Reassuring our selves that others validate us is different from the active validation of others, though both phenomena depend heavily on our perception of other people. Why? Is it because we do not trust our memories? Per haps it is only pride that remembers behaviors as evidence that others found value in us. Is it because of that undeniable fact that people change, lose interest, move on? Sure, we can be valued when present, but why think of us when we are not around? Is there value in a friend that is missing? What good is a companion that does not accompany us?
It is acceptable to ask for validation, for people to speak those words of evidence that they are interested, that they appreciate, that they empathize, that they care, that they love. As social creatures, our self-esteem requires continuous validation, if not from others, then in ways that are only emulating that validation from others. But continuous and constant are two separate concepts. Regular and often do not mean the same thing. Hearing ‘You still love me. Right?’ or ‘Do I have your forgiveness?’ every once in a while probably bothers no one, but when does tending to security become insecurity? And do good friends provide validation frequently without being asked or otherwise prompted? How does one tell the difference between routine, habitual, insincere words of affection and genuine- but frequent– ones? How often do people cuddle their partners out of a feeling of obligation (as opposed to an authentic desire to do so), and, if it still makes the other person feel comforted and valued, can it be called a ‘lie’?
It can be difficult to look out for other people, to guess at their needs and attempt to cradle their insecurities, especially when we are still confused about our own. Balancing acts are difficult to measure. What is fair and even? Exchanging praise for praise, affection for affection- many times I have renounced personal exchange relationships. We don’t love people because we want them to make us feel good; we love people because we want them to feel good, and to become better, because we understand their position in this shared world, so much so that we’re willing to sacrifice our time and energy to help. If we understand a person, we know that they are able to improve, and that they will do well to not depend heavily on validation from others. If we are lucky, the people that we love also love us, and will understand us enough to know that we can not within reason always be available for support, and will still appreciate what ever little amount that we can offer.
Asking for simple validations shouldn’t be hard. What are we afraid of? If the other person generally does not care about us, we should not crave validation from them in the first place. If the other person is temporarily emotionally or otherwise unavailable, but generally cares about us, it should be easy to communicate such a thing, apologize, and allow us to quickly move on to find what we need elsewhere. One rejection does not necessarily indicate a lack of value, and even a person of little value still has potential to grow in to one of more value.
But what if rejection is consistent? Or what if attention enough for rejection is not easy to obtain? Well, the human animal is not just a social animal, but also an intellectual one. Self-validation can be gained through learning, developing skills, even simply by absorbing and understanding art. ‘Having healthy, caring relationships’ is a practical goal, but, like any serious goal, we have to put in the work to obtain it. Does the status of social animal earn us the right to companionship? No. No. Not at all! Not any more than we deserve the right to having fun for our status of ‘bored’. All people deserve compassion, but compassion can exist between strangers, between law enforcers and criminals. No. People want to associate with attractive bodies containing attractive personalities. The human mind is generally fascinating, but this should not imply that any one human mind is inherently attractive. We make our selves, our behaviors, our interests, our values attractive- or unattractive. Some times we are lucky and are raised right. Some times we are unlucky and are not, or are raised right but turn out vicious any way. Regardless of our individual tragic pasts, we do no thing to earn love and companionship save for being good- or viciously deceive. Ah, but how can one love us, if they do not understand us, and will they understand us, if we deceive them in to a caring relationship?
Personal responsibility, authenticity, openness and honesty, and growth of character are regular topics on this blog, because many personal problems lead us back to them as some part or all of the solution. As I, my self, have become more secure, I still notice the temptation to become addicted to validation from those that care about me. Picture this: I am content, proud, and confident (which is true like half of the time, I guess). I get praise and affection on top of that as a base line. The praise and affection does not strike me as helpful, but as pleasing. And pleasure is desirable, and there is no immediate threat of deficiency, so why not seek out more, if I am above emotional base line, and rejection doesn’t seem so scary right now? Well, even happy, content people can develop detrimental habits, can ask for too much, and can become fixated on that which is not the best purpose of a thing. Expectations can rise, and rise, like the tolerance of a drug addicted nervous system, until my needs become overwhelming, even though I was just happy, proud, and confident. Then smaller amounts of validation are meaningless, smaller amounts, from fewer people, and I’m feeling a social deficit even though I am getting no less than what I was getting before…
‘This feels really good; I want to feel this way all of the time.’
All of the time. It’s a trick. It is not satisfaction that is supposed to last, but the effects of satisfaction. One of our intellectual powers is the ability to remember things with clarity, to provide a sense of permanence to things that are not present, to reflect on the good, and to use memories as fuel for confidence, for improvement, as inspiration for our purposes, and to maintain happiness without the assistance of others. It is true, that memory is fallible, but let us allow concrete evidence to make us skeptical; let us not allow our emotional insecurity to cast us in to doubt.
Easier said than done, though. Right?