Validation: “recognition or affirmation that a person or their feelings or opinions are valid or worthwhile”
A child is sitting alone at home after school. The dad comes home from work and doesn’t say hello or ask, “How was your day?” The dad doesn’t even make eye contact with the child.
A new employee has just been hired. The boss takes her around the first day, introduces her to people and shows her to her desk. The boss then leaves her alone indefinitely.
A husband and wife lie in bed. The wife stares at the ceiling. Her husband is on his phone.
I often hear people say, mostly women— particularly younger women, that they need validation. I’ve never thought: me too. In fact, I’ve thought validation does not matter to me.
Until recently, when it occurred to me that I received so little validation as a child that how could I know to want something I didn’t know existed. This occurrence uncovered a deep wound of deprivation— deprivation of words, of energy and attention, of presence and acknowledgement from the caregivers and other taller people around me.
Instead of wanting something I could not have, it made sense to push that need deep, deep into the darkness— into a dark room and shut the door. But, the door to the dark room wasn’t sealed. Over time, the stench of that need for validation, created a belief: I am not worthy. I do not matter. It may have even gone so deep that I wondered: did I even exist?
Most things, I am finding, are on a spectrum. I believe the vast majority of us were neglected as children, of at least one fundamental need, and that experience of neglect lies on a spectrum. I was bathed, fed, read to. I have memories of my father rubbing my temples after a hard week with mom. I have fewer memories of my mother’s validation.
I also remember my grandmother Lillian. We sat on her gold sofa playing Uno. She handed me $20 bills. Her eyes lit up when she saw me. I called her my pal. I remember my Aunt Flo who lived in Chicago, where I visited at least once a year. Walking through her door was immediate love and acceptance by her pinch of my cheeks and the twinkle in her eyes. I cling to the memory of these two women. They saw me. They showed me I existed and more, could be loved.
Can I venture to say, we all carry the deep wound of neglect somewhere inside of us….?
Sadly, when the stench of unworthiness takes up space in our being, we attract all the people and experiences that show us we are not worthy. More sad, if we do not see these experiences as opportunities to heal, we create a story and our unworthiness sets in like a stone corpse. It’s concreted now: we do not matter.
I write this today because I don’t want any of us to concrete the belief: I don’t matter. If we have, there’s still time to break it apart to the point where it becomes dust and can be blown away by our own breath.
We matter. And depending on where we are on the spectrum of neglect, it can take many years of uncovering this wound, allowing it to heal, and recreating a life, not of the stench of unworthiness, but of the fragrance of mercy and the pure delight of our existence.
The self-reflective practice for this week is to do some investigative journaling and mindful reflection. Notice if you seek validation. To help, notice where you have a story about something or someone. For instance, in the example I gave above about the new employee and the boss: he may have had complete confidence in her abilities and that is why, after showing her around, he let her be. However, if she isn’t sure about herself and her own abilities, she might start looking for him to validate her. She won’t ask him to- because who does that, right- especially with a boss? Then, she might start creating stories, talking to her co-workers, and eventually might become paranoid of her position or resentful of what she perceives as neglect from her boss.
As we can see, this can get very complicated. When really, it is quite simple. But I won’t get into that for this week. First, we need to notice where we are on the spectrum of seeking validation. Where we are on that spectrum will point to where we are on the spectrum of neglect, often from childhood.
I am here to help you investigate this topic because sometimes it’s a lot to do this on our own. If you have questions about this week’s practice or have insights to share, please contact me. For deeper, more concentrated work, I am available for tele-therapy.
Next week, I will unravel this complicated validation journey and share ways toward self-validation and ultimately, self-love.
~The Soul Reporter