Validation is one of those things that we all seem to crave as humans, yet it often causes us problems. This is especially true for photography and other arts because there is no easy way to evaluate how "good" it is.
I have had photographers say to me in portfolio reviews that they want to win a contest or "get published" because that would validate their work. I have to always tell them that such things are fun and nice to receive, but they are not really validations of anything other than a specific group of judges of that particular contest or a specific editor of a particular publication likes your work.
I have also had photographers show me work and tell me that this or that photo won a prize at their camera club or some other venue. This is implied as support for the value of the photo (though no one actually says that). Again, that's fun, but that should not be the value of your photography.
It can be hard at times, I understand, but your photography should be yours and its ultimate validation something that comes from within. If it doesn't, then you are in essence apologizing for most of your photography because it hasn't had "outside validation." You are apologizing for who you are.
You, like all of us, are a unique person with unique ways of seeing the world that are always important just because of the uniqueness. As Jen Sincero (author of You Are a Badass) says, "It's about respecting yourself instead of catering to your insecure need to be liked...When you love yourself enough to stand in your truth no matter what the cost, everyone benefits."
The need for validation rears its head in other aspects of photography, too. This is one area that I have too long suffered. Whenever we feel that someone else must use the software we use, the gear we own, the techniques we favor, read the books we do, we are often simply looking for approval, for validation of what we do. This is not the same as genuinely offering something that truly fits someone else's needs, but often, when we/I think deeply, we/I find that there is that common but unhelpful need for validation.
Ultimately it comes down to the stories we tell ourselves: "My photography is not real/good/adequate until someone else says it is" or "My gear is not right for me unless someone else uses it too" and so on. Breaking free of the validation trap starts by recognizing the stories we tell ourselves then challenging them. Are they really true?
Treat yourself and your photography this year with the love it deserves. Have fun with it, enjoy your time in nature with a camera, then take any "outside validation" as nice and fun, but not necessary for you to succeed as a photographer.