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"What Do You Think of Me?"

That’s the trend: people posting in their social media, asking about their friends or followers about what do people think about them.

That question, or something alike, could be a potential healthy dose of self-reflection and further, self-awareness. I say “potential” because no one guarantees the poster will think deeper about the feedbacks they received regarding others’ impression of the him/her.

My question is, “Why do you ask such a question?”

I have to admit it myself, that when I published something on social media, 80% of the time is for seeking social validation.

That could be the case too in this time. We might seeking others’ validation of the image we have in our mind about ourselves. Why, though? Are we not confident enough having a certain self-image? Is that the only reason?

The answer will be very personal and I think the feelings that might arise while synthesizing that answer is a part of human experience. This is such a meta process!

Somewhere in between the streets of Edinburgh’s Old Town.

Cause 1: Validation

We always seek validation, even from our own thinking. We think we are not very cool, so we seek cool people’s opinion about us stating the opposite. We think we looks like a judgmental person at the first sight, so we cite someone’s testimony that we are not as bad after a conversation. We do think we are friendly, so we recount the occasions that prove so. It’s natural. I belief everyone do that at some points in their life. That’s a perfectly okay thing to do.

What I would like to remind myself is that do prioritize seeking validation from the number one stakeholder of my life — not my friends, not my parents, not even myself; but from my Lord — the Creator of the Worlds.

In this moment of post-Ramadhan, I reminded myself of the question (oh, so much questions!) a person asked several weeks ago to my small circle of friendship, “What do you want to achieve in this Ramadhan?” to which I replied, “I want to get so hungry so that I can observe my internal states with a greater clarity.”

Note that this orientation is a “step back” from a contemplation that arose almost a year ago— to develop a greater “sovereignty” over my mind in the moments before acting on good habits and deeds pleasing to Allah. Before I can exercise that sovereignty, I need the ability to see and collect the internal data first. I won’t talk about how this Ramadhan 1445H meta-goal turned out in this post as I’m still processing the journey.

But to connect everything to the topic of seeking validation, here’s the recap of that past contemplation: the key is to consciously free my mind from being subjugated by its tendencies and habits. To exist in a liberated state of clarity and awareness when the choice to perform a good action arises. In that sovereign moment, I get to thoughtfully choose—little to no inner resistance — what my system of belief deems as the best course action to conduct in this short life.

The validation we crave is, in many ways, an affirmation that our self-identity aligns with the values and ideals we hold. When our decisions authentically mirror our inner beliefs and principles, we experience a congruence that gives us an intrinsic sense of integrity. Conversely, when our behaviors contradict our professed virtues, we invite cognitive dissonance that undermines our self-respect.

Thus, the pursuit of true self-validation becomes tied to mindfully living in accordance with the spiritual and ethical code we ascribe to. The sovereign moments where we make values-based choices are ultimately what forge our enduring self-perception and self-validation, far more than the transient praise or critiques from others.

In essence, at our core we seek to feel validated that we are the type of person our beliefs and ideals demand us to be. And the primary mechanism to achieve that is through consistently taking actions, cultivating habits, and making choices that reinforce the self-image we aspire to. For it is in the execution of our deeds that our truest self emerges.

This kind of thinking demands prerequisites: knowledge and affirmation of our ideals, along with the skill of translating them into actions. So time and time again, we come back to an everlasting conclusion: continue gain new knowledge about how to “do life” that aligns with our core belief, then apply it into our dailies. It is as simple (and as hard) as that. And here I talked about it is not something coming from an expert. This is only coming from an observant learner who takes notes.

Cause 2: Blind Spot

On the other side, by inviting feedback and outside perspectives through questions like “What do you think of me?”, we are essentially trying to shine a light into our Blind Area — the aspects of ourselves that others can see but we ourselves are blind to.

The Johari Window model provides a great framework for this discussion.

Four quadrants of the Johari Window The Johari Window. Image from Wikipedia

For those unfamiliar, the Johari Window separates self-awareness into four quadrants:

  • The Open Area — What’s known by the self and others.
  • The Blind Area — What’s unknown to the self but known to others.
  • The Hidden Area — What’s known to self but unknown to others.
  • The Unknown Area — What’s unknown to both self and others.

The act of throwing that question to the others can be a genuine desire for self-discovery and personal growth. We all have blind spots shaped by our subjective experiences, backgrounds and biases. The people around us may pick up on quirks, strengths, weaknesses or patterns that we’re simply unaware of about ourselves. Soliciting this external perspective, especially from those close to us who know us well, can provide insights to help expand our self-awareness. It allows us to take a more objective look at how we’re perceived and recalibrate if needed.

However, acknowledging our blind spots can be a humbling experience. Our natural tendency might be to be defensive or dismissive of feedback that challenges our self-perception. Here, I believe, faith can play a crucial role. By cultivating humility before God, we open ourselves to the possibility that He might reveal aspects of ourselves that we haven’t recognized. This openness allows us to receive feedback with a more receptive heart, filtering it through the lens of our values and seeking growth rather than clinging to a potentially distorted self-image.

Of course, we have to filter that feedback through a healthy self-esteem. Not all outside perspectives will be accurate or conducive to growth. But being open to it from trusted sources is generally positive.

Would your tend-to-be-wide social media account be a conducive place to gather honest and accurate feedback? Your answer is yours. Each of us has our own way to handle how our network grow and how it relates to us. If you happen to have someone who kind enough to pin-point your blind spot, then the connection to that someone might be one of your best assets in life.

So, the next time you find yourself asking ‘What do you think of me?’ on social media, perhaps consider what truly motivates that question. Is it a desire for validation, or a yearning for self-discovery, or something else? Let this be a prompt for our own introspection.

For me, the journey towards self-validation is a constant work in progress. There will be days when external validation feels tempting, but I’m committed to prioritizing my own compass.

This post is licensed under CC BY 4.0 by the author.