Do we know what we want?

If you feel outraged by what other people say about your life choice, it’s a sign that social acceptance is an important variable in your decision making process.

An influencer used her platform to talk about why she decides to not have kids. You felt triggered by it, even though you knew that what she said wasn’t entirely true. What does that make you?

It doesn’t mean you only want kids for social acceptance. You might still want kids for numerous other reasons, but deep down you probably hope that this decision also allows you to be seen in a certain way. You wish that this decision (or sacrifice?) is something that will be validated in your environment. The environment is not just your friends or your families, it can also be your social media feeds.

Whether it is a good thing or a bad thing, I will leave that to you. The question is: Are you aware of this? Are you even able to tell which one is which? That is the bigger question.

Most people (including me) will claim that we want something because of logical reasons. When we are asked why buy this phone, we will claim that it has better performance. When we are asked why dress this way, we will claim that it makes us feel good about ourselves.

We think we know why we want something, but…. do we?

Do We Really Know?

Here’s the tricky part: In this age where we’re more connected than ever and social media has perfectly blended in with physical world, it becomes harder to distinguish know what we truly want and what we want people to see.

Whenever we feel uncertain, our reflect is to go on social and look for that external validation. This validation comes in many forms: the likes in your post, the reactions in your story, the replies in your tweet, the quote tweets, the retweets, etc.

At first, it was a luxury. A vitamin, you might say. Now, it has become a painkiller. Our brains are enslaved by these vanity rewards. It changes the way we think, the way we perceive things, or how we’d like to be recognized.

What happens next is that the line between what we really want with what we want people to see becomes extremely blurry. We might trick ourselves into thinking that we want A because of B (B being why we truly want/need it). In reality, it might be a mix of B and C (C being how we want others to perceive us).

A Litmus Test

Do this exercise: Whenever you want something, write it down on a piece of paper or your laptop. Then, ask this to yourself: If there is no social media and you can’t tell other people about it, would you still want it?

  • If you say you want kids, would you still want it if there is no social media and you can’t talk about having kids to your friends?
  • If you ask yourself why you want to own a certain car, would you still want it if nobody knows you have that car?
  • If you decide to choose someone as your partner, would you still choose him/her if you can’t tell your closest ones about them?
  • If you adopt a certain religious belief, would you still do that if your parents, your spouse, or your friends know nothing about it?

You might feel bad because you just realized you wouldn’t have kids if you can’t tell others about it. You might feel sinful for thinking that you wouldn’t have prayed if nobody knows about whether you do or you don’t.

My advice is to not beat yourself up. Allow yourself to be vulnerable on whatever answer you may have. Be comfortable with it. Try to refrain from judging from yourself.

External validation is not always bad. Continue reading. 👇

OK, so… What Should I Do?

Here’s the catch: You don’t have to change your goals or principles just because there’s an external validation variable in it. Sometimes, external validation is a powerful motivation to help you develop positive habits.

You might eat healthily because you want to lose fats and be more attractive. Later on, you become falling in love with exercising and now you do it out of necessity.

You might learn something because it makes you feel accepted and allows you to socialize. Later on, you might end up learning about other things, which helps you find something you’re good at.

You might invest because you want to be seen as someone who is financially responsible. Later on, you start to feel the benefit of investing that regardless if people know about it or not, you will continue doing it anyway.

There is no thumb rule that decides whether an external validation is a positive or a negative. It highly depend on the context that you’re facing. The idea of this exercise is to increase your awareness one level higher so you can make the right decision for yourself.

The more you know about yourself and how you think or feel, the better the decision you will make.

I’ve been there, done that. I recently realized that there were many other things I wouldn’t have done if nobody knew about it. But that’s fine, because I’m learning. At least I was aware about it, and I hope you are.

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