We have all looked to others for validation in our lives at some point in time. A compliment on a new dress or a “job well done” from your boss or co-worker can change your entire mood for the day. Often times though, it’s even much deeper validation we seek. When we look to others for validation of our life choices, personal appearance or even just who we are as a person, we are willingly opening the door for them to steel our personal joy.
Validation from others has been something that was important to me for a very long time. I’ve always had a strong fear of abandonment which I know comes from my being adopted. I don’t think you ever really get over being given away as a small child no matter what the circumstances are. Because of this my whole life I operated from a space where I felt the need to prove myself worthy of another person’s admiration, friendship or love. As a child and even an adult I was desperately seeking the approval of my parents. In my career I felt I was not being valued because I wasn’t being told what a great job I had been doing and I spent years showing up for friends way more than they would show up for me, often at the expense of showing up for myself. I was approaching every relationship the same way, with the fear that if I was not what the other person needed or wanted me to be all the time than I would not be wanted at all. I never stopped to realize that in doing so I was willingly putting my self-worth into their hands.
My husband has always had an “I don’t care what anyone thinks of me attitude” which I never use to understand. I questioned how he could walk through life not worried one bit what other people thought about him. I on the other hand would lose sleep over thinking conversations I had had a week ago. I was worried that someone took something I said the wrong way, or I would be upset that they had not acknowledged something I had done for them. When I would start to obsess he would always shut me down with “Why does it matter?” Or “Who cares? you know what you meant and what you have done let it go”. I would of course take that as “Why won’t you listen to me?” I desperately wanted him to jump into the drama and roll around in it with me, but he would never indulge me in these conversations and it would drive me crazy! Now, as I have been doing the work to love an accept myself more I realize that what I mistook for cold or callus behavior was simply a strong sense of security in one’s self….something I needed to exhibit more myself.
This new validation-free love for myself was tested recently when I attended a large family function. I was excited for the reactions of my 120lb weight loss, since I hadn’t seen some people in over 2 years I was sure to get praise on the work I have done and my lifestyle changes. That didn’t happen at all. Instead, I received no real acknowledgment from anyone about the difference in my appearance. Immediately my first thought was “How can you not see this and say something?” and of course, my feelings were hurt… I mean I didn’t just lose 5lbs here this was a substantial amount of weight. I felt myself starting to go back to my old mindset of “Have I not done enough?” But then, I came back to my mantra of “I am enough now”. I now realize that them not acknowledging my weight loss does not erase the fact that it has happened, that I have put the work in, that I have changed my lifestyle, that I am feeling well, that I am looking great, that I am inspiring others, that I am living my best life now. Those feelings of hurt soon turned to feelings of freedom…freedom to live my life from a place where I can find confidence in my own choices and peace in my way of living without the validation of others effecting my spirit and it feels very powerful to finally be here!