Getting Validated

I suspect we’ve all been to a mall or entertainment complex where we’ve encountered a sign at the entry to the parking structure reading Parking Free with Validation – $(insert outrageous hourly rate) per Hour Otherwise.    Getting your parking ticket validated is easy … when you finish dinner, you only have to remember to hand it to the waiter, and he’ll have it stamped with the official seal.   Or, if you’re shopping, you may buy something inexpensive … say, a pack of gum … just so a store will stamp your ticket.   Bingo, ticket validated.  Bingo, free parking.

But what about when you need validating?   Perhaps not so easy judging by the number of books on self-esteem shelves in Borders.   Getting validated was the topic of our Tuesday Night Men’s Group this week, or more specifically, How do you avoid being too dependent on the people around you for validation? I liked the subject immediately because in my journey from fifty to sixty-six, one of the things that’s changed the most is my need for the approval of others.   That’s not to say I don’t enjoy the occasional compliment … great post or nice job is still appreciated … but I don’t depend on them to carry me through my days any more.   OK, OK, I have those needy days too, but nowhere near as often as I used to.   This change has been gradual and subtle so on Tuesday I wasn’t able to articulate very well how it happened.   I’m sure you’re not surprised that I’ve thought about it a lot since then.   Those of you with Younger Eyes could just assume that my decreased need for external validation is a product of growing old.   I’m simply out of the Game of Life or worn down by it.   I’m too old to give a rat’s ass.   Well, I suppose that could be true but if it is, I worked awfully hard for nothing.

When I was approximately fifty, a number of things were going on that made me less than happy with my life, or at least that’s what I’d have said then.   Fortunately, I had the resources to show me that in reality,  life events were making me aware that I was less than happy with myself. Through books like John Bradshaw’s The Family, I learned how childhood beliefs could influence my behavior as an adult, causing me to automatically react in certain ways to situations without knowing why.   It turns out that my mother was perhaps overly effusive in her praise of my every little thing and that my father was inclined toward that’s-not-good-enough.   Both were in the normal range of healthy parenting but though my Very Young Eyes, I became dependent on my Mom for praise and learned I was not quite good enough from my Dad.   So, the historical component of learning not to depend on others for validation was to understand and correct those childhood perceptions.    One way to do that was by giving myself a better message by improving my Self-Talk.

The first time I heard the term was in a book by Shad Helmstetter entitled What to Say When You Talk to Yourself? The premise of the book is that much of what you say to yourself is negative … and a reflection of what people have told you in the past … and that by changing your self-talk, you can reverse negative programming, and fill your life with a new, vital energy.     Well, I didn’t quite experience all that but it gave me a start.  The book was also my first encounter with the interesting world of affirmations, in which you tell yourself something that may not be entirely true … in order to move toward making it happen.   I remember finding an affirmation that seemed particularly odious:  I love myself as I am and continue to love myself as I improve.  Doesn’t that just make you want to vomit?   Yet a psychologist friend told me that if an affirmation doesn’t make you cringe a bit, it isn’t enough of a reach to be an affirmation.   And there was another historical component at work here, too.    I was raised on saying like Don’t toot your own horn, Don’t show-off, and Who do you think you’re kidding? How do I reverse my negative programming when the tools I need violate my negative programming?   Slowly.

The truth was, I didn’t know what to tell myself because I didn’t know who I was.   I know that sounds like a psycho-babble bullshit, but it was true … and I think it’s true of many people.  We are taught what we are and should be in our formative years, then we spend our less formative years seeking out ways to validate what we’ve learned, whether what we’ve learned is good or bad.   If our self-talk doesn’t reflect our true selves, does it really help?   In order to know what to tell ourselves … about ourselves … we need to follow the ancient Greek saying that was inscribed in the Temple of Apollo at Delphi … Know Thyself.      Doing just that will be the subject of another post.

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One Comment on “Getting Validated”

  1. territerri Says:

    Wow… this is really eye-opening and I want to learn more. Since I spent my childhood years thinking I was the difficult child (because that’s what all the words and actions told me)I have spent most of my adult years believing I was and still am a difficult person. Makes me wonder how much of my behavior now is the result of that ingrained belief….

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