This post is going to be a pretty personal one. I write it for two reasons; the first, in the hope that someone might read it and realise that someone else’s mind works in the same way as theirs. The second, as a diary entry – and as a point of reference for me to take my own advice when the need arises.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve relied on others for validation. Maybe some of you are the same. Family, friends, teachers, partners, bosses, colleagues… the list goes on. As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m not saying that I need constant praise – but I sometimes need reassurance that I am enough.
It’s not a trait that I’m proud of. And when the need for reassurance teams up with other aspects of my personality, it becomes unhealthy at times. See, I’m a perfectionist – so I want to be good at everything I do. I’m also impatient – so I want to be good at everything RIGHT NOW. Trying to be the best you can be, and needing validation from others that you are the best you can be, is exhausting.
Someone made a comment to me recently that I have a tendency to blow my own trumpet in conversation. I had no defence against a statement like that – I know I do it. Mentioning past achievements. The grades I have. My job. My material possessions. I do it all the time. Again, it’s not something that I intentionally do.
I’ve been trying to work out in my own head why I feel the need to shout about myself. After all, even saying it like that makes me look like an absolute arsehole. I hate people who do those sorts of things, so it frustrates me even more that I do it too.
I think there are two reasons for it. Partially, to remind myself that I’m not as much of a failure as I think I am. I’m always striving to be better, and I’m pretty hard on myself sometimes. Sometimes I need to remind myself that things aren’t all bad – I’ve done some pretty impressive things!
The other reason, I think, leads back to the need for reassurance from others. I feel like I need to impress people. I’m not drop dead gorgeous, or the smartest person in any room, or the most creative or talented in any given situation. And I have a terrible habit of comparing myself to the people I perceive to be those things (a habit made even worse by the warped perceptions of social media).
To be fair, I’m not saying I’m ugly or stupid or anything like that. On a good makeup day, I’m maybe around a 7 with the right facial expression and filter. I got a diploma, so I do have some brain cells. But seeing people around me become successful while I sit here stagnant… it makes me feel inadequate.
Those feelings of inadequacy end up spilling over into other areas of my life in the form of anxiety, and that’s when things become unhealthy. I start doubting my friendships, and my relationships, wondering why anyone would want to associate with someone who isn’t a great friend/great girlfriend/interesting to talk to etc. And when I feel like that, I rely on those people even more for validation. I’ve been in tears down the phone, crying because I feel like I don’t matter. Like I’m not enough.
You can imagine what thoughts like that would do to your mental health in the long-term. So one of my priorities in terms of changing how I think is to rely on myself for validation. After all, the only opinion that matters about me is my own, right? As long as I’m working hard to achieve the goals I’ve set for myself, then the opinions of others shouldn’t come into it.
Of course, self-validation is a lot easier said than done. It involves a lot of reflection; accepting that things aren’t always going to be perfect, and not allowing yourself to be too disheartened if things don’t work out as you’d hoped.
I’m lucky that I’m a reasonably rational thinker (most of the time – if I’m feeling anxious it goes out the window like with a lot of people). I’m getting quite good at challenging my negative thoughts – but I’ve still got a lot of work to do.
Where does your validation come from? Is it something you’re trying to change too?