At some point in our lives, however young or old we all want to be famous. How many times have you thought about becoming an actor, entertainer, renowned scientist, or respected business owner? If your aspirations don’t go so high these days, you seek fame in other things – being noticed by a stranger on the street, being the favourite cousin at family reunions, being someone’s best friend. We all have this innate desire to be known, recognised, accepted. Even if it’s in the form of social media likes. And if we don’t get the recognition that we crave, our self-esteem gets a heavy blow. These feelings and desires aren’t unique to only a select few individuals. From the most withdrawn introvert to the most confident celebrity, everyone seeks acceptance and recognition. Why is this such an important concept? How is our sense of self-worth so intertwined with others' perception of our worth? Let’s shed some light on that.

We’re Social Beings, and That’s How We’re Wired

Needing recognition isn’t a sign of pride, inflated ego, or immaturity. It’s a sign of a healthy, functioning human. For the earliest homo sapiens, being recognised and accepted as part of the group was essential to their survival. Since we’re relatively weak when compared to many mammals and predators, we found strength in numbers. Sharing food, shelter, and building strong social networks was how we became the world’s most dominant species. Not to mention that for adults, recognition of our values was (and still is) critical for finding a mate and having offspring. For defenceless children, recognition from the parents is absolutely critical for receiving food and protection. We’re hard-wired to build relationships and communities that give us recognition and acceptance. To this day, it’s still crucial for our survival. Without receiving recognition from our peers and surroundings, or worse – getting flat-out rejected by them can cause social pain and lead to the development of several mental health issues.

What Happens If We Lack Recognition at an Early Age?

Receiving recognition at an early age is critical to the physical and mental development of a child. Again, this stems from the need to survive. Humans have the longest childhood phase of all mammals. Whereas many animals can fend for themselves weeks after they’re born, humans stay defenceless for much longer. So, if a baby fails to form a bond with their caregiver and doesn’t get the recognition and attention they need, their chances of survival are minimal. Being recognised and receiving attention from the parental figure will provide food, shelter, protection, and ensure proper physical and mental development. Children who experience parental and peer rejection can suffer both short-term and long-term consequences. Lack of recognition will cause the child to develop feelings of loneliness, social anxiety, low self-esteem, and even mental health problems. They’re more likely to be withdrawn, throw temper tantrums, develop depression, apathy, emotional instability, and more. For parents, it’s vital to understand that children can receive a lack of recognition in several different ways – through hostility, aggression, negligence, and indifference. To help their children develop, parents should give recognition and acceptance not only by providing for the child’s basic needs but by showing affection both verbally and physically.

What Happens If We Lack Recognition Later in Life?

Being picked last for the volleyball team in high school or being forced to sit away from their coworkers during the lunch break can have a significant impact on a person’s self-esteem and mental health. Social rejection and a lack of recognition are detrimental to any person’s wellbeing, regardless of their age, gender, or cultural background. Ostracised adults who don’t feel like they’re being recognised can often manifest their social pain through lashing out and displaying violent and aggressive behaviour. They have poorer impulse control, turning to anger more easily, and are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, sadness, and jealousy. Lack of recognition can affect their school and work performance and impact their ability to perform intellectual tasks. There are physical health repercussions, as well. Those who experience a lack of recognition often have poor sleep patterns and a weaker immune system.


Self-esteem is almost always the first to suffer from a lack of recognition. As social creatures, we heavily depend on our networks and relationships and value our own worth based on how others value us. Naturally, those with lower self-esteem will show greater rejection sensitivity and suffer a greater lack of confidence than those with lower rejection sensitivity. Since no person can hope to receive recognition every time they want for it, it’s essential to rely on both external and internal validation. Having a clear understanding of one’s own strengths and weaknesses can help to develop a moderate rejection sensitivity and consistent, stable self-esteem.

Unhealthy Need for Recognition

While seeking recognition is healthy and natural, it’s important to keep all things in moderation. Heavily depending on others to offer their recognition and validation can impair your decision-making and executive functioning, and harm your mental health. An unhealthy need for recognition is often manifested through confrontation avoidance, changing thoughts/beliefs based on others’ approval or disapproval, and basing self-identity on others’ validation.


Receiving recognition and acceptance from others is an innate need. It helps us develop mentally and emotionally and allows us to thrive and succeed. Problems only arise when one’s self-esteem becomes heavily dependent on receiving recognition. Therefore, relying on external and internal recognition and achieving a balance between the two is of utmost importance.