I need it. I want it. I must have it.

As a freelance writer, I don’t get it often enough.

When I don’t get it, I walk around feeling blah and don’t know why I feel blah.

Then I get it and I feel happy, and I’m like, Oh yeah, duh.

* * *

I know I shouldn’t need external validation, that depending on it does more harm than good.  I get some, and I feel great for about two seconds, and then I’m all blah again till the next time, and the next time the high is not good so then I need more, and more, and more, and then suddenly my whole life is about getting that next high.

Maybe I need an intervention.

* * *

As a kid, I got validation from my parents.

Well, I got it from my dad, and only sometimes from my mom.

Ergo, my mom’s validation was more valuable than my dad’s.

With my mom you had to behave a certain way. But sometimes she didn’t tell you what way. Sometimes it was a surprise.

* * *

In the eighth grade, I won first place in the Statue of Liberty bicentennial essay contest. (I wrote from the point of view of the statue.) I had an orthodontist appointment and walked into the assembly late. My science teacher, Miss McDonald – who was big and fat and kind of mean, and had long gray hairs that grew out of her double chin – beamed when she saw me, mouthing, “Where were you?”

“She’s here!” someone said, and the principal called me to the mike, congratulated me, and handed me the award. Everyone clapped.

It was one of the best freaking days of my life.

* * *

Jobs also give you external validation.

Not really.

Praise is relative. If you’re a secretary and you schedule some meetings or organize some files, and you’re told, “Wow, you’re amazing!” it may feel good for about ten seconds before you realize, I have a BA and an MA, what the hell am I doing with my life? But then you try to move up and work your ass off on some other project, and no one even knows. Then you realize praise is both relative and random.

Then maybe you get a raise or promotion, and then you’re happy for, I dunno, thirty seconds, but then you realize what you’re doing has nothing to do with the real world, and that if you don’t get whatever urgent thing needs to get done urgently, no one will die, no one will even get sick – if you don’t get this urgent made-up thing done, IT DOES NOT MATTER.

Maybe this is how all external validation works. Maybe all external validation is arbitrary.

Depending on external validation for your happiness is depending on something arbitrary, relative, and random.  You’re relinquishing control to something that makes no sense.

But I’d still like some.

* * *

You’re in trouble if you need constant validation. Like if you cross the street without getting run over, you shouldn’t need someone to say, “Good job!” Or if you leave a restroom and the person waiting says, “Thank you,” because you have done this favor for them, leaving the restroom, when you could have easily, I don’t know, camped in there all night, and they are validating you, and now they need you to validate them back by saying, “You’re welcome.”

Saying, “Get a life,” is not a viable substitute.

Or if you’re dating someone and you obviously like him. You’re spending time with him, and you listen and tell him things, and are affectionate, and yet he still asks, again and again, “Why do you like me?” till you want to smack him in the face because, for God’s sake, isn’t it obvious? Would you be sitting here with him at this boring movie? Would you be sleeping with him? And yet he keeps asking till you don’t like him anymore.

* * *

If you say I love you, and the person doesn’t say I love you back, that’s the opposite of validation.

If you marry someone with a sick mom and spend every weekend taking care of her, and he doesn’t say thank you, that’s also the opposite of validation.

If you marry someone and take care of his sick mom every weekend, and then he cheats on you and gets the woman pregnant, that’s the opposite of validation as well. That’s like if validation were the Big Bang, which was fifteen billion years ago, and the opposite is when the sun will die, which is five billion years from now (can you imagine what people will be like five BILLION years from now? will we even be people, or just microchips, or specks of light? or dust with brain waves?).

If you call the pregnant mistress and she never answers her phone or returns your calls, this is the “doorbell effect.” The doorbell effect is if you ring the doorbell and for a long time there’s no answer. You think, hello? What’s going on? Is anyone home? But if you hear, “I’ll be right there!” you feel better. You’ve been validated. You exist.

Or on the airplane, if you’ve been sitting there and sitting there on the runway, and no one is saying anything, there are no announcements, and you start to feel like you’re going crazy and that maybe you’re the only one noticing this situation, but then the captain comes on says, “Sorry folks, we’ll be just another few minutes,” even if he’s lying his pants off, you feel better.

The mistress never calling you back, or answering her phone, or saying, “I’m sorry,” makes you feel like you don’t exist, the situation doesn’t exist, only you’re crazy for being upset about all this. But why should she talk to you. She owes you nothing. At least she’s not like Rielle Hunter going to the National Enquirer and parading around her baby and getting John Edwards to buy her a house while he’s still married to Elizabeth. (Then again, if none of that happened, John Edwards would still be sneaking around, getting away with everything, and Elizabeth would still be home alone with her cancer, waiting around for him.)

If you’ve spent so many years with someone from whom you’ve received no external validation, it’s hard to know what to do in a new relationship. You think, Okay, he likes me now, but what can I do to keep him? Let me see what makes him happy, and I’ll just keep doing that.

But what about when he’s not happy? Is that because of you too? What did you do wrong? It’s not you, he says. It’s this, or that, but it’s not you. There’s nothing you need to do to keep him, except keep being you.

Keep being you? Do what you want, what you love, without wanting a pat on the head, an A, an award? Believe that someone loves you just because he does, not because of anything you’ve done? Believe him, and not ask over and over, Why do you love me? Why do you love me? Why do you love me?

Have no expectations, live in the now. Remember the lesson but release the pain. Don’t predict the future but hope for the best.

I see that now.

I see.

I’d still like a book contract though.

TAGS: , , , , , , ,

A long-time New Yorker, ANGELA TUNG is a writer in San Francisco. Her work has appeared in CNN Living, The Frisky, Dark Sky Magazine, Matador Life, The New York Press and elsewhere. Her Young Adult novel, Song of the Stranger, was published by Roxbury Park Books.

Her latest book, Black Fish: Memoir of a Bad Luck Girl, chronicles the failed marriage between a Chinese woman and Korean man, both American-born but still bound by old world traditions. Black Fish was short-listed for Graywolf Press' 2010 Nonfiction Prize.

In addition, she's a writer/editor at Wordnik.com, an online word source, and has an MA in Creative Writing from Boston University. Visit her at angelatung.com.

64 responses to “What I’ve Learned About External Validation”

  1. Amanda says:

    Have you seen the film, “Blue”? With Juliette Binoche? One of the most horrendous and heartbreaking scenes of all time is when she encounters her now-dead husband’s very-pregnant mistress in a public restroom, a while after losing the aforementioned cheating spouse and their only child in an auto accident. She realises that not only does the mistress have the memory of her husband’s love and affection, but also has the potential to give birth to his only surviving child. So, she gives the family country-estate to this mistress since the house makes her too sad to live there herself anymore, and it seems like the right thing to do, for the baby to know his paternal home.

    I remember feeling like I was going to barf watching this scene, it hurt so much.

    And, I remember feeling like I was going to barf *two* times, when my then-partner (who was in fact actively seeing someone else long-term, in addition to stickin’ it in, all over town, and was planning to leave the country to live abroad, and everyone but me knew these facts) said, “Well, in France people are just classier and more understanding about things like mistresses. They’re not as uptight about things as we are here in North America.”

    Your story reminded me of the expression on my face while he said all this…and how that speech should’ve been flagged it as a red-alert. And, I wish instead of saying “hmmmmm…maybe…” I’d replied, “Are you a fucking insane person?”

    • angela says:

      amanda, blue is one of my favorite movies so i can’t believe i can’t remember that scene! i’ll have to rent it again. it’s been many years since i’ve seen it.

      i can imagine how devastating something like that was, on top of what your partner said and what you were going through him. oh yes, it takes total “class” to betray one’s significant other like that. it’d be one thing if everyone had an understanding beforehand. it’s quite another to be kept in the dark about it.

  2. Reno J. Romero says:

    angela-

    i SO understand where you’re coming from. this was funny and right on. i think many folk (especially artists types) go through this. maybe not. but in my experience it’s so.

    ‘If you marry someone and take care of his sick mom every weekend, and then he cheats on you and gets the woman pregnant, that’s the opposite of validation as well.’

    heh. that’s just one of many great lines you have here. anyhow, angela, here’s some xternal validation: you’re a good writer. thanks for the laugh. good way to start the day. hope SF works for you.

    okay,
    reno j. romero

    • angela says:

      thanks reno!

      i’ve felt the deal with external validation more this year than ever before, i think. when i was working full-time, i wasn’t sending my writing out as much, and so basically got no responses. getting a couple of acceptances here and there is a brand new feeling, and especially now that so many publications are online, you get that acceptance (or rejection even faster).

  3. Angela — please accept my external ( and eternal) gratification — you are a wonderful writer who crafts sentences that stop me and make me re-read… sentences like this:

    “With my mom you had to behave a certain way. But sometimes she didn’t tell you what way. Sometimes it was a surprise.”

    What a beauty……

    ~ Robin

  4. Not only do we share the same name, but apparently we share the same life. I read this nodding my head, saying, yes . . .yes . . .yesss! I have the same need and let me just say that your last paragraph “Keep being you? Do what you want, what you love, without wanting a pat on the head, an A, an award? Believe that someone loves you just because he does, not because of anything you’ve done?” The hardest thing is to do as you say, not as you do, right? I just dated a girl for 6 months and it ended, um, not so well and I think you’ve got some words to live by here:

    “Have no expectations, live in the now. Remember the lesson but release the pain. Don’t predict the future but hope for the best.”

    Thanks for this post. Makes me feel a little less neurotic and happy to know that someone else is feeling the same feelings throughout the day, (perhaps for totally different reasons) but at the end of the day, the emotions are the same.

    • angela says:

      it’s all stuff i need to keep reminding myself regularly. of course i “slip up” at times and get all insecure and weepy for no reason other than my own worries, but i try to tell myself that 1) it’s okay to “slip up” (which is actually really hard for me to get over, i just keep beating myself up about being “weak”), and 2) to live in the now, focus on what i know, and what i’m doing. all easier said than done!

  5. Judy Prince says:

    An astonishing work of depth, Angela! You had me walking quietly through a series of delicate glass bells, each with me as you holding and looking at my mother, my teacher, my friend, my partner. Your profound, simply-expressed, clear, straightforward logic had me smiling as well as sad, and learning more than I thought I wanted to know, but learning it, nevertheless. My thanks for all of that.

  6. Mary Richert says:

    Oh heck yes. It is such a drug. It’s funny that you say “I shouldn’t need external validation.” That judgement “shouldn’t” is an assumption that by needing external validation, you lose it. There’s this crazy catch 22 where we all want validation, but by wanting it we are somehow unworthy of it. I think we should all practice giving validation to people so that maybe they will come to realize they don’t need it. Like, “Hi, I like you. You’re ok just like you are, and you don’t need to change a thing.” What would the world be like if more people said that? And if more of us believed it about ourselves?

    It is so hard to accept real, unconditional love. And the thing is, you can’t know if your partner is going to love you forever. You have absolutely no control over it. There is a lot of talk about learning to love yourself so you won’t depend on others for validation. I feel like that’s easier said than done.

    Here is some validation for you: I think you are fabulous. Also, your thoughts on people five billion years from now? Just a sudden shocking drop into cosmic depths. It was striking. I love when writing does that — just jolts me out of my everyday world for a moment.

    • angela says:

      mary, your words are so true:

      It is so hard to accept real, unconditional love. And the thing is, you can’t know if your partner is going to love you forever. You have absolutely no control over it. There is a lot of talk about learning to love yourself so you won’t depend on others for validation. I feel like that’s easier said than done.

      you absolutely don’t know if your partner will love you forever. it’s so hard to balance living every day and not thinking about that, only thinking, i love this person and he loves me, but at the same time, realizing that it’s not necessarily forever. i tell myself it’s not ignoring the future but being unafraid of it, and not letting whatever possible futures are out there dictate how i feel now. it’s also hard to balance loving yourself and being strong on your own, and being strong enough to open yourself to other people, and with that, the possibility of getting hurt, but also the possibility of joy.

  7. Irene Zion says:

    Angela,

    I would like to meet a person who doesn’t crave external validation. Really, I would.
    You want to know what I think?
    No one, exception those with serious mental disorders, doesn’t want external validation.
    My DOGS want external validation for crissakes!
    I am always validating everyone.
    I validated at least five drivers today for letting me into their lanes, by waving a silent “thank you.”
    I say thank you to people who vacate the toilet at a store or restaurant, even if it turns out they didn’t even flush.
    Maybe I should work on stopping the validating, since I’m positive that I can’t stop wanting to be validated.
    I’ll get back to you on my progress.

    • Judy Prince says:

      HOOT!, Irene: “even if it turns out they didn’t even flush.”

      • Irene Zion says:

        Okay, I realize this is a bit off-topic, but
        WHY CAN’T THE HOVERERS WIPE THEIR URINE OFF THE TOILET SEAT?
        It’s up to them if they don’t want to get cooties, but, I’m near-sighted!
        I can’t see their little puddles of urine on the seat!
        Just saying.

        • Judy Prince says:

          Irene, regarding the toilet seat hoverers who don’t wipe their urine off the toilet seat, I think it has to do with their lack of internal validation. Or they could be near-sighted hoverers. I’d recommend that you wait to validate them until you’ve checked the toilet seat. CTTOI, there should be an automatic device that flushes the hoverers down the toilet if they’ve peed on the seat. Oh wait—that’s one of the mandates of the newly-passed Health Care law!

    • angela says:

      people definitely crave that validation. probably only psychopaths don’t care what anyone thinks.

      but i think it’s a fine line between needing a normal amount, and getting dependent on it and equating your self-worth with how much you’re getting. with my boyfriend, i hope i feel secure enough that i don’t need him to gush that he loves me every day; yet everyday simple affection is so important.

      regarding non-flushers and near sighted hoverers, i think they’re just incredibly inconsiderate. maybe they’re those psychopaths who couldn’t give two shits (so to speak) about any sort of validation. then again, are they freer than we considerate folk who actually care what others think? something to ponder. . .

      • Irene Zion says:

        Angela,

        I live in Miami Beach where the tourist industry is really big. We see zillions of movies, and our main theater is on Lincoln Road in South Beach. It’s crawling with tourists from all over the world. I want people to see how glorious Miami Beach is. I don’t want them to go home and say, people in America pee all over their toilet seats and don’t flush the toilet.
        So, I swear this is true, every time I go into the movie bathroom I flush all the unflushed toilets. I do. I go from one stall to another and flush. I also clean the seats with toilet paper and flush again. People probably think I work there by now, although they may wonder why I don’t wear the uniform. They don’t have paper towels in the bathroom, though, only those awful dryers. So I wash my hands with their harsh pink liquid soap and rinse and dry my hands off on my hair. Then I pull out the purel and dose my hands with a good squeeze.
        I’m thinking that maybe I need a therapist.

        You see, Angela? I’ve gone WAY beyond here. I want my whole COUNTRY validated!

        • Judy Prince says:

          Irene, since you’ve already married America, we need to *gently* let Lenore know that she could marry another country and not to wait around for your divorcing America, bcuz it just ain’t gonna happen. The fact that you’re committing bigamy is less important that your external validation of our country. I thank you for your dedication to America’s toilets. BTW, have you considered complaining to the movie theatre about the unflushed toilets and peed-upon toilet seats? Someone’s seriously not doing their cleanup duty.

        • angela says:

          oh my god, i do the drying wet hands on hair instead of air dryer thing too. except if there are dyson dryers, which basically blasts the skin right off your hands.

          that is *some* dedication you have to America’s toilets. luckily you don’t live in china. cleaning those toilets would require a hazmat suit.

        • Irene Zion says:

          Angela,
          Are those those fabulous driers that you slip your hands into and they are blasted dry in a nanosecond? I love those! The old ones run forever and do virtually nothing. Who has that long to wait when you have a perfectly clean head of hair to use, likety-split?

          Lordy, I’ve been to China’s toilets. Not unlike those of India, and Southeast Asia. I have developed some amazing quads from perching myself over holes.

          I only worry that the tourists will get a bad impression of Americans when they see the toilets in such a state. What is up with the not flushing? Most of the time you don’t even have to use your hand, you can just use a foot! How is that so hard? Are there so many people who desire to have their poopy seen by others?

          Oh, and Judy? I swear the bathrooms at the movie theaters in South Beach are clean as a whistle when we come at the first showing with the rest of the old folks who haven’t been partying all night. By the time the first movie is over and you go to the bathroom there are people warning you about one stall or another. I confess to being baffled by the hoverers and the non-flushers.

        • Judy Prince says:

          Yeah, Irene—what theatres need is toilet police; no kind of cleaning staff could keep up with non-flushers and seat-pee’ers on a normal night. To you and Angela re China’s toilets: My Beijing-born language tutor rented rooms to native Beijingers in his Chicago home. He said they’d perch atop the toilet seat to do their business, and later he’d have to clean it up. They insisted that they couldn’t “go” unless they were squatting.

  8. Marni Grossman says:

    Angela, this post took a turn I didn’t see coming.

    Good gracious, you deserve a thank you. A thank you and also a million dollars.

  9. Simon Smithson says:

    Dear Angela:

    Wonderful, and summed up so many things I’ve thought myself. It’s a slippery mess, all right.

    Do you know much about intermittent reinforcement?

    I think you’re supposed to be self-validating, but… Jesus! That’s hard work! And it still feels so good when people say something nice to you!

    I kinda want to bake this piece and eat it, that’s how much I like it. That sounds weird, I know.

    • angela says:

      that does sound weird, but i like it. 🙂

      i hadn’t heard of intermittent reinforcement before. i don’t know if that would wean people from needing as much positive reinforcement or drive them absolutely bat shit crazy. i think it might drive me crazy. i appreciate consistency over compliments.

      as for self-validation, i think the thing is it’s nice to have external validation, but you shouldn’t let it affect your self-worth. i think this is particularly hard for creative people, who often feel that they are whatever they create.

      • This is so true. We creative types tend to only associate the feedback with said creation as a reflection of who we are. Not true, but tough to differentiate when you’re the creator!!! Everyone needs compliments and to be validated in some way, shape or form, regularly. Or somewhat regularly. Otherwise, i do go a bit bat shit over the fact that there are those who simply say nothing. It boggles my mind in a way I didn’t think possible.

  10. Nathaniel Missildine says:

    I need an intervention too, especially when I see myself doing just as you describe, allowing the positive feeling that comes from validation to disappear within seconds and returning to the long blah again. Maybe a more profound personal validation comes in finding that someone else feels the same as you. So thanks for that and thanks for this great piece that is funny and builds into something really lovely.

    • angela says:

      thanks nathaniel! as i was going through my blahs, i kept thinking, i just need MORE external validation, and then i won’t feel this way. then somewhere along the way, i realized, no, i need to think DIFFERENTLY about external validation and then i won’t feel this way.

  11. jmblaine says:

    External validation
    must be a beautiful
    & healthy thing
    like the juice of a
    pomegranate
    mixed with myrrh
    because look
    at how emotionally healthy
    & balanced our celebrities
    are.
    but really what
    I was thinking
    when I read
    this was how
    many TNB writers
    we would have left
    if we turned
    off the comments.

    Artistic validation
    punch my ticket
    please
    please tell me
    I’m good.
    & the truth is
    most of us
    have shiny spots
    and blind spots
    & our art is pretty good
    but overall not good enough
    to be packaged and sold
    I think about this
    sort of thing far
    too much
    neurosis really
    but one day I’d like
    to be free.
    I wonder what
    that art looks like.
    I really loved this.

    • angela says:

      and i love your poem!

      lately i’ve been watching “sober house” – post-rehab for drug addicted, D-List celebrities – and i keep thinking what a dangerous mixture: narcissists with addictive personalities. how do they handle regular life when they’re not in the spotlight? in the last episode, they had to get “jobs” – how do you go from being dennis rodman, the greatest rebounder in the world (at least according to tom sizemore) to baling hay?

      but the funny thing is, he really enjoyed baling hay. for that short time he seemed to forget himself and anything outside himself, and to concentrate on the task at hand.

  12. Jeannie says:

    “Depending on external validation for your happiness is depending on something arbitrary, relative, and random. You’re relinquishing control to something that makes no sense.

    But I’d still like some.”

    I love that.

    As an artist, I hate it when people come in and judge my work. I know it’s opinion based, I know someone who is twenty something will judge me differently than an older critic. Yet, when that glowing recommendation happens, it makes the world bright and shinny. And yes, we’d all like more of that.

  13. Slade Ham says:

    I’m pretty sure my need for external validation led me down the career path I’m on. I was on the radio for a while, and traded that for the stand up stage because of the immediate feedback. instant gratification makes us all happy.

    We are all that way I’m afraid, as artists or writers or whatever. Even here, when a piece makes it to the “most read” or gets reposted by someone on Facebook, we feel validated. It spurs us on. It’s a good thing actually, but only if we can learn to be okay without it.

    • angela says:

      slade, totally! i keep thinking, how ironic that my piece on whether or not i need external validation is sort of enabling that need. i’m struggling now with being okay without it – i think realizing what’s happening is a good first step.

      • Slade Ham says:

        I still maintain that it’s healthy, to an extent. Feedback pushes all of us, makes us want to be better writers than the last time we clicked Submit. On the flipside, it’s important to remember that that pat on the head is hardly a great indicator of how well we are performing.

        Using TNB as an example, sometimes I find myself caught up in conversations and racking up comment counts for posts that I was less than impressed by, yet I remain silent on some that resonate the most with me – whether it’s because I didn’t have the time to reply, or I simply couldn’t find the words to say what i wanted to.

        We simply have to believe that what we are doing is worthwhile work, that’s all. It has to be internal. All the accolades are really just fluff and icing. We know best if we are putting everything we have into what we do, and knowing that should be enough.

        It looks great on paper anyway 🙂

        I would wish you luck in your struggle, but it looks like you’re halfway home already.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          I’m with you on this one Slade – evolution via engagement.

        • angela says:

          slade, i like this:

          We simply have to believe that what we are doing is worthwhile work, that’s all. It has to be internal. All the accolades are really just fluff and icing. We know best if we are putting everything we have into what we do, and knowing that should be enough.

          i think that totally sums it up.

        • Gloria says:

          I totally agree with Slade about ignoring great posts. I read you a lot, Angela, but for some reason don’t respond often. You have an amazing way of just sort of conversationally narrating the contents of my head to me. It’s almost like I don’t need to say anything ’cause…well…obviously you already know.

  14. I think everyone thrives, too some extent on compliments. Whether we like to admit it, we’re all leading our leaves to please someone. To make someone else happy.

    • angela says:

      yes, to some extent, but it can be suffocating. for instance, right now i’m trying hard to please my mom about her travel plans next month, and IT’S DRIVING ME INSANE. but that may be simply trying to appease her and not piss her off, which is different than truly wanting to make someone happy with no ulterior motives.

  15. This piece validated that I need validation. And I’m serious. It’s like, if no one comments after me, I won’t be validated here.

    Great piece. Witty and tugging at the real world, as your words always do.

  16. Matt says:

    Sorry I’m getting to this so late, my non-validating day job has kept me swamped with actual work all week.

    So many great turns of phrase in here it’s almost impossible to pick a favorite one. Well done all around.

    This goes back to a conversation a college buddy and I were having not too long ago about those writers who claim “I just write for myself and don’t care what anyone else thinks!” We were both in agreement that’s pretty much b.s.. Art is about communication, and we only do it because we have something, for whatever reason, that absolutely MUST be said; to know that someone heard, even if they don’t like it, it far better than screaming into an echoless void.

    • angela says:

      i agree art is about communicating to the world. i think that’s why i moved from journal writing to blogging. i wanted to feel like i was making a connection, whether or not people commented.

      my friend once asked me, “do you write for yourself or for the audience?” i guess i say i first write for myself, then think about the audience. i think stephen king said something like that in “on writing,” writing with the door shut, then open.

      it’s so easy to cross that line and only want to write things that will please your audience. it’s a tightrope walk.

  17. Erika Rae says:

    Angela, you brilliant writer, you – now you’ve got me thinking about how my job as a mother is to validate my children. But if I over-validate them, will I be giving them expectations that are too high? Will I be telling them the lie of “you can do anything” and then when they can’t move things with their minds, will they crumble?

    And now I’m thinking through my relationships. Is it that the people I call my friends are validators? Is this the reason that I call them ‘friend’? Because they validate me? Are spark and chemistry and history all the offspring of the simple act of validation? Am I truly so shallow that I only adore those who adore me?

    And what would happen if we turned comments off? Would we all truly fade into oblivion?

    I remember when Brin Friesen first started writing on this site – he actually had comments turned off. I remember thinking, “Come on, man – you’re such a good writer! Let us tell you this! It’s cruel to not let us!” And just as quickly, I thought, “What an amazing person. He writes these posts and doesn’t need our validation.” I was annoyed and impressed all at once. I WANTED to validate him, but then I began to question whether I was valid enough to be making such a scene about validating him. I mean, would my validation matter?

    (panting)

    I’m exhausted now.

    • Judy Prince says:

      Erika, yes, Angela’s read is gorgeous; what a revelation for us to think about! Now that I’ve read your pre-panting xplanation about trying to validate Brin Friesen, I think you and Irene need to form a Validators Anonymous. Given Alexander Maksik’s awesome story this week, I think males and females both would need such a program. This is a grand topic!!!!

    • angela says:

      erika, i think the intent behind the validation makes a difference, at least in relationships. i don’t want to feel the need to validate someone because they’re being insecure; i hope i would be affectionate and kind because i want to. conversely, i hope i feel secure enough in a relationship that i won’t go running for approval all the time.

      take my parents. i like to share things with my father because i know he’ll appreciate them. with my mother, it’s more about getting her approval. so it doesn’t bother me when my dad may not have any reaction to something i’m telling him; but if my mother takes something the wrong way or only sees the negative side, it drives me batty.

      as for turning comments off, that’s really interesting. it’s like he’s taking control of the situation, or rather, sharing something just to share, not for any feedback.

  18. Zara Potts says:

    Wow, this struck a nerve with me.
    You have just managed to clarify a whole lot of shit that’s been bouncing round my head for a little while now.
    I actually don’t know what to say to this, because it has really taken me aback.
    Thanks Angela, for saying this.

  19. Alison Aucoin says:

    I find my experience writing to be creepily similar to my past romantic relationships. I’m decidedly more hopeful about the writing than I am about ever being good at picking a partner.

  20. Richard Cox says:

    This is unquestionably the best thing of yours I’ve read. I love the part about the job and the lack of worthwhile work, but everything from the last set of asterisks down is breathless and tragic and amazing.

    • angela says:

      thanks, richard! there’s nothing like a good rant.

    • Gloria says:

      Richard is right. I read the part about the day job and I remembered again how recently I told a friend – a scientist that has been working in his field for 35 years – that I woke up and realized this is what I became when I grew up. He told me that I’m not grown up yet and that I need to change my story. That is the opposite of validation. Because people know how to validate you when you put extra pickles on their burger without being asked, but it takes a special person to know how to validate you when you’re not feeling so positive. To tell you that your not-positive feelings are valid. I mean, what do they think? That letting you know that you’re still okay even if you feel this way is somehow going to make you want to be that way more? Psshh. People…

  21. Jessica Blau says:

    Excellent piece Angela! I’m going to validate you times a hundred now: greeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaatttttttttttttttttttt writing!

    Seriously. I truly enjoyed reading this. I loved the parts about the opposite of validation.

  22. Gloria says:

    I’m very late to the game but 1) I read and 2) I loved it. You said it, sister. The final line cracked me the hell up.

  23. Jordan Ancel says:

    Angela, not only do I love the content, I love the way you’ve written this. It feels all stream-of-consciousnessy, and I really GET IT!

    Man, what to say? External validation is like a chocolate covered turd, no? Like you say it’s only good for a moment, and then…

    I think artists of any kind put a lot of emphasis on needing external validation because what we do is who we are, and we all want to be liked or taken in or part of something greater than ourselves. And you’re absolutely right:

    Depending on external validation for your happiness is depending on something arbitrary, relative, and random. You’re relinquishing control to something that makes no sense.

    I think too often people (especially artists) rely on something external to give them happiness, and due to the ever-changing nature of externals, our happiness is forever in flux.

    Although easier said than done, no matter what, if we choose to be happy, then the externals won’t matter so much. They still matter, but at least we’re in more control of our happiness.

    That said, great piece. I love your writing.

  24. Carl D'Agostino says:

    Self validation and internal validation are productive, positive image and personality enhancers. Of course they must not become illusionary and egotistic. But, I suppose all writers need external validation because it is the only kind that allows you to earn a living.

  25. Brian Mark says:

    I think we all need external validation in some form.

    There must be a balance though. For the external world is ever evolving, and the chase for the external validation which we’ve been raised is all that is achievable (the nicest car, the most money, the best job) is an elusive one, and we can never rest in happiness.

    The computer you’re reading this off of will be worn in 5 months, your new car will be an old car in 5 years. A chase in the external always leaves you wanting more external, wanting to be validated on that which is the external.

    What is the static variable in the equation of our lives? Ourselves, we must seek the internal validation. This is something that doesn’t occur to the masses, because no one knows how to become enlightened. Unless, of course, you want to read 5 mediation books, attend 3 seminars and try it for yourself. What if you didn’t have to do it yourself though? What if there was an opportunity to be enlightened with other individuals who shared that same quest for internal validation?

    I found your website by typing “external validation” into Google, because I wanted to see who else out there was going as hard into this stuff as I am. I, too, am a writer and I have my own blog. I, too, have written a book, and am looking to publish my second one. There is my ego, looking for validation but this is also my self esteem reaching out and looking to connect with people of similar nature to myself.

    See, the way I see it is that the external world we live in today doesn’t understand the internal value that we all possess, simply because the only thing the media portrays to chase is the external. Connecting with externally validating individuals, and as one on a quest for internal validation, there is two options. Option one, choose to stoop your level of conversation down to the external, and communicate on their level. Option two, divert the conversation from external to internal in hopes of enlightening the ignorant.

    There’s a saying I live my live by, and I raise my awareness on interactions by:

    “Small minds talk about people. Mediocre minds talk about events. Great minds talk about ideas. Brilliant minds develop ideas.”

    I believe Small and Mediocre minds exist in the external world, and the Great minds and the Brilliant minds exist on the internal world. I also believe everybody has the opportunity to exist on the category of a Great or a Brilliant mind, they simply have to remove the social conditioning.

    What are your thoughts?

  26. Kelly says:

    I’ve never felt the need to thank someone for leaving a public restroom unless they WERE camped out in there for the last 10 minutes.
    But I do know people that seem to need constant validation to exhist on this planet. And it gets very tiresome. That is why FB and tweeting are so annoying to me. There are so many needy people out there who DON’T have a life and need to express every little good thing, or tell us how horrible they are, look, feel about X,Y & Z, just so all of their “friends” can comment on how GOOD they are, look, feel, etc.
    How do we tell these people to stop seeking constant validation and just live their lives and give us an occasional update? Any suggestions?

  27. Nobody says:

    All I gotta say is, “Word.”

    Please reply?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *