“The woman who does not require validation from anyone is the most feared individual on the planet.” ~ Mohadesa Najumi
I imagine this is true. The woman who is so content within herself as not to need any validation from anyone sounds pretty scary. I also imagine her to be quite tired and a bit bitchy, because faking that kind of confidence takes a lot of energy. It’s exhausting.
While I understand the sentiment and agree with the idea of preserving our personal power by not doling it out to strangers on the street, I also believe in the importance of keeping it real. Not buying into what other people think of us sounds so easy.
The longer we live and the more experiences we have, the closer we get to embracing self-acceptance as the most important, but what about all the missteps we must take in order to find it? If the point is to become comfortable with self, and the journey there is lined with opportunities for discomfort and angst, where is the finish line?
Validation feels good, and is often what drives us. We are taught from an extremely young age to look for a smile, applause, or a head nod to assure us we’re on the right track. Walking, talking, or riding a bike for the first time on our own. Getting a part in the school play, an “A” on an art project, or whatever else we accomplish or don’t; it’s all met with a response from the people we care about and trust.
We learn to interpret the look of pride or disappointment in the faces of other people into messages of encouragement or shame. Keep doing that thing or don’t ever do it again — all from a single look. We acknowledge the direct consequences of each, and although they may differ wildly between homes and across cultures, we understand that they exist. If we wish to be viewed or treated a certain way, we must often conform.
Years later, once we realize the fallibility of those we’ve invested so much trust in, we may become a bit rebellious; as a means of fighting back against what could be viewed as personal oppression or the stifling censorship of who we truly are. Unfortunately for us, however, this realization usually sprouts at a time we have no literal idea who that is. So, we improvise. Maybe we try new and exciting things or perhaps we fall into ways in which we know will ultimately send a message to those who wish to control us. We don’t even realize the irony.
If we’re lucky, we do realize that everyone on this planet is just as clueless as we are. If we’re fortunate, we collect a gaggle of honest women to help us rummage through the truth, lies, and straight-up bullshit. We reach the understanding that we’ve all been brainwashed in one way or another and admit our desire to drink the Kool-Aid even though we know it’s laced with poison.
We forgive the ones who set us up, as we in-turn bundle the same or similar expectations onto the next generation. Our kids getting the edited for tv version of whatever our parents passed down in hopes of fulfilling that promise we made to ourselves to be better than they were. To listen more intently, spend more or less time, to fight different battles, or give up entirely and trust fully in their process. But that fear still lingers behind the door for many of us.
What will people think? How harshly will my children be judged and how will they handle it? Have I prepared them for this world and all its faults? Are they strong enough to withstand the disappointment when it’s realized that I am just as fallible as my mother was and is? Did I succeed in doing a better job than she and will it even matter up against whatever new and interesting societal pressures will present around every next corner?
The only opinion of me that matters is my own, but what a large pill to swallow when that opinion comes with the harshest critique. While examining my own motives behind the need for validation, I realized there has never been an upside to trusting anyone with my power and self-worth. It matters little whether or not someone – no matter whom – believes I am the greatest or worst person in the universe.
I know all of that, but doesn’t mean I won’t occasionally obsess and let it tear at my guts a while.
What matters most is whether or not I choose to let it all rule my life.