Why We so Desperately seek Validation.


Some of my earliest and fondest memories growing up were those of me playing football. Breaking away for a long touchdown run, standing in the end zone and after a brief celebration (sometimes showboating) with my teammates, I would look to the stands to see my fathers reaction.

I loved the game so much growing up. I still love it today, but in a different way now that my playing days are over. What I used to love was the camaraderie with my teammates, the friendships forged and the long talks with my father and brothers about what I could do better next game and then trying to make my father happy by heeding his advice.

All of which carried with it a burden of validation. I wanted to perform well not only for my own accolades, but I also wanted the respect and acknowledgment from my teammates, friends, family, the community and most importantly, my father. Looking back, I now often wondered, if there were no peering eyes, no bodies in the stands to validate my efforts, would I have truly enjoyed the game? Could I have played in an empty stadium and still enjoyed my passion?

If I had a bad game or a bad moment in a game, I would feel disappointed. However, I was not disappointed in myself, I feel as if now, looking back, the disappointment I felt was the lack of validation for extraordinary efforts. The purity of the game took a back seat to the validation I sought after. 

Today I love the game because of the life lessons it taught me. Lessons such as fighting through tough times, never giving up, pushing myself beyond my limits to achieve more and always having high standing goals to continue to push myself to never settle. The actual game itself has taken a backseat for me today when compared to the lessons I learned from my playing days.

Football was just one of many activities and life ventures I engulfed myself in to seek validation from others. I certainly enjoyed my passions, but I always had an extra feeling of accomplishment if my actions were validated at the end of the day.

So often we chase after dreams and hope for success. However success for many of us is measured by the perception of others. In some scenarios, we may succeed at our task, yet feel defeated if no one validates our effort.

There are many people who feel comfortable traveling down life’s many paths alone. Their own personal experience and life lessons is their reward. For others, we wish to have someone close by our side to witness our success and journey to validate our actions and successes.

I recently set a goal a few years ago to be a writer/blogger. My goal was plain and simple. Write about my life experiences and share them with the world. Now enter the tricky, unforeseen part. The validation.  Many of my early blogs were successful. I wrote over thirty blogs for an established online publications and my works were warmly received by the editors and readers for a period in time. Tens of thousands; some blogs even reaching over one-hundred thousand readers would read about my life experiences, expressions of emotions, opinions and mindful advice that I wanted to pass on to others.

I felt validation through blogging. However, things began to complicate. As I continued to write blogs, some did not connect with readers and contained too many subtle hidden messages that some readers and almost all the editors missed. The website I was writing for started to refuse many of my blog submissions. I wrote many blogs that I felt were heartfelt, meaningful blogs that were beginning to be refused by editors from a site that once embraced almost every submission I made. What made it even more difficult to cope with was that the same blogs I was submitting and getting rejected, I would very shortly see an almost identical blog published by another writer for the website.

I felt I lost my validation which lead me to question my passion of blogging. I even thought about giving up for a while. All of this over a lack of validation from virtual complete strangers judging my words, experiences, opinions and expressions. I eventually began to question if I really did succeed after all the dust had settled.

While I did not fail at my goal, I do not feel as if I fully succeeded. What I lacked was the validation of others.

This lack of validation caused me to feel disenfranchised with writing. If others could not connect to my words and style then how could I ever possible measure my success?

Validation carries with it competition. Many people write. Yet what do we choose to read? What we choose to read, or consume, lends validation to the one who wrote the words we read. The other writers words left unread do not receive the validation they subconsciously sought after. This caused me to forge my own path; a new path free from the validation of people I didn’t know. A path free from the judgment of virtual strangers. I then decided to not let the lack of validation effect my overall sense of worth.

In the work place we sometimes go above and beyond our every day responsibilities. If our actions go unnoticed and we fail to receive any type of validation for our work, we may lose interest and think twice before going above and beyond again.

Yet if we choose to continue to press on and do more than is expected and required, we do so from a position of hoping to one day receive validation from someone who will recognize the fruits of our labor. Rarely is it in our nature to continue such pursuits of noble causes for anonymity.

It’s biology and physiology intertwined.

It does not mean we are selfish and bad people. It means that we seek recognition for the time we spent to improve upon our own ethics and standard of living. Unfortunately in many cases, neither can progress without that extra someone validating our efforts and recognizing the fact that we have more to offer than we originally advertised or were thought capable of doing.

There is another door to validation that I admittedly overlooked for many years. The idea of self-validation. That is, the feeling of our own accomplishments without the need of others to recognize our actions or success. It took me a lot of soul-searching and emotional ups and downs to finally come to peace and accept that I don’t need others to validate my efforts and my passions.

Today I have learned to rely more on my own validation to help me appreciate my journeys, life lessons/experiences learned and successes. Yet I still do cling at times to the desire to have validation from others. It is a balance I still struggle with inside. I am human, and as a human, I do have desires at times to be recognized for my actions. I am still a work in progress. 

The purest form of happiness and validation comes from within, without the need or want of others. The feeling of detachment from all forces and people that can potentially alter our mood by their opinions and lack of validation. Those who seek to judge us based on our merits or their opinions of the lack of our merits merely dishearten us. It can potentially lead to us throwing in the towel and giving up on a pursuit of a passion that once made us happy. 

Speak and express from the heart. Let us not be deterred by those who seek to push us down. Those same people who refuse to validate our efforts to be authentic humans. Everyone is a critic or a cynic. Some may love what we do and say, and others may not. The most important person to seek validation from is oneself. If we are sincerely happy with the path we are on, the road we are travelling and the means by which we travel, the validation of others need not matter.

Yet we still seek it. It is a hard concept to break away from. One that can never fully be severed. However, always know that at the end of the day, after all our actions have been accomplished and after all our words have been spoken/written, we have to look ourselves in the mirror. So for those who seek to validate, I have a message: “Be mindful of how you go about the process of validation and judgment, for you too have to look yourself in the mirror and face the facts that your own idea of what is valid and what is not valid may not be the validation of what others seek.” We all have special gifts to share with the world focusing through our own lenses. Seek not to silence, but to embrace and accept those willing to showcase and share their talents with the world.

To receive validation from another or others is a great gift. To be able to accept our own validation is an even greater gift. It is a gift that can not be taken away from us and makes us stronger and more confident to push our goals higher and higher.

Author: Adam Wilkinson

Image: flickr

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