You want to make a career change, but your parents don’t support you.

You have a great idea for something, but others don’t think it will work.

Whenever you want to do something, people discourage you.

Do you always hear this: I don’t think you have what it take. Ouch! How do you believe in yourself when nobody else does? Why do we keep seeking approval from others when we know that not everyone will give us their blessings?

Is Seeking Validation from Others Important?

My students love to ask me, “What grade do you think I’ll get for my examination?”

But I absolutely hate to answer this question!

Why? Because I have no answer for them. I don’t know what they will get. I can’t predict their results. Even though I have taught them for a while and I somewhat know their standards, there are many other elements which determine their results. For example:

  • Is the examination difficult or not?
  • What topics are the examination setter focusing on?
  • Are the students feeling stressed or calm during the examination?
  • How well are the other students doing the examination? (For major examinations, the results are moderated.)

It’s difficult to answer their questions, especially when there’s still so much time before the examination. If I say they can get the grade, they might get complacent. But if I say they won’t get the grade, they might get discouraged. Different students handle feedback differently.

Moreover, no matter what I say, it’s just an opinion. It’s not necessarily the truth. It doesn’t determine their results.

Not all opinions matter.

We have a tendency to seek approval from people we trust (for e.g. our mentors and teachers) or people who matter to us (for e.g. our parents, family and friends). However, not all opinions matter. It all depends on the situation.

Previously, I kept seeking feedback from my mentors and my elder brother with regards to my business idea. I always felt discouraged whenever they rejected my ideas. Then, I realized I was waiting for their approval to get started. Why couldn’t I get started on my own? The truth is I don’t need their opinions. It’s not because their opinions aren’t valuable. It’s just that their opinions don’t matter.

They are not my target audience. They are never going to buy my books or products. Why am I seeking opinions from them? Shouldn’t I let the market validate my book and product ideas instead? The opinions from the market are the ones that matter.

Furthermore, they are a range of different opinions, some of which are contradicting. You have to pick and choose which to act upon. It depends on what you love to do, your strengths and weaknesses, why you want to do something, and more.

We are always looking outside for validation. But inner validation is important too.

Here’s how to believe in yourself when nobody else does.

“Believing yourself is one of the worst things you can do because you’ve been telling yourself lies your whole life.” Don Miguel Ruiz and Don Jose Ruiz, from The Fifth Agreement.

1. Just take action and don’t believe in yourself.

This might sound counterintuitive or even ridicule. But isn’t this what we need to do? Most of us have put way too much attention on self-belief and validation from others. You can do it sounds very encouraging on paper. However, in reality, it means nothing. It doesn’t determine the outcome.

Action determines the outcome, not the beliefs.

Belief is an opinion, but it is not necessarily the truth. Even if you believe in yourself, it doesn’t mean that you can do something. Even if others don’t believe in you, it doesn’t mean that you can’t do something. Most of us are waiting for beliefs to come to us before we take action.

But the only way to know is we can do something is to act on it. Other people’s opinions, including your own, don’t count. Instead of seeking for approval, why not act on it first and see what happens?

A real belief is action-orientated. It’s not just thinking or feeling-orientated. You show your faith by taking action. Let your action tells you if you can do something or not, and allow your self-belief to grow from there.

Like for me, I’m not sure if I can make a living being a writer. I’m testing it to find out. You don’t need everyone to believe in you or a 100% self-confidence to do something. Start before you have the belief.

2. Understand what’s holding you back.

Do you know why you doubt yourself and always need approval from others? Most likely, it’s because of your fear.

Seeking validation is a form of procrastination. We are afraid to start, to fail and face the challenges that might come. That’s why we keep seeking validation. I wasn’t really interested in what they had to say when I asked my mentors and my elder brother for feedback. I was delaying my action because I was afraid to fail or know the outcome.

Fear causes self-doubt.

Lack of trust for yourself isn’t due to the lack of belief from others. It’s the fear this is holding your back, not the disapproval from others. Getting others to agree with you doesn’t help you conquer the fear or self-doubt. You need to face your fear upfront and learn to move ahead despite your fear.

3. Take responsibilities for your own life.

Not long ago, a reader told me that he (assumed gender) was considering to cut his parents out of his life altogether. He wanted to get out of his dreaded career to pursue a creative career, but his parents were unhappy about it. Even though he has always been a creative person, he suppressed his creativity for most of his life. He just wants to be himself for once.

I used to feel subjugated by my parents too. But now I realize I have the freedom to choose. I don’t need them to believe in me or what I do. I’m old enough to make my own decision and be responsible for the outcome.

You have the freedom to choose, now that you are an adult.

When you were a child, you needed approval from your parents because you depended on them for survival. Without them, you couldn’t have survived. But now that you are an adult, it’s different. What are they doing exactly to stop you from doing what you love? Will you be grounded for not obeying them? Will your parents lock you up at home?

Ultimately, it’s up to us to decide what we want in life. Our parents can’t stop us even if they want to. Yes, it hurts when people who are close to us discourage us. But we need to recognize that we are responsible for our decision now. We are living our lives, not our parent’s.

Unless we recognize this, we will always go back to our parents or someone else for approval.

4. Face the truth.

Believe in yourself no matter what. Anything is possible. These sayings are very encouraging, but they can also be somewhat misleading. Believing in ourselves is important to a certain extent, but we also need to accept the limitation.

If you have watched reality shows such as Survivor and The Amazing Race, you will notice that most of the contestants said they can win. The truth is only one of them can be the winner. Again, it’s good to have positive self-beliefs and confidence, but they mean nothing.

Believing in yourself requires you to be aware of your limitations.

As humans, our bodies and minds limit us. Yes, in terms of spiritually, we are boundless. But to believe that we can do everything is denying the fact that we can’t do everything. Our spirits are still contained within our bodies.

Birds are made to fly, fishes are made to swim, and monkeys are made to climb trees. Fishes don’t climb trees because they are not meant to do it. We all have our purpose in life and we are equipped with unique gifts to do that. It’s good to be passionate about something, but we also need to face the truth:

  • Is this something we are really good at doing?
  • Is this what we are made to do?
  • Does this contribute to the world and people around us?

Everyone has a dream. Some want to be a singer, some want to be an athlete. But not everyone is meant to do so. Recognizing our strengths and weaknesses, our limitations helps to guide us to our purpose in life.

Believing in yourself within parameters is a better way of believing in yourself.


 Featured Photo Credit: I N F I N I T E / Travis Rock

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