Seeking External Validation Like a Drug
I grew up without a voice and with the idea that I wasn’t enough. I wanted so badly for someone to recognize my worth, but as years went on, the negative messages became stronger than my will to champion for myself. It wasn’t until college that my value started to change, but it wasn’t because of my own doing. I clung to the words of the first boy who said, “I love you” and accepted his proposal at 19, too young to make that decision, but that feeling of validation won me over. Next it was a college professor who saw the value in my writing and recommended I tutor my peers in the Writing Center. I went on to become a teacher and was quickly promoted to Department Head within three years’ time. My peers idolized my talents in the classroom and as a leader; the parents declared how I changed their child’s life. All this external validation made me feel amazing for a moment, but as soon as the feeling started to dissipate, I sought more accolades as if they were a drug.
And then one day, everything came crashing down around me. Fifteen years into a relationship, now a stay at home mom taking care of two babies, I learned my husband was leading a secret life. To say I was shocked would be an understatement. The feeling that I stepped into someone else’s life would be a more accurate depiction. How on earth had my life changed in such a short period of time, and where was I to go from here? More importantly, if the validation was no longer there, did it ever really exist? If someone could betray you in such a way, did they ever really love you the way you imagined? With no career to define me and bring me validation, a pending divorce that spelled “failure,” I was left questioning my value.
I didn’t have time to really accept the severity of what had happened for fear that it would swallow me whole. So, I dedicated myself to my children and my health. I took up running; it became my therapy. I ultimately committed to running a marathon and then another. When I needed a new challenge, I took up triathlon training. On the outside, I looked the best I ever did. I was constantly complimented on my fit body, and it certainly appeared I was living my best life. I didn’t shy away from relationships either; in fact, I found myself trying out one after another. Each one failing, all by my decision, because they could never live up to my unrealistic expectations. As soon as the external validation felt monotonous, I was out.
And then one day, I stopped dating. I realized how critical it was that I fix me before I was ready to share my life with anyone. The first step I had to take was to recognize the power of external validation in my life. Relying on others’ thoughts of me was futile because in the end, it didn’t erase the negative chants that rang louder in my head “you are not enough” “not worth it” “don’t matter” “don’t measure up” and so forth. Covering them up with the voices of others only provided a remedy until the lines were contradictory.
The necessity to find my own value was the only move that would heal my soul. And so, I committed to the work. I learned to find my authentic self, and I practiced showing up as her. I shared my story and removed the shame each time I revealed a bit more about myself. I cared less about what others thought, and I found the power in my voice. Now, as I look back at all that I have achieved and all that I have overcome, I feel so proud to be me. I am that extraordinary girl I always longed to be, and that’s only because I say so. That can never be taken away.
About The Author
As a certified core energy and self-love coach, Holly works with individuals to discover who they are at their core. She builds upon self-love, self-trust, and self-care rituals. By exploring the seven levels of energy and how they impact daily decision-making clients can make alternative choices that promote well-being. Get to know her and explore your options for working with Holly here.