It is so easy to become confused, lost, or uncertain about your craft. I see it every day with the students that I work with. Some spell hasn’t worked or what they thought they knew ended up being untrue or some major belief has shifted for them and they wind up feeling like they’ve lost their solid ground. Or maybe they’re so new that they’ve never found a sense of solidity in their craft. The first thing almost everyone does when they find themselves in this situation is to look for external validation.
It makes sense! We are deeply social creatures and input from the people in our communities is incredibly valuable to us. We want the sense of comfort and rightness that having someone else validate our craft gives us. Unfortunately, this desire for external validation can become habitual, and when that happens many problems crop up. Today, we are going to look at why people end up stuck looking for external validation in their craft, why this validation doesn’t help, and what you can do instead if you find yourself in this cycle.
Why We Look For Validation
There are many reasons a person might seek external validation in their craft and there is a bit of a sliding scale here as far as severity is concerned. Looking for external validation once or twice is usually no problem. Sometimes we just hit a really gnarly problem or a low point in our mental health and we need someone to help bolster our confidence again. This is not the kind of validation seeking that I’m talking about. What we’re talking about here is the chronic need for external validation. It’s the person who wants someone else to check their spell work every time they cast. It’s the person who needs a more experienced witch to tell them whether it’s okay for them to do something before they’ll even consider trying it. It’s the person who has no set identity as a witch because they keep changing their practice to match whatever other people tell them they should do or tell them they are as a witch.
This pattern of chronic validation seeking may seem harmless. Often, we pass it off as someone who’s particularly new or a witch who is overly concerned with safety and making sure that they’re following the rules correctly, but this pattern is almost always insidious. It speaks to an underlying problem that, if not addressed, can and often does lead to diminishing magical returns. In other words, this pattern can make your magic stop working very well. Since we definitely do not want our magic to stop working, let’s take a look at the top three reasons why people end up in this pattern.
1. Imposter Syndrome
The first and probably most common reason why people end up constantly seeking external validation is imposter syndrome. Almost everyone experiences imposter syndrome at some point in their lives. For those of you who aren’t aware of what this is, imposter syndrome is essentially when you feel like you fooled everyone around you and yourself into thinking that you are something you aren’t. The key part of this, however, is that you aren’t truly an imposter, that’s why it’s a syndrome. You feel like you’re faking it even though you’re not!
In the craft, imposter syndrome often crops up as the sense that you’re not capable of doing magic, you’re making up the results you’ve gotten from your spells, explaining everything away as confirmation bias, wondering if you’re just lying to yourself about magic existing, and so on. It’s essentially just severe self-doubt. This self-doubt can be so uncomfortable that it drives people to look outside of themselves for reassurance that they are, in fact, what they are.
2. Old programming
The second most common reason that people end up in a validation-seeking pattern is that they’re still running on old programming from previous spiritual modalities. In the majority of major religions on the planet, the individual is not considered an expert in spirituality or the divine. We are taught that we have to seek connection with God and connection with the spiritual realm through outside sources. You find spirituality through priests and ministers, religious services, prayers written by other people, books written by other people, etc. This can leave us with a lasting sense of distrust in our spiritual knowledge and capacity for spiritual growth and connection. When this is the root cause of validation seeking, the individual tends to pick one or a handful of experts that they think can accurately answer all of their questions and keep them from straying spiritually. They essentially replace the churches and ministers and holy books with some new guru figure that they’ve chosen. This, unfortunately, removes one of the key elements of witchcraft: spiritual sovereignty. This is the understanding that the witch is the high priest or high priestess of their own spiritual practice and growth. This is one of the major reasons why we turn to witchcraft and it’s a shame to allow old programming to steal that from you.
3. Feeling like we aren’t ready
Finally, especially with newer witches, often it can just feel like we don’t know enough or we’re not really ready. Perhaps there’s a lack of information, perhaps a lack of practice, whatever the reason the individual just does not feel like they know enough to strike out on their own as a witch. The problem with this is that in the craft, we learn by doing. If a witch is always deferring to someone else’s expertise, they will probably delay developing their own experiences indefinitely in favor of trusting a more experienced witch.
External Validation Doesn’t Fix The Root Problem
The real trouble is that seeking out this external validation doesn’t fix the problem. Sure, you probably will get the validation that you’re seeking but it’s not going to prevent the root insecurity from cropping up again. In fact, the more you feed this insecurity with external validation, the more likely it is to become habitual. It starts to feel like if you’re not receiving external validation, the insecurity just grows and grows and grows and becomes an insurmountable monster preventing you from moving forward in your craft. Whatever the reason for seeking out validation, receiving the external validation is just a Band-Aid. It’s a temporary fix that you can slap on a deeper problem so that you don’t have to feel it or look at it right now.
This is not what we want! The longer you stay in this pattern, the more debilitating it becomes to your growth as a witch. Remember how I said that this pattern could reduce your magical efficacy? This pattern is essentially a slow wearing away of your confidence and your knowledge in your ability to change your life. Think about it, as witches, our goal is to make tangible changes in our reality using magic. When you repeatedly require external validation of your abilities or knowledge as a witch, you are essentially telling yourself repeatedly that you do not have the power to change your life. You’re telling yourself that other people have that power and other people have the knowledge, but you don’t. As your belief in your ability to change your life dwindles, so too does your magical power.
If we fully believe that we are incapable of performing magic that gets results on our own, the subconscious mind will sabotage every piece of magic that we try to do. Your conscious mind and your subconscious mind are both involved in the process of creating magic, but they don’t have equal weight. You can think of your mind as an iceberg. A little bit of consciousness above the water and a whole lot of subconscious below the water. The subconscious holds significantly more weight and power in your magical process than your conscious mind does. So if you are constantly telling yourself that you don’t trust your abilities, that you cannot change your life on your own, and that you need other people to have any of your magic work, your subconscious mind is going to adopt those beliefs and start to affect your magic to align with that reality. Obviously, we don’t want that!
What You Can Do Instead
How you approach this problem can vary a bit depending on why you’ve ended up trapped in this pattern but the core problem is the same. You need to develop a sense of confidence in your capacity as a witch. This does not necessarily need to be the confidence that all of your magic will work perfectly. This does not need to be the confidence that you are the best witch in the world. This doesn’t even need to be the confidence that your magic reliably works. All you are looking to do is to develop confidence in your ability to become the witch that you want to be. That’s it. Just trust in your ability to learn what you need to learn. You have an incredible number of resources at your fingertips. You have teachers and mentors like myself. You have other students of witchcraft who can help you. But these are learning tools to help you grow in your abilities, you have the potential to become a truly great witch. You just have to learn to quiet your doubts and trust yourself. Here are some more specific suggestions to help you tackle this pattern depending on the root cause.
1. If you have imposter syndrome
If you’re struggling with imposter syndrome, then what you are dealing with is fear. Specifically the fear of other people’s disapproval. This is what is really at the root of all imposter syndrome. These thoughts are the mind’s way of protecting you from the perceived danger that other people will disapprove of you and thus reject you. As humans, we are completely reliant on our social relationships. This might sound like an extreme take but it really isn’t. The reason why humans have thrived on this planet is that we are capable of banding together and working in large groups. Not only are we capable of it, but this tendency to group together was vital to our survival throughout history. Those who were part of a strong group would have been safer from predators, safer from competing groups, more likely to be able to access resources such as food and water, and more likely to procreate. Those who were rejected from groups were in danger of being abused by rival groups, in danger of starvation or dying of thirst, in danger of dying due to exposure to the elements, and in danger of being attacked by predators. To your brain, social cohesion and maintaining strong social bonds is a life or death matter.
Because of this, your brain is primed to prevent you from being rejected by other people. A major part of how we do this is by pre-rejecting ourselves. Think about it, if your brain is constantly telling you that you’re not good enough and you’re actually faking whatever it is that you’re doing, you’re more likely to either perform better to compensate or quit, both of which are safer propositions socially. Understanding the reason why your brain is telling you all of this is vital to your ability to combat these thoughts.
So what do you do when your brain starts serving up all kinds of doubt and imposter syndrome around your witchcraft? You recognize it for what it is. Your mind is worried about your safety. It’s trying to keep you safe. Does that mean that it’s necessarily right? No, you’re unlikely to be rejected from all of society for basically anything short of mass murder at this point in human development. Being slightly less effective as a witch than you think you are is definitely not grounds for complete social ostracization. This means that when your brain is serving up all of this imposter syndrome, your job is to recognize that it is trying to keep you safe. When you can recognize it for what it is, you can start to judge whether the expected consequences are realistic (i.e. if you’re really going to be kicked out of society for it), and when it becomes clear that the feared consequences are unlikely to come true, you thank the part of you that is trying to keep you safe, and then you move forward, anyway. When you can recognize the fear and the positive intention behind those thoughts, you can move forward while caretaking the fear rather than allowing the fear to stop you. This won’t necessarily prevent the imposter syndrome from cropping up again in the future but every time you recognize it for what it is, thank it for trying to keep you safe and move forward anyway, you prove to that part of yourself that what you are doing is safe and over time these thoughts will lessen significantly.
2. If you have old programming
If you have old religious programming that is making you feel like you can’t trust your own spiritual wisdom, it’s time to start questioning those beliefs. Grab your journal and use these journal prompts to dig into these beliefs.
- Why do I feel like other people can connect to god or source or spiritual energy, but I can’t?
- Who taught me to distrust my innate spiritual wisdom?
- When have I ignored my spiritual wisdom in favor of external validation?
- What does my innate spiritual wisdom tell me?
- When did I stop listening to my intuition?
- What kind of relationship do I wish I had with my innate spiritual knowing?
When you’ve thoroughly answered these questions, you may find that you have already dismantled some of the beliefs and old programming that have been holding you back. If this doesn’t completely solve the problem, that’s okay. Often programming like this can take some time to dissolve. Your next steps are going to be learning about your intuition and how to tune into it, exploring new ways of connecting to your spiritual knowing and to whatever deity or divinity you work with, and becoming more comfortable taking risks in your magical practice. Dismantling these beliefs on paper will only take you so far. You need to experience what real spiritual sovereignty feels like by allowing yourself to be wrong, allowing yourself to do things that aren’t necessarily validated by someone else, and following your spiritual guidance even if it feels scary, shaky, or like you’re breaking some kind of rule. You’re going to have to prove to yourself that you do have a connection to the spiritual world (and I promise, you do) and that you can be untethered from outside sources and still have power and spiritual growth.
3. If you feel like you aren’t ready
If you feel like you aren’t ready to tackle witchcraft on your own, it’s okay. The truth is, if this is where you’re at you’re probably missing some crucial information and this is leading you to feel like witchcraft is much more dangerous than it really is. That’s what “not being ready” really boils down to. You feel like it’s too dangerous for you to progress safely. You’re worried about hurting yourself, hurting other people, or somehow screwing everything up magically. I get it!
The solution to this is to start educating yourself very specifically to fill these gaps. This means learning about magical hygiene, defensive magic, what to do in a magical emergency, and how to handle magical mishaps. I teach about all of these subjects in The Traveling Witch Academy but you can also find many resources about the subjects on my blog, in witchcraft books, and many other places. Magic is not as likely to hurt you as you think it is and when you learn more about the ways that magic can go wrong and how you can prevent and reverse any such pitfalls, it becomes much easier to move forward in your craft with confidence.
Your magic should not be dependent on someone else’s expertise. You should not need a stamp of approval on every spell and ritual before you will cast it. You deserve to have magic that is effective, that helps you improve your life, that makes you feel confident and powerful. You have the capacity for this kind of magic and power living inside of you. Every single person has this capacity. It’s up to you to tend that innate capacity so that it can grow and flourish into the powerful, effective witchcraft that you’re seeking.