Validation is the Enemy. Put on Your Armor!
In my last blog post, I mentioned my experience with affirming my self worth. In that post I also briefly shared my experience with childhood bullying. To give you a better understanding of my journey, I want to share a bit more and start from the beginning.
I grew up in Chicago with a very loving family - two siblings and a mother and father that both provided for our household. We came from a working class family (I didn't realize what that meant until later on in life) so we survived with the necessities in life and a few treats and adventures along the way. Our family wasn't living like the Jones' (queue the Temptations), but according to our means. At a young age, I was forced to observe our "financial situation" because in my world of young kids comparing what they had over the next, it was clear to me that we "didn't have it like that". Name brand sneakers, clothes and the latests toys were not a part of my "regular". I often had hand me downs from my sister and would try to squeeze my size 8 feet into her tiny, WAY too small, size 7 shoes that she was "done and away with" just so that I could be a part of the "in crowd". I would try to tuck in my lips and change up my smile so that you couldn't see how large they sat on my face. I wanted my hair to be bone straight so that I could slick it back into a ponytail like all the others girls at school (I wanted that "good hair"!). However, I could never perfect it - not to mention when I was allowed to get a relaxer, it was only every 6 months or so which didn't do much for my desire to have the look that was plastered across the "Just for Me" at-home relaxer kit product box.
As you read this, you might be wondering "Why did she need to be concerned with these things at such a young age". Well, the reality is that I was forced to. On one end I had cousins that would make fun of me at every chance they got and on the other end I was tormented by my classmates for how I looked, what I wore and the list goes on.
This experience affected my self esteem tremendously. I wanted so badly to just make it all go away. I longed desperately to "be like the rest" so that I could get a break from being the main subject of jokes, jabs and threats of being beat up for no reason at all. Because I was bullied so bad, it made me second guess everything that I did. I had a deep rooted disgust with who I was. I started to play the comparison game and always looked to the opinion of others to make me feel "sure of myself". As you can tell, I had a real issue loving who I was but I masked it very well. I hid the hurt and replaced it with anger and a wall that no one could break though. It was my shield of protection and in my mind, I had no other way of guarding my heart.
In high school, I finally had a break from the ridicule and found my release of the pressure through being an athlete. It allowed me to cope and perform at something I was good at and worked hard for. I continued to run in college, but by my junior year, the passion of track and field dwindled due to chronic injury and coaching politics. I lost a love for the very thing that got me through the harder times in my life. Where was I to turn? I recall, vividly, my breakdown that would eventually bring triumph. I was sitting in my residence hall room and out of nowhere, I felt a complete darkness and a rush of overwhelming panic come over my body. It continued to build and eventually I was left in a daze feeling numb and alone. I couldn't call anyone. I was too embarrassed to admit what was going on. After all I appeared to be "well put together". Having nowhere or no one to turn, I had no choice but to seek guidance spiritually so I took a walk by the lake that my college was situated on, and cried my eyes out. I went to the chapel and prayed for God to mend my broken heart and to give me clarity. I hadn't realized how much I suppressed my feelings. I was sad, angry and felt alone, but I needed this breaking point. It was the start of a long journey of professing self love. Even into my young adulthood, I still had moments of being unsure because of mistreatment from so-called friends, significant others and those I held in high esteem. Nevertheless, I believe that through this experience ,I've come to a place where I can cope a bit better with the hiccups and obstacles that life bring.
I could go on and on about the effects childhood bullying had on me, but the purpose of this post is not to focus on that. The purpose is for you to see how the need for validation can creep into your life and take over, making it a hard road ahead if you don't address it appropriately.
Why would I share my story with you? Well one reason is because I want you to know that I have been through the very things I am asking you to overcome. I believe it's important for me to be just as vulnerable as I am asking you to be while I continue to set an example of walking in my passion and purpose. My calling in life is to inspire you to pursue what you are destined for and to go after it intentionally and I accept it wholeheartedly.
The second reason for my transparency is that I don't believe there is enough open dialogue around the issues mentioned in this post. We may find the need to hide behind the facade while suffering on the inside. I desire for you to grow beyond that barrier and live a life that is more fulfilling.
So, what does it take to overcome validation and reclaim what is yours? Here are a few things I have learned along the way that arm me for any reoccurrence of the need to seek approval and assurance from others:
Find the root cause of where your need for validation is coming from. Is is a past relationship, a bullying situation, or a belief that you've accepted because of a recent "missed opportunity"?
Replace the cause of validation with affirming beliefs. Regardless of where the cause of your need for validation is coming from, eliminate the false beliefs you have convinced yourself of as true. This may come in the form of seeking counseling, journaling or the practice of positive self affirmations (read my blog post "Say it With Me...I Am Enough" for tips on how to get started with a shift in your mindset about yourself). Whatever your method of choice, remember that consistency is key.
Limit your circle to avoid toxic people and circumstances. You are in control of who you allow to be a part of your experience. I know that this seems simple, but the reality is that sometimes we hold on to relationships that are not meant for our good. Family, friends, co-workers, whomever. If they are constantly the initiator of toxic energy, remove them from your space. No one is exempt from this rule and if you truly want to see a difference in your ability to overcome self inflicted limitations, this step is a necessity.
Rewrite your story. After you've created a rhythm of the aforementioned points, begin the process of authoring a new caption for your life. I want you to believe that you are not the end product of the hardships that you may have experienced in life. You deserve to give yourself a new narrative after all you have been through and you have every ability inside of you to do just that. So what will your story be?