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How To Validate Yourself- A Guide For Performers (Embracing The Tug Of War Between Internal And External Validation.)

As performers, there is a litany of ways we can get our validation externally. We live for the highs- audience reaction, likes on social media posts, compliments, recognition through review or feedback, being awarded particular roles or titles. It’s very easy for it to become like a drug. Let me be clear, these things are not bad in and of themselves, they are lovely to experience! (I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy them when things go well, or that I’m unaffected when they’re not) however when these become our building blocks, and the way we see ourselves, this is when it becomes dangerous. Fundamentally we give our power away, but also our joy and success becomes hinged on whether we can get what it is we are seeking from other people. We freely give away our locus of control, in favour of the approval of others thus redistributing our emotional well-being into the hands of others. It also means we are more likely to act from a self-interested place, rather than a place of authenticity and flow. It breeds unhealthy competition or an energy that is tense and has a slight hint of desperation (depending on how badly we need it.) Not to mention how awful we can feel if we don’t get what it is we’re seeking. Therefore, knowing how to validate yourself is the most important tool in your survival kit if you want to be an emotionally resilient performer.

Learning to love ourselves is an art form, as is resilience. And like all skills in life, they have to be worked at. It’s not a case of ticking a box, but rather an ongoing practise that requires refining and readjusting. We are constantly in a state of flux, mending old wounds and creating new ones. We are a mash up of every positive and negative experience we’ve ever had. And the truth is, not everyone will see your worth. But all of this becomes a hell of a lot easier when you start working on how to validate yourself. It’s kind of like whether you’re standing on land or treading water. If you’re in the water, things are always going to be rocky and you’ll struggle to stay afloat.

So what do you do when an audition or job doesn’t go the way you hoped? Or someone doesn’t tell you what you needed to hear?

Below are 7 ways you can cultivate your validation internally, and put the power back into the right hands-yours!

1. Tell Yourself What You’re Looking To Hear From Others.

Learning to self sooth is one of my ongoing lessons in life and the biggest key if you want to know how to validate yourself. The truth is, if we are reliant on hearing what we need from other people, our actions become approval driven; and most importantly any power we have is taken away. There will inevitably be times in life— both as an artist and performer, but also just within normal parameters where we won’t always get what we are needing. And given that we are constantly writing our own story, and our actions are based off what we tell ourselves, telling ourselves what we need to hear is one of the best ways we can safeguard ourselves.

2. Surround Yourself With Those That Build You Up.

Although we can’t always hand pick who we work with or what teachers we have, it is important to exercise what we can control, and choose our company wisely. It is necessary to have a good support system in place— those who have your back— who can mentor and assist your training positively, so knowing who to surround yourself with is key.

3. Notice Your Feelings And Then Do Something That Provides For That Need.

I think of feelings as promptings, almost like a call and response. Yes, sometimes there is nothing we can do and those feelings just need to be moved through, but always wherever possible if we can use an action to alleviate the discomfort we are feeling (positively) we can start to build new experiences and neural

4. Play Detective With You’re Thoughts.

Use your thoughts to tell you what you’re needing. Is it to feel good enough? To be understood by the people you’re surrounding yourself with? Clarity or direction in your career or goals? To feel seen? Once you know this, brainstorm ways you can create this for yourself. Knowing what it is you’re seeking is the biggest thing to practise recognising when wanting to work on how to validate yourself. Even if the end goal isn’t immediately within grasp, set yourself a step towards it with a goal to working your way up.

    5. Go General

    Ever seen someone so caught up in wanting a particular job? Maybe they audition 5 times and still don’t get it. Or, they never make it to the West End. It’s easy for these things to become all consuming. But it’s important to keep the overall goal and the passion behind that alive, rather than the vehicle of transit. For example, if you have your heart set on being in musicals- think about touring companies, or jobs abroad where musicals are a part of that. There’s always more ways than we think to achieve something, so keep the overall goal in mind and be flexible about the rest, rather than tying our validation down to whether we’re the right fit for a particular company.

    6. Notice What Story You’re Subscribing To

    Listen, we all have weaknesses and strengths, and it is good to know what they are, but make sure the words you’re using and telling yourself are building you up. Ultimately, we don’t have control over what other people say about us, but we can choose whether we take that on for ourselves, or whether we reframe things in a way that nurtured and cultivates us.

    7. Have Good Boundaries.

    Just because someone says a put down to us, or makes us feel a certain way that doesn’t mean we have to agree with them or take it. No one ever has the right to make you feel small, or not enough, or make their limiting belief about you truth, so learning to stand your ground when people try to put you down is key.

    Work It!

    Mindset is something which we have to actively exercise, in the same way we do our craft. Much in the same way we do our tendus daily, or singing warm up, or clean our teeth, none of those things fall into place without active effort. If we didn’t do these things, we wouldn’t be in command of our craft or life any more and things would run riot. The same is true of the mind. So give yourself the TLC you need and don’t forget to look after the inner you on your journey. The you in 5 years will thank you for it 🙂

    I hope this article has been helpful in learning how to validate yourself. Please feel free to drop me a question in the comments, I’d love to hear from you!

    8 Comments

    • Christine

      It is indeed an ongoing process to validate and love yourself. We cannot judge ourselves by the likes we get on social media or by what other people say about us. It’s up to us to validate ourselves and to decide whether we want others to define who we are or if we can define ourselves. In the end, what you think and feel is what matters, as long as you know who you are you can always move forward. Perhaps not getting a certain interview or a part in a musical isn’t the end of the world but a gateway to a new opportunity; we just have not found it yet 🙂

      • Natalie

        Hi Christine. I agree, I think particularly social media is something every person struggles with at one point or another. I think when we don’t get what we are aiming for, we determine whether it is a failure that we take as fact about ourselves, or use it to spur us on to a greater success, secure on the knowledge of who we are. Failures, particularly in the performing arts are part and parcel of the journey, so learning how to bounce back from it, secure in our identity and not fearing it isn’t what will ultimately cause us to succeed. Fail forward as it were 🙂

    • Andrew

      Great ideas for self-validation! This is such an important topic for performers, and one that I suspect is not talked about nearly enough.
      Every individual’s health and wellbeing have a basis in ‘what they think and feel about themselves.’ This is why it is so important to cultivate positive self-esteem and maintain it throughout all of the ups and downs during life or career.
      As a performer, there are certainly going to be times when ‘someone’ does not like the performance that we give and they may publically give a bad review. Our self-confidence and self-love are necessary to get us through these times so that we can continue to try and fulfill our goals or reach our dreams.
      I wish you all the best,
      Thanks for sharing 🙂

      • Natalie

        Hi Andrew, I totally agree- it’s definitely something that needs to be talked about more. As performers, we’re constantly putting ourselves under scrutiny, and therefore if people don’t like our performance it’s easy to take it personally. We put our heart and soul into what we do so how could we not? Which is why, just as we’re nurturing our ability, we need to nurture our self worth and self love. Making sure that we know who we are and then operating from that space as performers is our responsibility, no one can do it for us. When we conquer this is when we truly excel 🙂

    • Kerryanne

      A very nice topic you chose to write about and you certainly had a lot to say on it!
      A human being is a social being (except few, who pretend to be self-sufficient, but that’s another story).
      It’s only normal to want to be a part of the bigger whole, which triggers the desire of being accepted, being approved, valued. And it is ok. Until, as you say, the unconditional approval is still only the cherry on the cake, not the cake itself. A beautiful candied cherry makes a cake more appealing, more tasty and we really like to see it on top of the sweet treat. But, we could have it without it as well, with only a slightly less joy, or maybe we wouldn’t even notice it lacking or being less beautiful.
      If the cake was missing, however, it would question our joy entirely, or even make us miserable.
      I believe your article will help anyone struggling to keep the cherry on top of the cake, instead of melting into it.

      • Natalie

        Hi Kerryanne, what a great analogy! Love it, you are absolutely right, these things are nice to experience, they are not bad in and of themselves, but as you say when they become the main ingredients, that’s when it becomes dangerous. Glad you enjoyed this article 🙂

    • Yoana

      A really great article. Understanding yourself , your emotions and feelings is extremely important when it comes to self-love and acceptance.
      External validation will never be all we need, even though so many people are focusing on getting validated this way. Your article should be a great reminder for everyone focusing on external factors.

      Kind regards,
      Yoana

      • Natalie

        Thanks Yoana, I agree. Our internal landscape is just as important as our external one. In fact Law Of Attraction even states that what is going on internally contributes to what we see show up in our lives. So staying on top of our thoughts and feelings is essential 🙂

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