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It’s been nearly eight months since my divorce was final and I feel as though I’m just starting my healing journey, a huge part of which is how I go about seeking — and finding validation.
So many aspects of this healing process feel… wrong. In some cases, the feeling of wrong-ness comes simply because the actions I’m taking are foreign. 44-years into my life, I’m having to learn to speak my truth and be okay with the consequences, even if it means I don’t get what my heart and/or mind desire.
And, 44-years into my life I’m learning, very slowly, to stop seeking validation from outside sources. If I find validation from others but the actions I’m taking don’t feel good to me, what’s the point? If my time and energy is invested to get attention and/or validation from others, what is going to keep me going after the attention and/or validation stop coming?
I need to be seeking validation within ME.
In full transparency, this has been a rough week. I’m processing feelings about processing and communicating feelings. I’m having to understand that being honest to my heart and sharing that honesty with others won’t always result in a win. It won’t necessarily result in a loss, but sometimes traveling a path I didn’t even see on the map.
I had an appointment with my therapist, where I asked for accountability for focusing on ME. It felt incredibly selfish. I’ve put nearly unlimited time and energy into satisfying the needs of others while rarely communicating what I needed. Satisfying others became my way of seeking validation as an indispensable source of support, a needed ingredient in the personal or professional life of others.
But by focusing all my time and energy on others, I failed myself.
- My schoolwork fell behind and I passed courses through exhausting, last minute cram sessions;
- I neglected my own business goals, focusing instead on helping others achieve theirs;
- Any semblance of a social life disappeared, leaving me feeling lonely and unwanted;
- I skipped going to the gym to make sure the needs of others were met;
- And I questioned my self worth and value as my own progress was backsliding.
By seeking validation from others, my own cup experienced a drought, a coffee mug left on the desk weeks after being used. The circles under my eyes raced to keep up with the dried coffee at the bottom of the mug.
Something needed to change. Something needs to change.
First, I need to take responsibility, constantly and permanently, for my feelings. Others don’t make me feel a particular way. I allow myself to feel the way I feel, and I have a choice to be happy regardless of how others feel about me.
Second, I need to focus on taking care of myself. I need my self-care practices to be the non-negotiable start of my day. By practicing self-care, I will strengthen my emotional muscles to handle whatever comes my way.
Third, and most important, I need to stop seeking validation from others and learn how to be proud of and happy with myself. I need to learn how to engage in positive self-talk (and mean it), and I need to learn how to accept compliments from others without ducking out of fear of insults which could follow (I’ll discuss this down the road as I find healing).
Nine months ago I joined a gym and signed up for a six-week challenge. While I was tired of being the heaviest I had ever been, I can’t say I did it for me. I joined the gym to lose weight because I was seeking validation from others.
It’s embarrassing to say that I hoped that if I lost weight my husband wouldn’t leave. But I’m determined to tell the truth and I’m realizing right now that that is my truth. I started my weight loss journey as a last ditch effort to save my marriage.
While the journey didn’t save my marriage, it is saving me.
What once felt like a chore has turned into a lifestyle. My diet has changed and my entire closet has been replaced.
What started as a big goal to preserve unrequited love has turned into a daily, moment-by-moment process of making the healthiest decisions I can for myself. When I cheat on my macros, I feel guilty because I know how much work I put in to lose these first 40 pounds. And while I used to share constantly about my weight loss online, now it feels much more personal, an accomplishment which I need to treasure within and with a select few.
When we share wins on social media while seeking validation, we risk feeling empty when the post receives little to no feedback. But when we learn, as I’m working to, to look within for validation, that’s when the magic supposedly happens.