My earliest memory of needing approval was somewhere around the age of 3. I was in the throes of potty training, and excited to report to my mother that I’d not wet the bed for three nights in a row-a big accomplishment. As soon as I woke up, I marched right to my mother holding the rubber pants that covered my underwear. With pride, I held them high for her to see. They were dry!
I don’t remember if threats were made and I had to stop wetting the bed, or if there was some reward for finally becoming a “big girl.” I do know that I wanted to be loved, and at this early age I learned that performance was key.
This marked the beginning of my dedicated relationship with the need for external validation.
As I got older, the need for approval from my parents lessened and was replaced by the need to for approval from my peers. In junior high and high school, I was never particularly athletic or popular so my broken identity became linked to my relationships and what they did for my status. I knew if I wanted to feel good about myself I needed to be with boys who were popular.
In the beginning, I fell for guys with personalities like mine, but, unlike me, they had large social networks-they were well known. I, too, wanted to be known, and I gravitated toward the class clowns and comedians. If lots of people knew me, it meant that I was accepted. If I was accepted, it meant that I had value. If I had value, it meant that I mattered.
It all made perfect sense to me.
Today, 30 years later and married with 4 kids, validation and affirmation comes in the form of traffic, comments, and likes on this blog. From my content to my writing style, there are a few individuals that appreciate what I’m doing here and I love that! But the more approval I receive, I feel myself fighting an unneeded sense of pressure to perform, and that’s not good.
Carrie Wilkerson notes that validation can paralyze you if you’re not careful…
“Tweet: Don’t just work FOR validation or let it determine ALL of your worth. That’s a dangerous place, leaping from one lily pad of validation to the next…threatening to sink if you don’t receive the validation you seek.”
Carrie also says when it comes to validation the healthy approach is to let it motivate you to do even better work. When someone gives you a compliment, or your subscriber list is growing, let it propel you forward to even bigger and better things. Don’t get caught up in how it defines you and your self worth.
I’m taking Carrie’s advice to heart and reminding myself that, even if it sometimes feels like it, my being is not empty in places and in need of people or things to fill it. I am worthy and deserving.
I am already whole.
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