When we hear the name Gabrielle Union, we think of an intelligent, beautiful, and accomplished Black actress.
The truth is that Union spent many years feeling like she was nowhere near enough.
In a recent episode of Netflix’s Skip Intro, she shared how she struggled with her self-worth at the beginning of her career so much that someone recommended therapy so that she could work through her need for validation as someone who was “amazing and beautiful.”
Union was able to work through her personal trauma after years of therapy and self-discovery. She realized that other people’s opinions of her shouldn’t be important to her:
“I can’t be invested in your opinion of me, or anyone’s opinion of me,” she said. “My truth just is. And it’s none of my business how anyone else responds or reacts.”
Union said the discovery freed her from “the constant need to be validated by a man, a job, an opportunity, a cover, [or] whatever.”
“I’m good, in every hood, being exactly who I am,” she concluded. “And at some point, that’s enough.”
Here’s how people who have stopped seeking external validation live life.
1) They’re a realist and a dreamer rolled into one
People who don’t require external validation do things their own way. They know full well that some will love it, while some will hate it.
“Either way, [they] don’t care and [they’ll] continue to march to the beat of their own drum,” says Bustle’s Erica Gordon.
“You’re a realist when the situation calls for it, but you also dream big—bigger than most people—and that’s what’s so great about you,” she says.
“You’re well aware that if you don’t dream big, you’ll be stuck in a mediocre life.”
2) Their only competition is themselves
Not needing external validation means not needing to compare yourself to other people.
You’re able to have a “That’s great for them,” kind of vibe, while being proud of the path you’re on.
This is because you know that you don’t have to prove your worth to anyone, says leadership writer Gifford Thomas.
“You’ve developed the self-confidence to follow your own heart and your own dreams. You are competing with yourself to become the very best version of yourself; no one else.”
3) They don’t need to prove something to other people
I love this quote: “It’s not about proving yourself, it’s about being yourself.”
People who don’t require external validation embrace who they are and have decided they’re going to be the most authentic version of themselves instead of who they think others want them to be, says lifestyle writer Angel Chernoff.
This philosophy helps them to open themselves up to real relationships, real happiness, and real success, she says.
“There is no need to put up an act, [and] there’s no need to pretend to be someone that you’re not.”
4) They don’t need “likes” on social media to like themselves
“Likes” on social media don’t affect people who need no validation from others.
People who don’t look for validation might also share posts on their social media platform in order to shed light on a cause they’re passionate about or on the work they’re doing.
They’ll also post as a way of documenting and saving memories.
They’re apt to post a less than perfectly aesthetic picture of themselves simply because they like it and there’s perhaps a personal story behind it that is meaningful to them.
5) They’re proud of their accomplishments, but they certainly aren’t show-offs
A person who doesn’t need others to validate still likes to share their accomplishments and the work they’re proud of, but they do it in a way that sticks to the facts and puts the emphasis on their efforts, says Amy Morin who is a psychotherapist and lecturer at Northeastern University.
“They [also] give credit where it’s due,” she says. But they’re not overly modest in that it takes away from their achievements.
Says Morin: they might say something like, “I worked hard to make this happen. It took a long time to get here, but it’s worth it.”
6) They’re not people pleasers
People pleasing can be anything from buying something because you’ve been coerced into it by a salesperson, or not speaking up when you receive the wrong meal in a restaurant.
It can also be bigger things like going to law school because that’s what your family expects.
People who don’t seek validation have the courage to speak up when they need to and they are brave enough to stand by their own ideals even in the face of immense pressure.
Their lives can be far from easy because they’re often considered the “difficult one,” or the black sheep.
But they know that at the end of the day, the only person they need to be happy with is themselves.
7) They don’t care to jump on the current bandwagon
Some years ago, I interviewed Nadja Swarovski of the Swarovski crystal conglomerate, and I asked her how her more than 100-year-old family business stayed relevant in fashion, architecture, and design, and how the company stayed so successful.
I found her response to be insightful: “We surround ourselves with people who make the trends, rather than those that follow them,” she said.
People who don’t look to others for validation don’t put much stock in fashion trends and fads.
Before buying something we should ask ourselves if we truly want it or are we buying it because we want to be seen as attractive, cool, beautiful, or fashion-forward.
8) They aren’t afraid to be wrong about some things
People who look to others for validation understand that mistakes will be inevitable.
They don’t see the point in avoiding certain tasks or situations just because of potential mistakes.
What they do instead is reflect on any mistakes so as to educate themselves. This creates confidence because it comes from direct experiences.
“When you know you can fall down, pick yourself up, and move forward without asking for anyone else’s permission,” says Chernoff.
They trust themselves to handle any fallout—they don’t shame themselves—and they’re mindful of self-acceptance in times of stress.
9) At the end of the day, they know that only they know what’s best for them
They don’t lose themselves in their desire for acceptance by other people.
People who don’t seek validation also don’t expect anyone else to understand the path they’re on—especially when those people haven’t walked a similar path themselves.
This is no easy feat. “It’s easy to be brainwashed in this society because right from the get-go, when we have no choice but to be dependent on others, we are taught to believe that others know better,” says self-help writer Shona Keachie.
“This inadvertently teaches us to suppress our own desires, feelings, ideas, and opinions about the world,” she says.
They take steps that are right for them, because no one can walk in their shoes but them, emphasizes Chernoff. They let others take them as they are, or not at all.
In turn, they encourage others to live in a world where people are focused on their own authentic happiness rather than constantly trying to fit in the mold of being “good enough” just so they can satisfy the standards of others.
10) They know that the idea of validation is simply an illusion
People who don’t seek validation from external sources know that the concept actually isn’t real.
“[Validation is actually] a manifestation of self doubt and a natural craving for our egos,” says Laura Jane Haver, a writer for Medium.
“If we continue to look for validation and acceptance, we will wake up one day and realize we have been hiding from ourselves,” she says. “There will be a lingering feel that something is incomplete, or completely missing.”
People who don’t need validation look inward instead.
“As long as you’re being true to yourself, treating yourself and others with respect, and embodying integrity, you don’t need approval outside of yourself.”