I really struggle with self-validation. My default reaction when faced with even a shred of doubt from an outside source is to take it as truth and feel like a fraud. As my last few blog posts have touched on, I have felt consumed by feelings of inadequacy, frustration, and failure over the past few months. It seems like the more I’ve sought validation, the more it has evaded me – perceived or empirical, it’s felt like the only things coming at me have been doubt or disappointment. So I seek approval even more desperately, and fall short even further.
A very wise cousin of mine once said that others choose what they say and think. You choose how you respond, and whether or not you believe them. Because I tend to reach outward for that “permission to be confident” afforded by outside approval, her mantra is difficult to put in practice. I take anything anyone says to me as truth, and my own experiences or feelings as convoluted falsehood – it can be something as minor as someone telling me my makeup looks awful (when I know it looks great) to something as major as someone telling me I’m unfriendly (when I know if anything I’m too talkative with friends and peers). It’s hard to remember who you are when you’re constantly accepting who everyone else says you are at face value.
But they choose what they say and think. I choose how I respond, and whether or not I believe them.
For the past several months, I have chosen non-response. I’ve assumed that accepting others’ judgments (rather than stepping back and evaluating them) was the best way to ensure validation and acceptance – if I just work a little harder to perfect my cat eye, a little harder to be more bubbly and upbeat, everyone will accept me. I will be a valid person if they accept me. My philosophy professors would be so disappointed! Accepting premises without assessing the truth value? Did I learn nothing from my logic and reasoning course?
In a shocking turn of events, this strategy has not yielded any positive results.
I’m lacking a strong sense of self because I have forgotten how to advocate for myself in times of stress or doubt – and as a 23 year old just getting this “adulting” thing down, there are a lot of times of stress and doubt. I struggle to remember that I am a valid person whether or not I get that validation from others. I am a valid person. Full stop. I’m trying to exercise self-validation in the times when I need it most, and return to a strong sense of who I am and what I’m capable of. I need to know how to find acceptance from within because there is no guarantee that I will receive it from an outside source. I need to be confident in myself and my abilities – I can’t expect someone to be confident for me.
I also need to know that it’s okay if someone’s opinion of me doesn’t match with what I know to be true, because they choose what they say and think. I choose how I respond, and whether or not I believe them. There is no stipulation that says I must believe what someone says to me or about me if I know it’s false – whether it’s a total stranger, a friend, a colleague, a parent, or even the Pope.
There will always be reasons to find doubt in myself, but there are equally as many reasons to find strength and self-acceptance. My power is in the choice to respond and believe (or not) when faced with situations that make me feel insecure. I can choose to respond by affirming my own validity in spite of those insecurities, and I can choose not to believe things said or done that don’t match what I know to be true. Slowly, I am finding ways to choose to believe that I am strong. I am enough.
I know who I am, and I choose validity.