Self-esteem: more about internal validation than external praise

Think back to your childhood. Were you introverted or extroverted? Were you confident or insecure? Were you a risk taker or risk adverse? Did you rely on others for praise or did you look inside or a combination of the two to work out your self-concept?

When I think back to my childhood, I was one of those children who was sometimes considered to be a bit 'annoying' by my teachers. Why? Because I was the noisy one in class! I loved learning so much that I wanted to participate in class and so I was always blurting out the answer or when I managed to restrain myself, I was begging to be picked because I knew the answers. I was an inquisitive student and unafraid of having a go, which meant that I didn’t leave much room for others to have turn! I did very well at school– proof that inquisitiveness, hard work and a love of learning do lead to academic success. With all of that, you’d think that I’d have a strong sense of self and good self-esteem. But unfortunately, that wasn't the case. It was only many years later that I realised that as a child, I lacked the life skills needed to empower myself.

After I began researching for the Inspired Children program, I realised that my lack of self-esteem and lack of empowerment stemmed from my relationship with my dad. Growing up, my dad rarely offered words of encouragement and it was impossible to get him to say that he was proud of me – no matter how great my achievements. As you can imagine this devastated me and I realised that my drive to achieve was, to some extent, part of my quest to get him to acknowledge me by acknowledging my accomplishments. It was also through my research that I discovered that I was looking for the right things (Self Esteem and Empowerment) from the wrong source (my dad). As I didn’t receive any praise or external validation from my dad growing up I was determined that this wouldn’t happen when I became a mother – so I regularly praised my boy until I realised … this was not the way either!

Internal Validation versus External Validation

Self-confidence, Self-esteem and Self-efficacy, and all begin with one very important word – ‘Self’. Internal validation is all about ‘self’ judgments. External validation is all about external judgments. Studies show that external praise can turn kids into ‘praise junkies’ and my interactions with my own son were turning him into one as well. We both had to learn that always looking for praise from others - external validation to give us a reason to accomplish something was a recipe for disaster now and later in life. I had to learn to stop judging myself and determining my self-worth based on other people's judgment and expectations. Instead, I needed to learn to make judgments for myself about myself and become internally referenced instead of being externally validated.

Once I understood how to be internally referenced, then I found a balance between my own input about things and the feedback from others, and I could empower my child to do the same.

You might enjoy this short video on the topic as well.