External Validation Addiction: Impacts & Tips to Manage


by Maddy Archambault, LAC, NCC

Everyone loves to receive a compliment from time to time.

(As a Leo writing this, I can confirm this is especially true for me! 😉)

Compliments can make us feel seen and heard; they can make us feel valued and loved.

But what happens when we rely too heavily on this kind of outside validation?

There are a few ways this can backfire.


Firstly, it can be a self esteem trap. If we attach our value to the compliments of others, it creates an approval dynamic where we rely on them to make us feel good. We are measuring our worth via how much approval we receive. So if the compliments slow or stop, we can plummet in self esteem.

Counseling Hoboken; Mollie Busino, LCSW, Director of Mindful Power. Mollie has had extensive training in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Fertility Counseling, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Her work focuses on Anxiety, Depression, Anger Management, Career Changes, OCD, Relationship, Dating Challenges, Insomnia, & Postpartum Depression and Anxiety.

Secondly, it can disconnect us from our core values. If we are doing things purely to make others happy & thus earn their validation, we can lose ourselves in the shuffle. Gabor Maté , a Canadian Physician and author/researcher on trauma/addiction, calls this the battle between Authenticity vs Attachment.

“… Authenticity is our ability to know what we feel, to be in touch with our bodies, and to express who we are through our activities and relationships.

If we are not aligned with our core values, desires, and beliefs then we will ultimately be seeking constant fulfillment. Such as finding ourselves in a career that our parents wanted for us, but that we don’t personally find fulfilling. More benignly, we may curate our fashion style to fit in with our peers, although we are tempted to express ourselves differently. This leaves us feeling empty, stuck, and like an imposter. It feels … inauthentic.”

hard to set boundaries

It’s hard to set boundaries

Thirdly, relying heavily on external validation can make it hard to set boundaries. If we know that saying no or setting limits with others will upset them, then we also fear that we’ll lose their validation. For example, we say “yes” to our boss when they consistently ask us to work overtime because we are addicted to them saying things like “You’re such a hard worker!” Although that might invigorate us in the short term, in the long term it can produce feelings of burnout, contempt and resentment if left unchecked.

How to Manage

The antidote to getting stuck in an external validation trap is to learn how to internally validate. This is when we validate ourselves regardless of what others may think. We validate our efforts, not our outputs. We validate our worth at all times (even when underachieving, upsetting someone or messing up).

Some examples of internally validating statements:
  • It’s not my job to make others happy all the time
  • I am lovable regardless of my achievements
  • Others praise is nice but my worth comes from within
  • I am allowed to have different values/goals than my loved ones
  • Boundaries may bring short term discomfort but bring long term closeness and balance
  • I am more than my income, appearance, hobbies or status
  • I don’t need to impress anyone but myself
  • Standing in my beliefs makes me a more authentic and genuine person, and people like to be around authentic, genuine people
  • Saying no is vital to my well being
  • I am allowed to make mistakes because mistakes foster growth
  • I am worthy just for being; I don’t always have to be doing

Becoming more self-validating creates more sustainable self esteem while also reconnecting us to our authenticity.

This is just one first step. Therapy can also help support you along your journey. If you are interested in working with one of our therapists, reach out via our Contact page.