VALIDATION? Is it forthcoming?
By: Linda Law
Throughout the years it appears to me that most people are instinctively negative about giving validation to others, and for that matter, to oneself. It doesn’t really matter if the confirmation is about me or you, it just is something that must be given or received in order to move forward. In my opinion, without the expression of validation we tend to remain in a rut that we have created and which continues to get bogged down deeper and deeper if we do not deal with it.
Each of us have suffered some type of negative treatment from those around us. Those feelings may never have been resolved, consequently, we carry the unattended baggage throughout our lives. As the saying goes, something small can build and turn into a huge snow ball that literally buries us within its layers. Often we attempt to tackle the layers; however, we don’t seem to peel all of them, leaving many remains that continue to fester. One day the rot and stench from the old ruins have become so decayed that we no longer can distinguish what is emitting a horrible odor within us. Only those around us know that something is rotten and it makes them feel uneasy and uncomfortable to be around us. If we are intuitive, we can smell the rot that seeps from within our own mind and body; although many times we simply choose to ignore the signs.
Each of us carries the negatives as well as positives with us from infancy through adulthood. We become so adjusted to carrying those traits that we soon lose track of what they have done to us, and eventually made of us. We have the power to heal ourselves, even if it is done in baby steps…after all, to begin is the first step. Importantly, we must make the attempt, never stopping to become better and more forgiving, accepting who we have become. I’m guilty of saying, “I am who I am” with pride; however, I want to be the best “I am” that is possible. Without my own help, I simply cannot be that best person who is literally “itching” to come through.
Since I cannot speak for you, I will use some personal examples to assist you in better understanding why validation is important for some of us to move forward in a more positive and successful manner. In my childhood, both my parents were young and inexperienced, simply following the parenthood roles that they were given. At the time I did not understand their methods, or reason for making certain decisions about life; however, I simply never felt loved. This is not to say that my parents were not loving or affectionate in their way, but it seemed that I never was encouraged or supported to reach for higher goals or to strive for a better life. Feeling safe and knowing that my parents would always be there for me was essential to my becoming a stronger and confident person. When I did not receive that validation from either of them, it left me feeling insecure and not worthy; often destructive. I did not want to self-destruct, but that was the way that I chose almost instinctively.
In order to please and prove to my family that I was a good girl, a smart girl, responsible and dependable, I ended up developing behavior patterns that often reflected the opposite. One who had low self esteem, often becomes an overachiever in life; and that is who I became. Although my behaviors for the most part were positive, they were generally over done, while others became negative parts of my personality. Without realizing that I was acting out, I began to develop the bad habit of being tardy; always late for appointments or scheduled events. In fact, I took pride, and smiled within myself that I could be late and didn’t care what the consequences would be….because I was in control of that one action.
I learned to take center stage, showing off my knowledge or what I perceived to be smart. If an assignment or task was given to me, I would volunteer or edge my way into the situation in order to be the chosen one. Once I received the task, I would work until I obsessed with trying to prove that I was good enough..better. I eventually learned that it didn’t matter what I did, my goal, often subconsciously, was to excel, to achieve, to receive encouragement or acknowledgement of a job well done. At home I was never perceived to be smart or kind or responsible, it was always the opposite, and so I would do anything to not be home.
Over the years, I made friends with others, was happiest when invited to join them at their church, or stay over for dinner, or to spend the night in their home. I loved staying with my grandmother as well, because in those homes, I was always treated in a special way. I needed that validation. Soon, I realized that food was becoming a need as well. Although I wasn’t fat, I ate all the time, and when I was upset or sad, I searched for food…anything…just to put it in my mouth…chew and swallow…it seemed to fill an empty hole, at least temporarily. One could say, I was fortunate not to pick a different vice, such as drugs or cigarettes or alcohol….but an addiction is a negative, no matter which you choose as your crutch.
Another addiction that I developed early on was to be a workaholic. If my house was clean, it had to be immaculate. If the furniture was moved around, I stressed over it being symmetrical or well balanced. Everything had to match or be coordinated either in my home, car or on my body. My hair had to be perfect, and I had to be well dressed, perfectly made up, always with a Miss America smile and perfect manners. I took pride in all of these things, because I had control over them…good or bad.
In my first marriage, my husband showered me with material things….making sure that I was not going to embarrass him, always selecting the most expensive and latest fashions, even telling me when I could speak or not speak. Once again, I was being controlled and emotionally abused, without realizing that I was allowing it to continue to mold me in ways that were not positive. Those nightmares of pain and suffering and abusive mental behavior rarely left my mind, yet I managed to pretend that they never happened; that they were not happening then. I was making excuses for why it was okay for me to not create conflict, not to muddy the water, not stir up a fuss. I was exceptional at adjusting to wearing a mask during the daylight hours, while I cried myself to sleep at night.
Eventually, I found the courage to walk away from the marriage, and in doing so, I received more negative criticisms about how foolish I was to leave a secure home, and financial independence. Not once did I hear anyone encourage me or support me in that difficult decision, but in some ways, that hardship was the “baby step” in my life, crawling toward a new and better life….and more than that… a better me.
I was blessed with a second husband who loved me unconditionally. He encouraged me, lifted me, gave me wings to fly, and when my wings were cracking, he helped patch them and soothed them with love and a calming spirit. During those years, he showed me that I was a good person, a good mother, and good wife. He instilled small goals for me to reach, and encouraged me to make those goals bigger…until I was reaching higher than ever. I found joy in doing small things for him, and for my children. In the process I found that I was actually enjoying my life and myself.
The simple fact that my husband validated me and my fears, my feelings, regardless of whether they were founded or not, by giving me the strength and confidence to believe in myself. It became easy for me to take steps to becoming more mature, and not always retrieving into the shell of being a small child for my husband to take care of. I was becoming stronger and self sufficient as a person who could make mistakes without wanting to self destruct.
Amazingly, we become so adjusted to behavior and routine, that when things change, either for the better or for worse, the incident(s) become a shock to the mind and body. After the untimely passing of my beloved husband, 30 years of an almost perfect marriage, I once again found myself not able to function and worse. I had no desire to continue in life without him. Our children were grown and had families of their own, our grandson was a teenager, and pity for myself seemed to seep throughout the veins in my body. I was a loner, no children nearby, no husband to give me courage and comfort, so who was I? Nothing….was the answer I heard crashing in my head.
The old habits returned, and I resumed being a workaholic, focusing on my job, and taking on the burdens of my children whenever I felt that I could help them get through difficult times. Soon I was working 50 and 60 hours every week, often on weekends and late into the night. As always, I wore the mask during the day. No one, even my closest friends and family would guess the deep depression that I was bogged down in. My clothing became more obsessive, my goals reached higher and I achieved more success in my career than I’d imagined or strived for. I was friendly, but pushed people away…kept them at arms length, I did not want to be a friend.
Behind all the positive accomplishments I had achieved, the depression within me was working overtime. I was so suicidal that it was a constant and daily thought process for me. How and when would I do it? How could I prevent my children from feeling guilt, because after all, it was me who wanted to die, they had done nothing to contribute to my feelings of failure. Over the past year I had already set the wheels in motion by putting as much space between me and my family than ever before. It was simply too difficult to begin to live again…better to simply exist…but for how long? Although it was never my intention to survive widowhood, it certainly was not my intention to begin to look forward to a new day again.
Did I begin this story with the word “validation”? Well, now it comes back into play once again. Did I learn anything over the years to make my life better? Did I learn to become a better person? Well, I cannot say that I am a better person, but I certainly believe that I am learning to be more humble and accepting of things that I cannot change. Perhaps the most important thing that I have learned is that in order to receive validation, it is essential that I give validation when it is earned.
Rarely do I pass up an opportunity to smile or encourage others. I prefer not to pretend what they said or did was good, instead I prefer to be more honest, by finding something that I can be positive about. I try not to hesitate to say kind things about the work or actions of others. The more one gives, the more one receives. Validation often comes from within, and I am learning that I don’t always get a kind word, but I can be kind to myself. It is not my first instinct to belittle myself or my work, instead I know my heart, and it is filled with good thoughts and hopes for others as well as myself.
If you have a child or loved one, before you say that negative or hurtful word….think of yourself and how you were hurt, or emotionally and verbally abused…then… speak. Speak positively and with hope, even when times don’t always deserve them. There is positive in everything, and the future of someone you care about can be set on a powerful and successful path by your validation and encouragement.
Remember to be kind to yourself. Encourage yourself, be good to yourself and never place boundaries on your future path.