Looking ‘Inside’ or ‘Outside’ for Validation

internal external validationA mother proclaims to her child “I am so very proud of you!”  The father gushes to his child “You should be so very proud of yourself!” – Which one is better?

Which one do YOU prefer?  That depends on whether your source of authority is primarily internal or external.  (Note: this is not a discussion on introversion and extroversion, but rather of where a person looks to determine beliefs, thinking patterns and actionable behavior.)

As an adult with an external authority orientation, we look outside of ourselves for proof and validation:

“Does this look good on me?” (Others’ opinions are important to forming own judgments)

“It’s right here on the Internet, which proves my point” (written material serves as authoritative)

“What will the neighbors think?” (public reputations matter)

As an adult with an internal authority orientation, we look inside to our own standards as all the proof we need:

“I love it!  I’ll buy it.”

“How do that I know I’m right?  I just know, that’s how.”

“Who cares what the neighbors think?”

So which is better – internal or external?  Neither is better, as both have their benefits and their detractions.  The child that is raised with an internal authority source (“you should be so very proud of yourself”) may, on the extreme ends of the spectrum, turn into a charismatic leader or a quirky loner.  A child who develops an external authority source (“I am so very proud of you”) can love to please but may also be unduly influenced by peer pressure.

COMMUNICATION TAKEAWAY:    As the child, we all start out with an external authority orientation as we know nothing else except for what our parents tell us.  Parents have much power and influence in forming their children’s future character.  In the early years they are primarily responsible for most of the input that their child receives, as the child is trying to make sense of this strange new world outside of the womb, and then later their place in it.

 As a child becomes independent they experience other styles and ways of operating in the world that are different from their parents.  What they will ultimately embrace for their own is a selective matter of experience.  A parent can help to structure that experience in a certain direction with active participation in the process, if they know how.

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