The Validation Trap


I love the message on this photo.  This topic is something that I’ve struggled with for my entire life post-injury. I think it’s something that many people work through in their lives – some never really dealing with it, but getting stuck in this incessant need for reassurance and outside affirmation that their efforts are meaningful.  It’s a difficult struggle for sure. I think sometimes it has more to do with personality development than anything else.  But no matter the source of the issue, the bottom line is that this way of thinking or reasoning…this incessant need for validation and external motivation is not very helpful in life.

It’s easy to get caught up in the idea that no one understands, no one appreciates the effort something takes, or the struggles that some of us deal with on a daily basis just to get through the day (especially when we feel we have justified reasoning for feeling/thinking that way).  However, simply wishing that more people understood really isn’t going to solve the problem.  And truly, even finding people who do understand doesn’t solve the problem itself.  The only thing that will bring closure to these extreme feelings (of loneliness, rejection, isolation, or pain of any kind) is the acceptance of them and the refusal to judge oneself according to our own personal perception of the state of things.

Truthfully, we are our own worst enemies.  I think everyone knows that.  (Some of us more than others).  We spend so much time aspiring to a certain goal or a certain level of achievement/performance that it becomes the main focus in our lives.  We fail to acknowledge the growth process happening, or the beauty in the small successes along the way. Bottom line, like this poster says, this life – in all of its struggle and agony – is a journey.  And because no one has come from where you have come from, through what you have been through, with the resources (or lack thereof) which you were given, no one on this planet is really going to understand. AND THAT’S OKAY.

Yes, it sucks.  Yes, it feels uncomfortable and lonely a lot when it seems as if so many other people have made connections with others who seem to “get” them.  But in all honesty, if you asked any of “those” people (the ones who seem so happily engrossed in their social circles), I’m sure any number of them would agree that they have many instances in life when it feels as if no one really understands. Everyone has had at least a moment in their life when it feels as if no one else “gets it” or appreciates what they are going through.  

So don’t believe that “shitty committee” in your head that is trying to convince you that no one gets it, that no one cares, or that no one appreciates the effort you make to be you – because that just isn’t so.  You are who you are in this moment that you find yourself, having been through an extraordinary set of circumstances (or combination of those) which has given you the unique perspective you need to accomplish what this life is about to bring to you.  This concept is beyond us.  It is beyond human figuring and finite understanding.  There is Something greater at work in us and through us, in the universe and creation abroad.  

I can’t tell you your purpose, why you have been through what you have been through, why you are in the situation you are in, but I know that you will realize it when the time comes.  Let go of that need for outside validation and open your awareness to your existence in this moment. Nothing that anyone else says or does to validate your existence or your efforts will genuinely bring you satisfaction in the end – guaranteed.  Sure, I think we need to express genuine appreciation to those around us, to those who are in our service at multiple moments throughout the day, or to those who give of themselves without question for support and encouragement.  But to go around looking or NEEDING that validation for a sense of happiness or achievement in life is an empty and fruitless effort. When we are stuck in that need for acknowledgement, praise, and validation, we give away our power to create the life that we need (and as an extension, the life that will ultimately satisfy or bring us happiness).

So, today I encourage you (as I am encouraging myself)…to give yourself a pat on the back for making it through this day.  Make a list of all of things you accomplished today (from the time you got out of bed, to menial chores around the house, to caring for a pet, or preparing your own meals). Acknowledge the loved ones in your life (family and friends) who have sent you texts or Facebook messages or communications of any kind over the last week.  Look at all those people who love you!!  And maybe even spend some time in reflection today, providing yourself with some personal validation, making a list of your strengths.  Putting things in writing is a powerful tool.  

And, you know what? I’m here to agree with you that this position you are in, the situation you are dealing with, the feelings you are feeling….it sucks to have to be there. It sucks that we have to be our own pat on the back – sometimes it’s exhausting to feel like if it weren’t for our self-validation there would be no validation at all. Bottom line, that sucks.  I can guarantee you that you are not the only one feeling that way right now.  Do what you need to do to express that frustration and agony. Cry it out, write in your journal, play your guitar, sing along to some melancholy tunes, or vent to a friend.

Cuz you know what else? It’s exactly that… a feeling.  Feelings come and go.  They are a fleeting part of our awareness. But getting stuck in them…dwelling on them…you will get caught in a trap and it’s not going to be of any help to you.  Finding someone to bitch to about your circumstances might help for a moment, especially if you are lucky enough to find someone who validates your concerns and has been there before.  But has that strengthened your own personal resolve to see past the situation?  Have you come to understand the circumstance as something outside of yourself, not a part of your self-worth or personal value?

I hope you do.  I hope you dig in on this journey and really explore these things. Find out where you have sensitivities and discover new ways to be proactive (or even retroactive as the case may be) in healing that inner awareness, strengthening your inner resolve.  It is possible. 

But whatever you do…stay away from the validation trap. Remember that you are more than your feelings. Your performance, your perception of your circumstances, your understanding or opinion of a concept, these do not dictate your worth as a person.  

So be who you are and say what you feel
Because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind. 🙂
~Dr. Seuss

…this is my life…

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