Academic Validation: All For Someone Else
Remember when we used to get those shiny “great job” stickers in elementary school? Well, I’m in high school now, and I still find myself looking for that sticker. Validation: it’s what we students crave more than anything, neglecting our own mental health just for a number on a page or computer screen. When it’s not received, we spiral into the usual thoughts… “I’m not good enough. Everyone is better than me, and I’m worthless. What’s the point of this, if no one cares?”
So first, what is academic validation? It’s the recognition and acceptance of academic success. As humans, we desire to hear in-person how proud people are of us. Oftentimes, it’s healthy! Hearing about our successes brings us humans together.
In some cases though, it can almost become a drug: something that one is dependent on to propel them to care about grades, tests and assignments.
I’m not even in university and I find myself seeking out that validation. Who am I, without academic success? I keep looking for that validation and then wonder why we seek it out anyway. Partially, it's because of comparison. When we see other students achieving, we put ourselves down more. We feel pressured to perform the same, or better. Sometimes, we even see the success of others as an attack on our own flaws. We never stop comparing ourselves!
Whether it be through social media or in the classroom, comparison is everywhere. I even remember competing with classmates to see who could get the best grade on a test and then enjoying the validation that I would get when I ‘won’. On social media, there are always influencers showing expensive study setups and rigorous study routines, and I think… “maybe if I did that too… I’d be a better student.”
Academic validation, when it becomes like a drug, Once it becomes a drug, students envision themselves as a product of their work, working only to please others. This drives a toxic obsession with validation. We as students are not just here to work, we are here to learn, even if the only thing that matters seems to be a grade on a paper.
Academic validation and academic pressure even go hand in hand. Students tend to feel pressured to achieve unrealistic standards of success, which negatively affects their mental health and wellbeing. Academic pressure itself can result in the development of mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression which could lead to students seeking out extra validation.
When seeking out academic validation becomes an issue, it is important to take a step back and recognize this. It is normal to enjoy validation, but it becomes an issue if not receiving it is affecting your mental health negatively. The best way to improve your relationship with school and to not seek out academic validation excessively is to resort to therapy or counselling. The reality, however, is that this is not accessible to everyone equally.
Remember to set your own personal limits and live by those instead of the limits of your classmates or parents. You don’t need to be perfect in order to achieve success in life. Perfection is boring. Most importantly, take time away from your academics! Hobbies can be very good ways of connecting with other people, whether it be through clubs or online spaces. Feedback and praise is often shared between friends who have your same interests in a very healthy way. Find ways to validate yourself without the need of a teacher's stamp of approval or a parental pat on the back. Validating yourself is key to appreciating your own greatness.
So go ahead, buy those shiny “great job” stickers for you, because yes, you deserve it!
Hall, K. (2012, February 3). What is Validation and Why Do I Need to Know? Retrieved December 27, 2021, from Psych Central website: https://psychcentral.com/blog/emotionally-sensitive/2012/02/levels-of-validation#2
Stop Seeking Validation from Others. (2019). Retrieved December 27, 2021, from Psychology Today website: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/addiction-and-recovery/201907/stop-seeking-validation-others
Thakkar, A. (2018, April 6). Academic Stress in Students - One Future Collective - Medium. Retrieved December 27, 2021, from Medium website: https://medium.com/one-future/academic-stress-in-students-498c34f064d7