Her big blue eyes are looking up at me with a pleading look.
“Please Daddy can I help you…”
What she wants is in the grey area of what I personally feel like she should help with but the look in her eyes is hard to refuse.
“Daddy, look at what I made!” He watches my eyes as he shows me his latest Lego creation looking for a smile or praise.
Both children are looking for the same fundamental thing and I recognize similar feelings in myself. They want to hear and see validation from me.
She wants to know that she can be helpful to me; rather than the likely scenario where it takes me longer to have her “help”.
He wants to know that other people agree that the thing that he built is “super awesome” because that’s what he thinks.
Their tiny behaviors, the way they interact with me, there is so much validation that they’re looking for and how often have I been too self absorbed to see this need in them?
When I look closer I feel the same needs for validation in my life. Like every child I learned a need for validation very young. This is a normal part of our development and it’s how we learn appropriate cultural behavior and how to keep ourselves safe. But what happens when we allow this need for validation to get to the point where it no longer is adding positive energy into our lives?
For me this happened very gradually. As a teen I wanted to have friends and be liked. I wanted my parents to be proud. These are normal parts of development but along the way I didn’t learn that this need for validation needs to eventually shift to an internal, rather than external, source of validation. Slowly my need for external validation became hijacked by my brain.
For example, I went to graduate school and burdened myself with a six-figure student loan because I wanted my dad to think I was smart. My dad already told me that I was smart but because my need for validation was beginning to bring negative energy into my life anytime I heard him praise someone else as being “smart” I felt “dumb” because I didn’t have the same characteristics as the person my dad was praising.
I became so self absorbed in my need for validation that I became more and more miserable because the validation that I sought from others could never fill the void that I was feeling. Suicidal ideation was a part of my life for more than 10 years. I would think about how much people would miss me when I was gone. The thought of my children growing up knowing their father had killed himself was the only thing that ever prevented me from complete follow through.
My last suicide attempt was over three years ago. My kid’s mother and I got in a fairly large verbal argument that continued to escalate. I’m sure that you can guess the root theme; my need for validation. I was expressing a strong sentiment that was contrary to her position and all I wanted was someone who I cared about to validate that “yes, that fucking sucks”. But because of her strong beliefs she repeatedly refused that validation and I lost my temper and started to kick and punch a bedroom door. Immediately I went into an emotional roller coaster which within a few hours resulted in me being in a bathtub ready to kill myself.
Clearly I didn’t succeed in ending my life but this was the closest I had ever been to leaving this life and it scared the shit out of me. It scared me so much that my meditation practice got deeper. It scared me so much that I began questioning everything that led me to this at point. As I dug and dug deeper I kept seeing the need for validation at the root of much of my pain. Pain that had manifested as physical symptoms, especially in my energy levels, joints, and back muscles.
Validation about religion. Validation for my profession. Validation for my parenting skills. Validation about my physical attributes. Validation about how smart I was. Validation about how good I was at sex. Validation about my opinion on politics. Validation from complete strangers about almost anything. At times this need for validation consumed my life.
I’m pretty sure that I know the root of this need and why it ran wild but I’ll save that for another post. But now that I’ve identified it I’m seeing many of my choices through a different perspective. It’s led to letting go of something that helps me. It’s led to some very brutal meditation sessions where I’ve sat silently with all the shit that I have experienced simply because of the need for validation from others.
I have had to relearn how to love myself through this process. Through childhood and young adult years I allowed this need for validation to chip away at the self love that we are all born with. Through some very profound experiences and consistent meditation for many years this self love has slowly improved.
For me this self love is essential for slowly dissolving my need for external validation. When I have moments of deep clarity I feel a love for myself and all others that does not permit anything negative about anyone. There is no need to validate anyone or to be validated in return. There is just love. And I love me.
How has your relationship with yourself affected your need for validation? What are you doing to release this need?