Thursday, December 12, 2013

Rescuing Myself: A New Approach to Finding Validation

“Go easy on yourself,” she said. “What you’re taking on is a really big shift in thinking.”

Or at least that’s what I think my counselor said when I think back on our conversation now, probably three weeks later, as I struggle to go easy on myself in the midst of a mind-blowing revelation that is changing everything.

Like all of them, it surfaced one small piece at a time. I wrote a piece about firing Prince Charming and had a conversation with my counselor, after all, so it’s not like this revelation came completely out of nowhere. Suddenly, however, as I was sitting on a beach in Costa Rica, it fully hit me: I’ve been waiting for someone to rescue me.

At that moment I looked back on my life and finally saw them: the holes that I had been keeping open, like portals to another dimension where the Disney princes lived. Despite being able to accurately describe myself as fiercely independent, I have also been buying into the idea that if I just hang on for long enough, eventually someone – some man – will swoop in and take care of me. He will look at these holes I have left in my existence, smile gently – albeit somewhat condescendingly – and get to work fixing the parts of me that are broken; the parts that I have left broken so that he would have something to fix.

I have been waiting for someone to rescue me. I’ve been waiting for someone to come along and convince me that I am worthwhile; that I am beautiful, that I am a good writer. I have (wince) been waiting for someone to come to me and say, “I believe so much in your writing that I will support you so that you can dedicate yourself to your writing without deadlines or worrying about how to make a living.”

This person would also convince me to take a day off when I needed it, sit down at my desk and write when I needed to, negotiate salaries, freelance work rates, and with the taxi driver that’s trying to rip us off. His job, essentially, would be to take care of me so that I wouldn’t have to take care of myself.


This may have been what I have been unconsciously waiting for, and yet when I have spent time with people who try even a little bit to tell me what is right for me, I have a desire to punch them for thinking that they could possibly know better than I do what I need.

It’s another Catch 22, you see. It’s a rock and a hard place, but more than that, it is a realization that all this time, all my life, I thought relationships were something that they are not: validation. Certainly there is validation in being in a relationship with someone you love, but if I seek my personal validation in someone else’s view of me, it is only a band aid over a gaping open wound that needs not just stitches but reconstructive surgery; if I find my validation in another’s opinion of me, that means I can just as easily lose that validation when they are no longer willing to give it.

Every situation I’ve been in since this revelation, I have caught myself seeking external kudos: for years and still today, I have been aching for connection and for someone to put me first, instead of being able to do it for myself. In any connection I've had, however, it's never felt like enough. I have fallen into a trap that I don’t think has caught only me: it’s called “If I just suffer soundlessly and give all I have, eventually someone will notice and treat me the way I deserve to be treated.” This is instead of a much healthier thought, which would be “If I let myself have what I deserve and don’t settle for less than that, I will get it.” In the second scenario, there’s no need to wait for others to come along: feeling good about myself would no longer depend on the good graces of my friends, family members or a significant other, all of whom have their own lives and their own validation to find. It would not depend on anything outside of my own control, and therefore my confidence would not ebb and flow with the tide of others’ opinions, but rather look more like a foundation of solid rock.

I am trying to go easy on myself here, but it’s a tough go. It’s like being handed the script of my life and suddenly noticing all the glaring inconsistencies and corrections that need to be made. Not only am I now recognizing what needs to change, but I’m also grappling with just how the hell to change it: if I break out of these age-old patterns, what do I rebuild with instead? If a relationship isn’t about giving me value, then what is a relationship about? The walls may have toppled quickly, but rebuilding them in a new, better and more sustainable way is going to take time.

Love and self-validating kisses,