It’s my sister’s fault. As we were discussing our relationships with others, she took me down the road of our past. In our late twenties we both participated in a series of personal growth trainings. We both listened to a lecture about validation and we both brought the same belief away with us. The lecture went something like this: Validation – being the act of letting another know that you believe that their beliefs and/or actions are appropriate or acceptable – can be a trap. Validation can be a trap if your need for validation drives your thinking and your activities. It can be a trap, if the way that you live is to seek validation before proceeding on a course of action.
The inherent trap of validation is seeking the approval of others before making personal decisions. It does not then follow (inductive reasoning) that you have no need for validation. Yet that is what Becky and I walked away from that training believing. We took the concept of being aware of validation and a need for approval and twisted it into – we don’t need validation. As a “strong” person, one can say to oneself “I don’t need others to tell me what I did was right.” Unfortunately – for both of us – that translated into relationship issues with significant others. I can’t speak for Becky, but I spent the better part of two decades humming along on my own strength. This allowed me to form relationships wherein I relied solely on myself for strength and validation.
What that looks like in a relationship is, in retrospect, scary. If my former partner ignored me or “put down” my ideas and philosophy, I simply dealt with it by affirming to myself that I should not need validation from another. My internal validation and strength is plenty enough for me. What follows is a series of any number of all types of relationships where I could receive little or no validation – and no conversation followed – I just accepted it as part of being a “strong person.”
As anyone can imagine, relationships evolved that when juxtaposed against my stubborn need to have no validation, showed me that I really did enjoy and yes, even need validation. What followed is that I became aware of another idea that I carried within myself. That idea is that a “strong person” makes it on their own “and so goes the ego of the strong”. So here I am, finally, maybe understanding that a relationship should include validation for each other. It’s okay to use someone else’s warm and positive regard. It’s okay to need another to tell me that my course of action is correct, or even that who I am is very cool. I can have these needs without diminishing my strength. I can expect validation in my relationships and depend on my relationships to support my decisions. I am speaking to all of my relationships.
I don’t need a boss who ignores everything good that I do and dramatizes my mistakes. I don’t need a man who consistently badgers me about my decisions, pointing to all of the wrongness that is inherent in being human. I don’t need friends who lecture me about what I “should” do. What I need and want in my life are supportive friends who travel the same path as me. If that makes me weak – then so be it…