‘Recognition or affirmation that a person/their feelings or opinions are valid or worthwhile.’
The ‘need’ to feel validated, it’s something that ties us together as human beings, the need to feel as though what we’re doing with our lives counts for something, that what we’re doing is worthwhile. A pursuit for a sense of purpose, or, a pursuit for a sense of feeling ‘good enough?’
Why do we do what we do? Why do we share our art with the world? Why do we like being associated with certain people? Dress in a certain way? Listen to certain music? There’s a part of it that’s about self-expression, I would hope, but, a big part of it, far bigger than most of us would care to admit, is precisely based on this need for validation I speak (well, write) of…
Writing from personal experience, I know that if I didn’t have my blog to post my writing on, if I didn’t have a platform to post my poetry on, then, although I would still write, feeling as though it was going into the ‘abyss’, I think I’d struggle with feeling a bit directionless, as though lacking a sense of purpose because, ‘if I’m only writing for myself, then, what’s the point?’ I like the sense of community that writing gives me, I like it when I get comments from people on my blog, when I get messages about my poetry, and, I can’t deny that I like the sense of validation I get when people comment on my work. Again, although fleeting (as soon as I’ve posted one thing, I’m writing the next, worrying about how this next one will be received), it’s still nice to feel validated…
It’s why social media is so addictive because, seeing people ‘liking’ what we post offers us an almost instant sense of validation, albeit fleeting, that we so desperately crave. It offers us the opportunity to gain some temporary respite from feeling like we’re ‘not good enough.’
Why we crave validation
Our desire for validation can be seen reflected in us all from as far back as when we took our first steps, learning to walk. The more we would do it, the more we would be praised for it, and so, loving the praise we were given, we would continue to do it. It’s how life works. Not because we’re ‘selfish’, not because we’re ‘egotistical’ or ‘self-centred’ or, any other negative association that the need for validation comes with, but because we are human
(or perhaps more accurately, because we are alive).
‘More accurately’ because, our longing for validation isn’t just a human thing. Just look at domesticated animals, dogs, for example. To train a dog to ‘sit’, you have to, when they have followed your command, praise them. Make them see that ‘sitting’ pleases you and that, by doing the things that please you, they will be rewarded for it. And, like us, the more they are praised for ‘sitting’, the more they will do it. Why? Because we all just want to feel…
We all just want to feel wanted in a world that doesn’t really make sense, like, at all…
Craving validation in a nonsensical world
Just think about it, we’re all in the middle of an infinite universe within, probably several universes, on a floating rock, with no comprehension of anything outside of this miniscule speck of dust that we find ourselves on (miniscule where the scale of the universe is concerned). We have absolutely no idea how we got here, what we’re doing here, or where we will end up when we’re not here. It’s all just a head thrashing(ly) bizarre situation. No one asked to be here and yet, here we all are… Plucked from space and put in a world in which we don’t understand, can never understand, for, the complexities of this- whatever ‘this’ even is- exist far beyond human comprehension… And so, with no instruction manual, we’re left to fend for ourselves. Our parents own confusion at what we’re doing here, their own suppressed trauma, being passed on to us… It’s unsurprising then that so many of us feel so directionless,
as we desperately search for the thing that will make it all make sense but, forever come up short because, we just can’t.
When we can’t even fathom how we got here, how are we supposed to, one day wake up and know why we are here- what our ‘life’s purpose’ is?… We can’t and, to think that we can is, not only incredibly delusional, but also incredibly harmful…
Can the search for purpose and validation harm us?
To spend our whole lives desperately searching for our ‘why’; for why we are here, for what we should be devoting our lives to in order to ‘make it worthwhile’/in order to ‘fulfil our life’s purpose’, it can end up destroying our mental health. It can lead us to feel incredibly trapped, to never feel good enough, to always feel like we are somehow falling short of what we ‘should’ be doing…
‘I write but, is this really why I’m here? Should I be doing something else? Will I get to the end having realised that I’ve wasted my whole life doing something which was never my ‘destined’ path?’
For the perfectionists among us, for those of us who feel like there is a ‘right’ way and a ‘wrong’ way to do everything, we can end up doing nothing at all, for, we are too scared to do the ‘wrong’ thing that to do nothing seems like the lesser of two evils…
Having spent several years of my life desperately searching for my own life’s purpose, it wasn’t until I reframed my thinking from; ‘We all have one purpose that we must find and devote our lives to’, to, ‘Maybe our purpose is just to be alive, as nature is alive- To experience all the different seasons, to grow and to wilt, but, to always come back stronger’, that my mood also changed. From feeling depressed, all the time, because I felt like I was ‘behind’, like I wasn’t doing what I ‘should’ be doing with my life, to feeling happy,
being of the belief that; our purpose is not necessarily ‘set’, that it can change as we go through different seasons in our lives, such a mindset shift* made all the difference.
*(A mindset shift and, an acknowledgement that we could learn a thing or two from the rest of the animal kingdom)…
Learn to REST
In the winter months, when some animals hibernate, they have not ‘failed’ at fulfilling their purpose in life, they are just preparing for their next stage, for when, in the spring and summer months they will come back, all the more stronger and with a newfound ‘zest’ for life because of the rest. Humans however, we don’t do this. We are the only living thing to work 8+ hour days, taking no rest, forcing ourselves to stay awake until a certain time when we finally give ourselves permission to close our eyes and sleep. No other animal lives like this…
If you own a pet, notice how they rest and sleep intermittently. They don’t stay awake all day, forcing themselves to keep doing, doing, doing, allowing the turning of clock hands to dictate to them when they can go to bed. They ‘do’ when they want to do, until they feel tired, and then they stop and they rest.
Because, we need to rest.
To constantly be doing and never being is paradoxical to who we are as a species-
Paradoxical because, we very rarely allow ourselves to just ‘be’, it’s always do do do. We don’t want to stop because, as we have been taught to believe, productivity out rules everything. It doesn’t matter if your mental health is slipping, if you’re surviving on 4 hours sleep a night, you need to be doing,
Does this link back to our need for validation? Because, when we are just ‘being’, we don’t get praised for it?
We don’t post on our Instagram stories ‘just had a day doing absolutely f all laid horizontal on the sofa’ to be met with loads of ‘omg slay girl, #girlboss’, we’re more likely to be met with, perhaps unspoken but undoubtedly strong receptions of; ‘you’re so lazy, workshy’, etc etc. Whereas, posting that we’ve been to the gym, made a buddha bowl, submitted our manuscript for our 10th book deal, been to Africa to singlehandedly cure famine in every country before 7am, we know that posting that will get us praise and give us access to the validation that we so desperately want to feel… And so, we keep doing it. We keep pushing ourselves to inhumane levels, all in the name of wanting to feel that our lives count for something,
that we are leaving an impact,
How about this, though- how about considering that, showing people that to work constantly, to turn ourselves into productivity machines all in the name of wanting to feel validated, isn’t worth it. How about showing people that, actually, sometimes the most productive thing we can do is to REST when we need to rest.
How about considering that this ( ^ ) is your purpose in life, one of many, to show people the true nature of our existence- one that takes us back to who we are-
human BEINGS, not human ‘doings’-
for which we need no validation, for, simply being here, alive, we are valid-
valid in our humanness.
Regardless of what we do for work, regardless of how many friends we have, regardless of whether we are in a relationship or not, we are valid.
And may you, even amidst all the ‘hustle and bustle’ of our, oftentimes chaotic day to day lives, (in which we can consistently be seen to prioritise profit over people), never, EVER forget that.
With nothing to prove to anyone, you already are valid-
valid in your humanness,
as you have always been,
as you will always be.