As women, learning how to stop seeking validation from guys isn’t easy. There are many social expectations and pressures to overcome. It is possible, though, and it comes with some pretty big advantages for your self-confidence, autonomy, and ability to achieve your goals.
In this article, we’re going to look at what male validation is (including why it can be problematic), why we seek validation from a guy, and how to stop seeking male validation.
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Male validation is a very simple concept. It means things that men do to show that they are pleased by, impressed with, or supportive of you. Whether it’s by their words or actions, a man is telling you that you are valid and important1.
When we’re talking about male validation in this article, we’re being a little bit more specific. We’re talking about the times that we, as women, value praise from men more than we do validation from other women, or even from ourselves.
One of the reasons that this is such a big problem (and often more of a problem than men seeking women’s validation) is that there is a huge imbalance of social power between men and women. What counts as “sexy” or “attractive” for both genders is more often seen from a male perspective2.
For example, we all know that female cartoon superheroes are designed to be attractive to men. It’s not exactly subtle. But the male superheroes aren’t actually what most women are looking for in a sexual partner3.
In fact, they represent how men would like to see themselves. The huge muscles and terrifyingly low body fat play into a male perception of masculinity, rather than typical female desire. Of course, some women are attracted to this body type, but evidence suggests that they’re not the majority4.
This is just one example of how male validation is often seen as more meaningful or important than female validation. We might also realize that a male boss has more power to advance our careers than a female boss and so we value his professional validation more than hers.
So, what does seeking male validation look like in practice?
Being in a relationship is one way to show ourselves, and the world, that we’re a wonderful person. You’re essentially saying “this fabulous person chose me over all the other women in the world.” That’s great and it’s a lovely feeling, but that doesn’t mean you should feel less when you’re single.
If the idea of being single is scary or if it impacts your sense of self-worth, you might be seeking too much validation from men.
Again, there’s nothing wrong with dressing to impress. If you’re on your way to a club or a bar, of course you’re probably thinking about how a guy might react to what you’re wearing. After all, most of us don’t wear high heels for comfort!
It’s different if you feel the need to be attractive to men every single time you leave the house. If the idea of going to the store to pick up a carton of milk without makeup on feels uncomfortable, this is another good sign that you might be putting too much emphasis on how men see you and react to you.
We all love a good compliment, especially from someone we’re romantically interested in. But does a compliment from a man you’re not attracted to mean more than one from a female friend?
If it does, you might want to ask yourself why. There’s a chance it’s because you’re too focused on male validation.
We all know that having strong boundaries is essential for a great relationship, but it’s not always easy5. This is doubly true if you find yourself needing a lot of male validation.
Setting boundaries is about telling someone “I understand that you want x, but that’s not ok for me.” We’re explicitly telling them no. One of the hardest parts of doing that is the secret worry about “what if they hate me for this?” or “if I enforce this boundary, they’ll just find someone else who won’t.”
We often struggle to set boundaries because, deep down, we worry that we will lose the validation they’ve been giving us. Of course, there are many other reasons that you might find it difficult to set boundaries, but many of them boil down to the fear of a loss of affection and validation.
We’ve already looked a little bit at some of the social factors around why women seek male validation more than validation from other women. Let’s take a deeper look at some of the other factors that might be operating here.
I’ve already mentioned that a lot of our understanding of sexuality and desire is viewed from the perspective of the male gaze. Society also often tells us that women are more sexually passive and that men always want sex and women resist those urges6.
All of this subconscious (and sometimes conscious) messaging can create a disconnect for many women with their own sexual needs and desires7. We’re not encouraged to think about what turns us on. The focus is more often on what turns men on.
All of this pushes some women to see themselves as objects of desire, whereas men are agents of desire. Men’s sense of their own sexuality is tied up with what they desire while ours is centered around who desires us.
As a result, we might start to only see ourselves as sexual at all if a man desires us. We would then seek male validation as the only path available to access our own sexuality.
It’s also clear that lots of women lack self-esteem or confidence in their own evaluations. If we don’t believe in ourselves and our own judgments, we need to look outside of ourselves to know whether we’re doing something well or not.
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This can go further than just thinking about whether we’re doing something well. We can start to tie our entire sense of self-worth into the opinion of the person we love. Abusers will often use this kind of insecurity as a tool to control women in a relationship.
Having an anxious attachment style means that you want more emotional validation from your partner than most people do8. This isn’t exclusive to women. Anyone with an anxious attachment style will look for reassurance, support, and validation.
Working on your anxious attachment style can be helpful if you want to stop seeking male validation.
Being a perfectionist isn’t actually a good thing. It often comes from a deep insecurity where we worry that other people won’t love us if we aren’t perfect. Worse, we also often believe that we don’t deserve their love if we make mistakes or screw something up.
Seeking male validation is one way to quiet that deep insecurity. Unfortunately, it’s usually only a short-term fix until you’ve addressed the problems driving your perfectionism.
Lots of us were taught as children that it’s important to be nice to others. While this is an important lesson for anyone who wants to live and work around other people, it’s important that it isn’t taken too far.
Often, children get the message that their worth or value only comes from what they give to others, rather than from themselves.
This can push them into becoming people-pleasers, where they push their own feelings and needs aside in favor of other people’s. If your self-esteem comes primarily (or entirely) from making other people happy, you’re especially vulnerable to needing male validation.
This might sound like an easy first step, but it can be surprisingly difficult. This is especially true if you consider yourself a feminist. In that case, you know intellectually that you don’t need male validation and you might feel embarrassed or as if you’re a failure for wanting it.
Even if it doesn’t hit a political sore spot, it can be hard to notice that you’re seeking too much male validation. As I mentioned earlier, men’s opinions and desires are treated as more important in our society. It can take a surprising amount of self-awareness to notice that you’re seeking male validation.
Remember that you need to recognize what’s going on before you can make meaningful change. Consider journaling or other tools to improve your self-awareness to notice what you’re feeling.
Be kind to yourself about what you find. If you realize that you are seeking too much male validation, that doesn’t mean you’re weak or a failure. It’s something we pick up over a long period of time and from many different sources. Try to focus on feeling proud of your self-awareness and determination to learn and grow.
Often, there will be some situations or events that will lead you to seek validation. For example, it’s completely normal to look for more validation that we’re attractive immediately after a breakup. Our confidence in our own attractiveness has been damaged and we try to fill that gap.
Again, journaling can be an incredible tool to help you recognize the things that lead you to seek validation, especially if you read back through old entries to try to see patterns9.
If you’re really focusing on this, you could rate how much you wanted male validation at the end of each day, and think about what events might have caused that number to be higher or lower.
As well as thinking about things that increase your need for validation from men, try asking what things decrease that need. Spending time with a bunch of friends or taking part in a sport you know you’re good at might help to reduce your need for validation.
Once you know what influences your need for male validation, you can make informed decisions about how to spend your time.
Comparing ourselves to others is a completely natural urge, but it’s also often really unhelpful and can leave us feeling insecure and inadequate10. These feelings can drive us to look for external validation, especially from men.
Remember that there will always be someone who is better than you in any specific category. With so many people on the planet, there will always be someone taller, richer, funnier, or with a better knowledge of crochet patterns from the 1840s or modern car upholstery trends.
What there won’t be is another you. There won’t be anyone who has your precise combination of interests, passions, knowledge, qualities, strengths, and weaknesses. Rather than putting yourself down because you don’t earn as much as Nadia or you’re less funny than Anya, try to see each ‘you’ as an individual who is important in your own right.
This is simultaneously one of the most and least useful pieces of advice that we can give. Improving your self-confidence has a dramatic impact on your need to seek male validation. The more self-confidence you have, the less validation you need from anyone else.
Unfortunately, it’s also extremely difficult. You will probably need to devote a considerable amount of time and effort into building up your self-confidence before you notice a difference in your need for male validation.
If you’re not sure where to start, try paying attention to your inner monologue. This is the voice inside your head that tells you whether you think you did something well or not. For many of us, this is an inner critic. If your inner voice is harsh or mean, try to find kinder, more loving ways to speak to yourself.
Learning to set boundaries and say no is an important part of learning to live without lots of external validation. Practice fulfilling your own needs, rather than always putting everyone else first.
A good start is to try to say no to people who ask for favors you don’t actually want to grant. If possible, try saying no without giving an excuse.
If that’s too difficult, or if you don’t feel able to say no straight away, try setting your default response to “I’m not sure. Let me check and I’ll get back to you.” This gives you time to make your decision, and formulate an excuse if needed11.
Giving yourself validation might sound crazy, but it’s a surprisingly effective tool once you’ve learned to trust your own opinion and to value yourself.
Many of us are happy to admit that “I’m my own worst critic.” It sometimes sounds as if we think that being strongly self-critical is a sign of self-awareness, humility, and even just being a good person.
Try swapping that thought around and being your own best cheerleader. For many people, that thought feels wrong at a deep level. That’s understandable. We’re so often taught to put others before ourselves and not to brag.
Remind yourself of the things you do well. Give yourself credit for a job well done. Learn to be proud of yourself in the way you wish other people would be proud of you.
Sometimes, it can be helpful to have a quote or words of wisdom to help remind you to validate yourself. Personally, I like this one from Marianne Williamson.
“We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?”
If you have a quote that reminds you to give yourself validation, try framing it and putting it on your desk or hanging it on a wall. Having a regular reminder that it’s ok to give yourself validation can make it easier to avoid chasing male validation in a way that is harmful to you.
Learning how to stop seeking male validation is tough, so make sure you have the support you need available to you.
A great therapist, counselor, or relationship coach will be able to help you work through any deeper issues that might push you toward seeking validation from guys. They can also be your cheerleader when you’re making progress.
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying male validation. It becomes a problem when you devote too much energy into seeking it. If a lack of male validation leaves you feeling insecure or unhappy, you might want to address some of the underlying issues.
All of us seek validation from important people in our lives to some extent. That’s a natural part of living in a society and caring about the people around you. It’s only a problem if their validation means more to you than your own beliefs, values, and ethics.
Seeking male validation can lead you into unhealthy behaviors, such as people-pleasing, jumping into relationships too quickly, and struggling to be honest about your thoughts and feelings. Try focusing on fulfilling your own needs more than seeking validation from others.
It can be difficult to learn how to stop seeking validation from guys, and instead find healthier ways to get reassurance, love, and acceptance. If you follow the tips and advice above, male validation can become something that’s nice to have, rather than something you go out of your way to obtain.
Hope you enjoyed this article. Let me know in the comments how this compares with your experiences around male validation. Do you have any strategies for validating yourself? And don’t forget to share this article with anyone who needs reminding that they’re fabulous, no matter what men might think of them.
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