I'm Only Pretty If They Say I'm Pretty
In many of my sessions recently this notion of validation through others has been coming up. This is the idea that our worth is reassured by the actions of others.
Simple examples include:
· I am good at my job if my coworkers look up to me and my boss tells me what an asset I am.
· I am a good partner if my partner values me and reassures me.
· I am a viable member of my family if my family respects me, communicates with me and is willing to go to bat for me.
· I am a good daughter if I do as my mother says, go in the direction she wants me to rather than take a career I want to take.
These are all false truths. When we do not believe our own worth, we allow others to reinforce their personal narratives onto our spirit (because they said it, it must be true). When we believe we are good at something, we do not need to need to be told it. I am sure you have heard the old adage, “Smart people do not have to tell people they are smart.”
I can recall a time in my career where I depended on praise and validation from my boss. I did not believe I was “good” at my job unless I was told so and received stellar annual evaluations. It took a bit of time and some self-love for me to realize I didn’t need to be praised to know my worth. My evaluations were important, sure, but the work I was doing was all the reinforcement I needed – paired with my own personal happiness. So, when I received critique or feedback, I either accepted it or challenged it, because I knew I was worth it. I would accept the feedback at times, because I knew I could grow from it; we always have a lot to learn. Other times I challenged it. Something I learned in the past was that “because I said so” does not work in the adult workplace. We are allowed to ask why when given a directive at work (why does not equal deviance, it means “I don’t understand” or “it would be helpful if you explained why”). Boy did it feel good to know I believed I was smart, hardworking and making a difference and not need it to hear it from anyone else. ***Remember, this is very different than, “I’m the best and don’t need any advice" – i.e. avoid the perpetual uniqueness and unrealistic majesty of ego with a capital E.
Reaching a place where we enter into a healthy ego is HARD. We live in a society where we are almost told to be codependent – “find your soulmate,” “when are you getting married,” “you’re having children soon, right?” We look to social media and see just how happy everyone else seems – repeatedly posting pictures of adoring a partner with love, showing off our lavish trips, our sculpted abs or snapping a photo of our latest fashion choice.
We are almost begging for someone to validate us – don’t even get me started on the insta-validate called the LIKE button. Have you ever considered the very people you look up to on the socials could also in fact be the people who are looking to you to validate them by your LIKE (I’m not sayings stop LIKING things, lol, but I’m saying, don’t be upset by the number of LIKES, because in the grand scheme of things they are meaningless).
Now, I also want to point out that we cannot go around with this higher than thee attitude. We have to look at our audience to keep us in line, teether us to reality and make sure we stay on track. We can believe our worth and live an elevated life, but we want to avoid delusion and remember to stay in what we are competent in (or build competency). We should also always bounce our belief off a valid outside source (therapist, counselor, coach, unbiased person, etc.) as our belief is personally ours and we inevitably have a bit of bias.
This is why it is important not to RELY on others for validation, but to CONSIDER the interactions and the dialogue that occurs.
A good example is someone who’s family member does not make much time for them, and seems to only make time when they need something – i.e. a mother who adores her adult daughter, cleaning for her when she needs it, lending an ear and a kind word, etc. But then said daughter does not want to have a conversation about a comment said daughter made that hurt her mother’s feelings. The mother may say, “my daughter won’t speak to me about the comment she made… she shuts me down and refuses to talk about how it hurt my feelings so clearly I’m not a good enough mother or she’d be willing to make time for me.” FALSE. This is a perfect example of someone looking outward for another to validate their worth. In this example, we know she’s a good mother. She helps her daughter, praises her and makes time for her. But because her daughter will not do the same for her (and most likely because the mother has her own set of negative self-worth issues) she allows her daughter to define a personal truth about her worth
In this example, the healthy response would be that her daughter is not being fair, and that hey refusal to communicate has little to do with the mother's worth and much more to do with the daughter’s own “stuff.”
So, next time you begin to question your worth, remove the other person from the equation and hold a mirror to your soul. What is it that you believe about yourself? Is it accurate? How do you know? Have you consulted a competent second opinion? Who is your audience? What is the evidence for and against your self-belief?