For example, excessive human desire for sex is lust, and the excessive human desire for food is gluttony; however, pride does not quite describe the human desire for external validation rather it mostly describes the personal feeling of accomplishment, so I was wondering if there is a specific word for the desire for external validation from other people or in general someone can shed some light on these concepts.

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    It takes low self-esteem to need excessive outer validation. But you have used the current meaning of pride (in one's work) as the pleasure "of accomplishment." The old sin of pride is being puffed up, haughty, snobbish: Don't let pride get in your way if you need the job. Ain't Too Proud To Beg. Aug 8, 2022 at 11:54
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    "Instagram model"
    – jimm101
    Aug 10, 2022 at 13:28
  • to be more clear I am referring to a very recent and popular trend of seeking large-scale status and popularity by say having high social media followers (e.g., Dan Bilzerian) or seeking to collaborate online with popular figures (e.g., YouTubers who interview people like Dan Bilzerian) and so on. For example, can we say in common English that people like Dan Bilzerian are seeking vanity?
    – Alireza
    Aug 10, 2022 at 17:24

8 Answers 8


That's vanity. This term is

used to describe something that is done with the aim of getting praise, fame, or approval rather than for serious or good reasons

  • The new bridge was quickly condemned as a "pointless vanity project", intended to enhance the reputation of the mayor. (Cambridge)

Here is how Jane Austen differentiates pride from vanity in Pride and Prejudice:

  • Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us.
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    1. I wouldn't be worried that it is not so popular, everybody understands it and it is _rising in frequency of use lately. Otherwise have a look at its synonyms.
    – fev
    Aug 8, 2022 at 7:18
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    2. In the Bible "vanity" is used rather with the meaning of "the quality of being worthless or futile". To refer to your concept, later religious texts use vainglory that some consider dated, or at least literary...
    – fev
    Aug 8, 2022 at 7:23
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    The word vain is common enough to be in a #1 hit: Carly Simon - You're So Vain "You're so vain, I bet you think this song is about you" youtube.com/watch?v=mQZmCJUSC6g Aug 8, 2022 at 14:39
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    Hm, I typically see vanity used as meaning "inflated pride in oneself or one's appearance", which is more related to one's own internal sense of worth, rather than having to do with external validation. To me, vanity is more "I think I'm great" than "I want other people to think I'm great". A vain person thinks about themselves far more than others, although I agree there can be a subconscious element of wanting external approval. Aug 8, 2022 at 19:44
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    I wouldn't say people "seek vanity", I would say people "are vain" or "seek admiration". Posting insta stories of your private jet is vain because you're looking for approval from the masses. You might have a "vanity instagram account" which shows the cool places you go. However, vain people probably don't think of themselves as vain, just cool/fortunate/rich/beautiful etc., so to them it's just their insta account, even if its purpose is actually vanity. Aug 10, 2022 at 14:46

Neediness/someone who is needy. Per TheFreeDictionary.com, "the quality of needing attention and affection and reassurance to a marked degree". Just be careful using this because it's a very negative way to describe someone so it's not acceptable in a formal context (or if you still want to be friends with them later).

  • This doesn't really work. If you're talking about a needy child I'm imagining a child who cries a lot and can't be left alone, not one per se that's seeking validation or popularity. In the same way, a needy scientist is probably someone who asks a lot of questions and needs a bunch of favors, neither of which necessarily means they want their research (or themselves) to be more popular.
    – Laurel
    Aug 8, 2022 at 17:02
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    @Laurel -- "Needy" is often used in a sense of wanting validation from others. Of course, the context would have to suggest this sense.
    – Hot Licks
    Aug 8, 2022 at 19:55
  • I think this is the best suggestion so far, though, as previously mentioned, it is a bit muddied by also being used for other purposes.
    – Trevortni
    Aug 8, 2022 at 21:35

I would suggest narcissism:

... people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others. Mayo clinic

It implies more than just what you are looking for, but I think it fairly accurately hits the need for excessive need from your question.

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    @Andrea Is ‘narcissism’ not used in general, non-medical ways too?
    – gidds
    Aug 8, 2022 at 18:22
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    @Andrea: Narcissistic personality disorder is a medical diagnosis. Narcissism is a personality trait that everybody possesses to one degree or another.
    – Trevortni
    Aug 8, 2022 at 20:26
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    @Andrea >> 'narcissism is a medical diagnosis'. WebMD says 'no'. Narcissus was just someone who loved himself. You may want to look at the 'Controversies' section on wikipedia
    – mcalex
    Aug 9, 2022 at 4:45
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    Whether or not narcissism is a medical diagnosis is beside the point, as narcissists definitely don't seek external validation. Everything they need is found within themselves.
    – Auspex
    Aug 9, 2022 at 15:34
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    @Auspex According to at least one therapist, for the medical diagnosis Narcissistic Personality Disorder to apply, an excessive need for admiration is one of the key aspects. I see no reason the personality trait of narcissism would differ here. The medical diagnosis (like many mental disorder diagnoses) is just having the personality trait to such a degree that it interferes with and hinders your daily life.
    – Arthur
    Aug 10, 2022 at 6:47

Since you added one more nuance in a comment it is more clear what kind of word you are looking for. You say

I am referring to a very recent and popular trend of seeking large-scale status and popularity by say having high social media followers.

You could use then attention-seeker

someone who behaves in a way that will attract other people's attention. (macmillan)

It is a relatively recent word and very common, I find it used without a hyphen too. You will find an entry and synonyms for it in the UrbanDictionary, and I am mentioning that just to show how popular it is. It is also used as a noun, attention seeking. About it, Wikipedia says

Attention seeking behavior is to act in a way that is likely to elicit attention. Attention seeking behavior is defined in the DSM-5 as "engaging in behavior designed to attract notice and to make oneself the focus of others’ attention and admiration".  The term "attention seeking" sometimes also assumes a motive of seeking validation. People are thought to engage in both positive and negative attention seeking behaviour independent of the actual benefit or harm to health.

However, although this term is said to have both positive and neutral connotations depending on context, it is definitely used pejoratively most of the time.

Even dictionaries show that

Attention-seeker: A person who tries to get attention, typically in a manner considered excessive or inappropriate. (yourdict)

Here are some synonyms of the term.


Obsequiousness may fit some aspects of the desire for validation, indicating servile obedience or an over-eagerness to please. An obsequious individual will go to excessive lengths to please others. It may not exactly describe the desire for external validation, but it does describe the behavior that one is willing to exhibit to get it. Not everyone who desires validation is obsequious, but everyone who is obsequious desires validation.



As per the first dictionary.com definition:

  1. lack of confidence or assurance; self-doubt:
    He is plagued by insecurity.

How well this word fits will depend on your specific use case. Insecurity doesn't describe the behaviour so much as the cause. However, as a human weakness, I think it works with your listed examples of lust and gluttony.


Egotism, narcissism, attention-seeking. Often a result of low self-esteem and/or of over-estimating the value of being the center of attention.


Well for girls there is pick-me girl: A girl who craves male attention and tries to be "not like other girls". Idk the word for boys tho.

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