Monday, January 7, 2013

Validation


Who am I kidding. I have a validation problem. I look for it everywhere. From strangers, from old friends, from acquaintances, from people I haven’t seen in 20 years. It doesn't’ matter who they are as long as they pat me on the cyberspace back.

My quest for validation: a desire to prove my worth from the responses I get from other people. Responses from people who tell me how much they like something I’ve written, or tell me how much they enjoyed the song I sang. I’m never in a better mood than when I am complimented for something I’ve created, performed, or dressed myself in that day. It makes me feel good about myself. That means I’m not finding that joy within me but relying on other people to create it for me. I’m at the mercy of someone else’s opinions and feelings. That sucks! Plain and simple. 

Lets go back a few years. I wasn’t popular in high school. I know, waaa! Poor me! But seriously, I wanted so to be. I wanted to be one of the desired crowd. I wanted to be one of those people who lifted other people’s spirits if I deigned to talk to them. I realize how horrible that sounds even as I type it. It was a long time ago in the age when high school meant everything. Instead, I was one of the people whose spirits got lifted when the “in” crowd spoke to him. Now, I’m not going to paint myself as a complete social outcast. I wasn’t. But I was fumbling along in the middle. I thought the one thing that set me apart was my voice--I was one of a handful of people in my tiny high school who sang everywhere and anywhere. That didn’t set me apart in a good way. It made me a target. It gave people (mostly my male classmates) a reason (or another reason) to call me names. And that, many of them did. 

I can’t believe that I’ve been out of high school for nearly 24 years and I am still striving for popularity. One of my coworkers says that I am adored at work. Says that people light up around me. They want to be my friend. They laugh at my actions, words, or reactions because the intention is to make them laugh. Or to shock them. These people are not laughing at me. There’s no finger pointing and snickering behind my back. The feeling that comes over me during these moments must be how the Grinch felt when his heart grew three sizes. I have a sense of joy and acceptance that makes my skin glow like that of a pregnant woman. I feel like Sally Field and I want to say, “...you like me, right now, you like me!” I am validated. Oops. There’s that word.

I have somehow connected validation and popularity. I notice it when my blog hasn’t gotten enough page views. I notice it when my tweets don’t get enough retweets or favorites. I notice it when my Facebook status doesn’t get enough “likes” or comments. I feel that no one cares, and that makes me want to slink away into the corner of some room, make myself really small, and wait and wonder if anyone will know that I’m missing. It’s a pattern. It’s a ridiculous pattern, but the good thing is I recognize it. That means I can address this action, ask myself why I do it, and then start stopping it in its tracks.

Mixed in with the popularity and validation issues is my subscription to low self-confidence. It surprises me that I have a lack of confidence. That person who used to sing all the time sometimes did so in front of crowds that numbered in the thousands. That person used to sing and dance in musicals. That person danced in dance concerts. I used the adrenaline kicked in by the nerves as power. I knew I could do it. I knew I could remember the words, the notes, the dance steps. I knew I could deliver the goods. Now, that kid from high school, who hated walking into a populated room of classmates is back, and fearful of the mockery that he thinks exists on everyone's lips where he's concerned.

Validation, popularity, and confidence.

  • I know that I have to be proud of myself and step away from the need for validation by others.
  • I know that popularity is a status I’ve concocted in my brain.
  • I know that I have to find confidence within myself.

I know all of the above listed things. The problem is: knowing and believing are two different matters. I can say I know and understand the bulleted lines above over and over, but there are times when I’m drowning in my lack of self-confidence, grasping for validation from someone if only to prove that I’m doing the right thing, that I’m good at what I do. I can’t seem to keep a firm grip on my desires to be self-confident and to live my life for me, not for others. I can’t seem to hold on to the desire to live a life where other people’s opinions--good or bad--don’t matter.

My lack of self-confidence makes so many of my choices become questions instead of statements. I look to someone else to validate those choices. I haven’t been able to pinpoint what happens mentally, physically, on those days when I exude self-confidence, but I can usually tell you what happened that caused me to cower in the corner questioning every decision.

These are all things I’ve been talking about in therapy. They keep coming up because I realize they exist and I’m trying to understand how I got this way so that I can move forward with my life--trusting myself, having confidence in myself, needing no validation, being proud of who I am and the work I do.

I know it’s a process. I struggle with that. I like the quick result. This is not going to have a quick result. This is going to take time. I’m going to have to dig deep and come to terms with what I desired in my past and what I have in my present so that I can create the future I want.

This entry is not intended for gaining sympathy or pity from the reader. This entry is an attempt to put into words my feelings so that I may better understand how to move past them and move forward in my life. It is merely an admission--an effort to expose once again, my secrets, hangups, and flaws.

The journey continues...