
Internal validation involves developing a sense of self-acceptance, self-love, and self-approval that comes from within. It means recognising and acknowledging your own inherent value, worth, and strengths without seeking constant validation from external sources. Internal validation is about cultivating a positive self-image, embracing your unique qualities, and appreciating yourself for who you are, regardless of external opinions or judgments.
For example, if you achieve a personal goal or accomplish something meaningful to you, internal validation means recognising your own effort, growth, and progress, and feeling a sense of pride and fulfilment without relying solely on others' recognition or praise.
External validation involves seeking approval or recognition from others as a way to determine your value and worth. It relies on external feedback, compliments, or approval from others as a source of self-esteem. While external validation can provide a temporary boost to self-worth, relying solely on it can be problematic because it leaves your self-esteem vulnerable to the opinions and judgments of others.
Why Do We Need to Build Internal Validation and Not Rely on External Validation?
Building internal validation is crucial because relying solely on external validation can have several drawbacks that can impact our well-being and personal growth, including:
Fragile Self-Esteem: When our self-esteem is solely dependent on external validation, it becomes fragile and susceptible to fluctuations. Our sense of self-worth becomes contingent on others' approval, which can lead to a constant need for validation and an inability to feel confident or secure without external reassurance. This can result in a lack of resilience and self-belief, as our self-esteem is tied to external circumstances beyond our control.
Inauthenticity and Disconnection: Seeking constant external validation can lead to a disconnection from our authentic selves. We may shape our thoughts, behaviours, and decisions to fit others' expectations or gain approval, rather than staying true to our own values, beliefs, and desires. This can result in a loss of authenticity and a feeling of being disconnected from our genuine identity.
Lack of Self-Trust and Autonomy: Relying on external validation undermines our ability to trust ourselves and make independent decisions. When we constantly seek validation from others, we become less reliant on our own judgment and intuition. This can diminish our sense of autonomy and hinder our personal growth, as we rely on external sources for guidance and validation rather than developing our own inner wisdom and confidence.
Emotional Instability: Depending solely on external validation can make our emotional well-being vulnerable to the opinions and judgments of others. When we tie our self-worth to external feedback, criticism or rejection can have a significant impact on our emotional state. We may experience heightened levels of stress, anxiety, and self-doubt in the face of disapproval or negative feedback, leading to emotional instability and a rollercoaster of emotions.
Comparison and Self-Criticism: Seeking external validation often involves comparing ourselves to others. We may constantly measure our worth based on how we stack up against other people, which can lead to feelings of inadequacy, envy, and self-criticism. Comparison can erode our self-esteem and prevent us from fully embracing our unique qualities and strengths.
Limiting Personal Growth: Relying solely on external validation can hinder our personal growth and development. If we only pursue activities or goals that are validated by others, we may miss out on exploring our true passions and potentials. Our growth becomes constrained by the expectations and judgments of others, preventing us from taking risks, trying new things, and fully embracing our individual journey of self-discovery.
It's important to note that seeking some degree of external validation is a natural part of human interaction and can be valuable for growth and feedback. However, placing excessive emphasis on external validation as the sole source of our self-worth can hinder our personal growth, self-acceptance, and overall well-being. By cultivating internal validation, we build a solid foundation of self-belief, authenticity, and resilience, enabling us to navigate life with greater confidence, purpose, and satisfaction.
Strategies to Help Cultivate Internal Validation
Building self-awareness is an essential aspect of personal growth and developing a strong sense of self. It involves gaining a deep understanding of your values, strengths, and areas for growth. Here are some key points to consider when building self-awareness:
Understanding Your Values: Values are guiding principles that shape your beliefs, decisions, and behaviours. Take time to reflect on what truly matters to you in life. Identify your core values, such as honesty, compassion, growth, or creativity. Understanding your values helps you align your actions and choices with what is most important to you, leading to a greater sense of authenticity and self-worth.
Recognising Your Strengths: Everyone possesses unique strengths and abilities. Take inventory of your skills, talents, and positive qualities. Consider your accomplishments, both big and small, and acknowledge the strengths that contributed to those achievements. Recognising your strengths helps you build confidence and leverage them to overcome challenges and pursue your goals, reinforcing your self-worth.
Embracing Your Individuality: Embracing your individuality involves accepting and celebrating your uniqueness. Reflect on your experiences, preferences, and perspectives that make you distinct. Embrace your quirks, interests, and passions, even if they differ from societal norms or expectations. Embracing your individuality allows you to live authentically and fosters a sense of self-acceptance and self-worth.
Reflecting on Accomplishments: Regularly reflect on your accomplishments, both past and present. Acknowledge the goals you have achieved, challenges you have overcome, and progress you have made. Celebrate your successes, no matter how small they may seem. Reflecting on accomplishments boosts your confidence, reinforces a positive self-image, and helps you recognise your capability and worth.
Identifying Areas for Growth: Self-awareness also involves recognising areas where you can grow and develop. Be honest with yourself about your weaknesses, limitations, or areas that need improvement. Rather than viewing them as shortcomings, see them as opportunities for growth and learning. Embracing a growth mindset allows you to approach challenges with resilience, continuously improve, and build self-worth based on personal development and progress.
Building self-awareness is an ongoing process. Regular self-reflection, journaling, mindfulness practices, and seeking feedback from trusted individuals can further deepen your understanding of yourself. As you cultivate self-awareness, you lay the foundation for personal growth, authenticity, and a stronger sense of self-worth.
2. Practice Self-Compassion
Practicing self-compassion is a vital component of fostering a healthy self-image and building internal validation. It involves treating yourself with kindness, empathy, and understanding, particularly in moments of difficulty or when facing mistakes or setbacks. Here's a deeper exploration of self-compassion:
Treating Yourself with Kindness: Self-compassion starts with extending the same kindness and understanding to yourself as you would to a dear friend or loved one. Instead of harsh self-judgment or self-criticism, offer yourself gentle and supportive self-talk. Treat yourself with warmth, patience, and care, especially during challenging times. Self-kindness allows you to cultivate a nurturing and supportive relationship with yourself, fostering a sense of self-worth.
Cultivating Empathy and Understanding: Practice self-compassion by cultivating empathy and understanding towards your own experiences and struggles. Recognise that everyone goes through difficult moments, makes mistakes, and faces setbacks. Acknowledge that your pain, challenges, and emotions are valid and deserving of compassion. Embracing self-empathy allows you to connect with your own humanity and respond to your difficulties with kindness and understanding.
Embracing Mistakes and Setbacks: Understand that making mistakes and experiencing setbacks are natural parts of life. Rather than berating yourself or dwelling on failures, see them as opportunities for growth and learning. Embrace a growth mindset that values the lessons gained from setbacks. Self-compassion involves acknowledging that mistakes are an inherent part of the human experience and responding to them with self-forgiveness and a commitment to personal growth.
Letting Go of Self-Criticism: Challenge the habit of self-criticism and self-judgment. Replace self-critical thoughts with self-compassionate ones. Understand that self-criticism only undermines self-worth and hinders personal growth. Instead, focus on acknowledging your efforts and progress, and offer yourself understanding and encouragement. Letting go of self-criticism creates space for self-acceptance and fosters a healthier and more compassionate relationship with yourself.
Practicing Self-Forgiveness: Self-compassion involves practicing self-forgiveness. Understand that holding onto past mistakes or regrets only perpetuates negative self-perception. Allow yourself to let go of self-blame and guilt. Acknowledge that you are human and deserving of forgiveness, just like anyone else. Embrace the idea that forgiveness is an act of self-love and an essential step towards building self-worth.
Engaging in self-compassion practices, such as meditation, journaling, or seeking support from a therapist or support group, can further deepen your ability to treat yourself with kindness and compassion. As you practice self-compassion, you cultivate a foundation of self-worth based on self-acceptance, resilience, and a nurturing relationship with yourself.
3. Set Healthy Boundaries
Establishing clear boundaries in relationships and daily life is crucial for maintaining a healthy sense of self-worth and self-respect and building self-validation. Here's a closer look at the concept and its implications:
Learning to Say No: Setting boundaries involves recognising your limits and learning to say no when necessary. It means honouring your own needs, values, and priorities, even if it disappoints or inconveniences others. Saying no allows you to protect your time, energy, and well-being, demonstrating self-respect and self-care. By asserting your boundaries, you communicate to others that your needs matter and deserve consideration.
Prioritising Your Needs and Well-being: Boundaries require consciously prioritising your own needs and well-being. This means being aware of what is important to you and taking deliberate actions to meet those needs. Prioritising self-care and self-nurturing activities, such as engaging in hobbies, practicing mindfulness, or setting aside time for rest, reinforces your sense of self-worth. By attending to your own well-being, you send a message to yourself and others that you deserve to be taken care of and that your needs are valid.
Respecting Your Boundaries: Establishing boundaries is not enough; it is equally important to respect and enforce them. Communicate your boundaries clearly and assertively to others and be consistent in upholding them. Recognise that setting boundaries is a form of self-respect and self-advocacy. When you respect your boundaries, you reinforce the message that your time, emotions, and personal space are valuable and deserve to be treated with care and consideration.
Establishing Healthy Relationship Dynamics: Clear boundaries contribute to healthier relationship dynamics. They foster open communication, mutual respect, and emotional safety. By setting and respecting your own boundaries, you also encourage others to do the same, creating an environment where everyone's needs and boundaries are acknowledged and honoured. Healthy relationships built on clear boundaries provide a sense of validation, support, and mutual growth, reinforcing your self-worth.
Reflecting on Personal Values and Priorities: Establishing boundaries involves reflecting on your personal values and priorities. Understand what matters most to you and align your boundaries accordingly. This may involve setting boundaries around work-life balance, personal space, emotional availability, or relationships. By living in alignment with your values, you cultivate a sense of authenticity and self-worth.
Setting boundaries is a continuous process and may require practice and adjustment. It's essential to be self-aware, listen to your intuition, and respond to situations in a way that honours your well-being and self-worth.
4. Celebrate Small Wins
Acknowledging and celebrating your achievements, regardless of their size, is a powerful practice that contributes to a sense of self-worth and fulfilment. Here's a deeper exploration of this concept:
Embracing the Power of Small Wins: Recognise that achievements come in various sizes and forms. While some accomplishments may seem significant, others might be small steps forward. However, every achievement, no matter how small, is worth acknowledging and celebrating. Embrace the idea that progress is not always linear, and small wins can have a cumulative impact on your journey towards your goals.
Shifting Focus to Progress and Effort: Instead of comparing yourself to others, redirect your attention towards your own progress and efforts. Understand that everyone's journey is unique, and measuring your success solely against others can be demotivating and detrimental to your self-worth. Focus on your personal growth, learning, and the steps you have taken to move closer to your objectives. Recognise that each effort you make contributes to your development and is worthy of celebration.
Cultivating a Growth Mindset: Adopting a growth mindset allows you to view achievements, both big and small, as opportunities for learning and growth. Embrace the idea that mistakes and setbacks are part of the learning process, and that progress is made through effort and perseverance. Emphasise the importance of the journey itself rather than being solely fixated on the end result. Celebrating achievements, no matter their size, reinforces a positive mindset and fosters a sense of self-worth based on continuous improvement and personal development.
Practicing Self-Validation and Self-Appreciation: Give yourself permission to validate your own achievements and express self-appreciation. Instead of relying solely on external validation or waiting for others to recognise your accomplishments, acknowledge your own hard work and progress. Engage in positive self-talk and consciously express self-praise for the steps you have taken and the goals you have achieved. Self-validation and self-appreciation contribute to building self-worth from within and foster a positive self-image.
Creating Rituals of Celebration: Establish rituals or practices that allow you to celebrate your achievements, big or small. It could be as simple as taking a moment to reflect on and appreciate your progress, treating yourself to something you enjoy, sharing your successes with loved ones, or journaling about your accomplishments. Regularly pausing to celebrate your achievements not only reinforces your self-worth but also reinforces a positive mindset and motivates you to continue pursuing your goals.
Celebrating achievements is a personal and subjective experience. What may seem small to others may hold significant value to you. By acknowledging and celebrating your achievements, you foster a sense of pride, self-worth, and motivation, ultimately propelling you forward on your personal journey of growth and fulfilment.
5. Challenge Negative Self-Talk
Paying attention to your self-talk and transforming negative, self-critical thoughts into positive and affirming statements is a powerful practice that can greatly enhance your self-worth and well-being. Here's a deeper exploration of this concept:
Awareness of Self-Talk: Begin by cultivating awareness of your inner dialogue. Notice the thoughts and messages you consistently tell yourself. Pay attention to any patterns of negative self-talk, self-doubt, or self-criticism. Awareness is the first step towards making positive changes in your self-talk.
Challenging Negative Thoughts: Once you become aware of negative thoughts, challenge their validity and accuracy. Question the evidence or basis behind these thoughts. Are they rooted in objective reality, or are they distorted by biases or insecurities? Challenge the negative thoughts by asking yourself if they are helpful or if there is a more realistic and empowering perspective you can adopt.
Reframing Negative Thoughts: Reframing involves consciously shifting your perspective on negative thoughts and replacing them with more positive and empowering alternatives. Instead of accepting self-critical thoughts at face value, reframe them into more realistic, compassionate, and empowering statements. For example, if you catch yourself thinking, "I'm such a failure," reframe it as, "I may have made a mistake, but I am capable of learning and growing from it."
Cultivating Positive and Affirming Statements: Intentionally cultivate positive and affirming self-talk. Create a list of positive statements about yourself, your abilities, and your worthiness. Repeat these statements regularly, especially when you notice negative self-talk creeping in. Affirmations like these can help counteract self-doubt and reinforce positive self-beliefs. For example, use statements like, "I am worthy of love and respect," "I am capable and resilient," or "I deserve happiness and fulfilment."
Transforming self-talk takes time and practice. Be patient and gentle with yourself throughout the process. By paying attention to your self-talk and replacing negative thoughts with positive and empowering ones, you cultivate a mindset that reinforces your self-worth, self-confidence, and overall well-being.
6. Engage in Self-Care
Prioritising activities that nurture your physical, emotional, and mental well-being is an essential practice for cultivating self-respect, self-worth, and a developing internal validation. Here's a deeper exploration of this concept:
Understanding Self-Care: Self-care involves intentionally engaging in activities that promote your overall well-being and nourish different aspects of your life. It goes beyond simply treating yourself or indulging in pleasurable activities. Self-care encompasses practices that support your physical health, emotional well-being, and mental clarity.
Physical Well-being: Prioritising physical self-care involves attending to your body's needs. This includes activities such as regular exercise, nourishing your body with nutritious food, getting sufficient sleep, and practicing good hygiene. Engaging in physical self-care not only improves your physical health but also boosts your energy levels, enhances mood, and contributes to your overall sense of well-being.
Emotional Well-being: Emotional self-care involves recognising and honouring your emotions. It includes activities such as journaling, practicing mindfulness or meditation, seeking therapy or counselling when needed, engaging in hobbies or creative outlets, and spending time with loved ones who provide support and understanding. By acknowledging and tending to your emotions, you foster emotional resilience, self-awareness, and a deeper connection with yourself.
Mental Well-being: Nurturing your mental well-being involves engaging in activities that support your cognitive functioning and mental clarity. This can include activities like reading, learning new skills or hobbies, engaging in stimulating conversations, solving puzzles or playing games, or practicing mindfulness and relaxation techniques. Prioritising mental self-care helps reduce stress, enhance focus and concentration, and cultivate a positive mindset.
Making Time for Joy and Pleasure: Incorporating activities that bring you joy and pleasure is an important part of self-care. Engage in hobbies and activities that you find fun and enjoyable, spend time in nature, or explore new experiences. Allowing yourself to experience joy and pleasure reinforces the belief that you are deserving of happiness and fulfilment.
Regular Self-Reflection: Engage in regular self-reflection to assess your self-care practices and make adjustments as needed. Reflect on what activities truly nourish you and bring you a sense of well-being. Consider what areas of self-care may need more attention and find ways to incorporate them into your routine.
By prioritising activities that nurture your physical, emotional, and mental well-being, you demonstrate self-respect and reinforce the belief that you are deserving of love and care. Remember that self-care is not selfish; it is a necessary practice that enables you to show up fully in your life, maintain balance, and cultivate a strong sense of self-worth.
7. Surround Yourself with Supportive People
Surrounding yourself with people who uplift and support you is a vital aspect of building self-worth and fostering a positive self-image. Here's a deeper exploration of this concept:
Positive Influence: When you surround yourself with people who uplift and support you, you expose yourself to positive influences. These individuals have a genuine interest in your well-being, and their presence in your life can inspire and motivate you. Positive influences help you see your own strengths and potential, encouraging you to believe in yourself and pursue your goals.
Emotional Support: Building relationships with people who provide emotional support is crucial for developing self-worth. These are people who listen to you without judgment, validate your feelings and experiences, and offer understanding and empathy. When you receive emotional support, it reinforces your sense of being valued and accepted for who you are, leading to increased self-esteem and self-worth.
Encouragement and Motivation: Surrounding yourself with supportive people means having people around you who believe in you and your abilities. They offer encouragement during challenging times and motivate you to keep going. Their belief in your potential can help you overcome self-doubt and push through obstacles. Their words of affirmation and positive reinforcement contribute to a stronger sense of self-worth and self-confidence.
Constructive Feedback: Part of being uplifted and supported involves receiving constructive feedback. Surrounding yourself with people who provide feedback in a caring and constructive manner helps you grow and develop. They help you recognise areas for improvement without diminishing your self-worth. Constructive feedback from trusted people allows you to make positive changes and embrace personal growth.
Distance from Toxic Relationships: Surrounding yourself with uplifting and supportive people also means distancing yourself from toxic relationships. Toxic relationships can be detrimental to your self-worth and overall well-being. By choosing to spend time with people who uplift and support you, you create space for healthier relationships that nurture your sense of self-worth.
Nurturing positive relationships is a reciprocal process. It's important to also be supportive and uplifting to the people in your life. By surrounding yourself with those who uplift and support you, you create a positive social environment that reinforces your self-worth, fosters personal growth, and enhances your overall well-being.
8. Practice Mindfulness
Cultivating mindfulness through practices such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or other mindfulness techniques is a transformative way to develop a deeper connection with yourself and enhance your overall well-being. Here's a deeper exploration of this concept:
Understanding Mindfulness: Mindfulness is the practice of intentionally paying attention to the present moment without judgment. It involves observing your thoughts, emotions, and sensations with curiosity and acceptance, rather than getting caught up in them or reacting automatically. Mindfulness invites you to cultivate a non-judgmental awareness of your inner and outer experiences.
Meditation: Meditation is a powerful mindfulness practice that involves focusing your attention on a specific object, such as your breath, a mantra, or a sensation. Through meditation, you learn to observe your thoughts and emotions without getting carried away by them. It allows you to develop a sense of inner stillness and clarity. Regular meditation practice helps calm the mind, reduce stress, and increase self-awareness.
Deep Breathing Exercises: Deep breathing exercises are simple yet effective mindfulness techniques. By intentionally focusing on your breath and taking slow, deep breaths, you bring your attention to the present moment. Deep breathing helps activate the relaxation response in your body, reducing stress and promoting a sense of calm. It also enhances your mind-body connection and fosters a deeper awareness of your physical and emotional states.
Body Scan: A body scan is a mindfulness practice that involves systematically bringing your attention to different parts of your body, noticing any sensations or areas of tension. This practice cultivates a heightened sense of body awareness and helps you connect with the present moment. By scanning your body with non-judgmental attention, you develop a deeper understanding of how your body feels and can respond to its needs with kindness and care.
Non-Judgmental Observation: Mindfulness encourages non-judgmental observation of your thoughts, emotions, and sensations. Instead of labelling experiences as "good" or "bad," you practice observing them without attaching value judgments. This non-judgmental stance allows you to cultivate self-compassion and acceptance, creating space for greater self-understanding and personal growth.
Incorporating mindfulness into your daily life can be done through short, regular practices or by integrating it into daily activities like eating, walking, or interacting with others. As you cultivate mindfulness, you create space for self-reflection, deepen your understanding of your thoughts and emotions, and develop a compassionate and accepting relationship with yourself. Ultimately, mindfulness helps you connect with your inner self, fostering a sense of inner peace, self-awareness, and personal growth.
Remember that building internal validation is a gradual process. Be patient with yourself and embrace self-discovery as you navigate this journey. Consider seeking support from a therapist or counsellor who can provide guidance and help you develop strategies specific to your needs.
Sally Edwards Counselling
I am a fully qualified counsellor based in Orpington, Kent
I work with clients with problems including: depression, anxiety, panic attacks, stress, low self-esteem, low self-confidence, identity issues, relationship problems, self-destructive behaviours, self-harm, childhood sexual abuse, sexual violence, domestic violence, domestic abuse, trauma, PTSD, eating disorders and body image problems.
I am easily accessible from local areas near me including Orpington, Bromley, Chislehurst, Petts Wood, Sidcup, Beckenham, Sevenoaks, Tonbridge, Knockholt, West Wickham, Chelsfield, Swanley and Bexley
Face-to-face in person or online counselling