Saturday, February 3, 2018

Validation: Bringing Confidence to Insecurities Everywhere

Everyone has insecurities. I don't care if you are the most successful, most confident, luckiest, most blessed person in the world - you have insecurities.

Ever. Just pretend.
Be a cyborg. 
They're considered weaknesses, insecurities are. It's not sexy to have them. You're not going to land the corner office with insecurities. You're not going to get a chance with that awesome man or woman of your dreams by listing your insecurities in your dating profile. And you certainly don't want people memorializing you at your funeral by saying, "I remember her as being so insecure."

In looking for some quotes for this blog, I was surprised to find that most of them treated insecurity like a horrible vice. "Insecurity kills all that is beautiful." "Nothing holds you back more than your own insecurities." "Insecurity kills more dreams than failure ever will." Wow. Now not only do I feel insecure, I feel HORRIBLE about it.

But I'm going to put that aside, because I'm pretty sure that even the people who were so secure as to pen those quotes have insecurities. My question is, what separates those who rise above them with those who feel like they're going down with the ship? I'm not sure. Maybe it's their personalities, or how they were raised, or what they've been through, or even just their DNA. But I do know what helps in some cases: validation.
Well if that doesn't make you feel
insecure, nothing will. 

There are few worse things you can say to an insecure person than "You're wrong." I don't mean in those words exactly, but how many times have we refuted something someone has said instead of validating it? When you're angry at your spouse, does he or she say, "Oh, honey, don't be angry."? When your child tells you he's worried about an upcoming event or test, how many times do parents say, "Don't worry."? Or how about when you finally tell a friend what's really been bothering you and they reply with, "Oh, get over it!"?

At that moment, it doesn't matter if what that person has said to you is right or wrong in your eyes. They're expressing a feeling that is valid to them, and the appropriate, compassionate response is not to completely negate what they just said. I learned this firsthand when my son once told me he was worried. My knee-jerk response was, of course, "Oh, honey, don't worry!" He looked at me and said, "Mom, you telling me not to worry doesn't make me not worry. It just makes me feel bad about myself for worrying."

It's human for us to want to fix things - or at least to make uncomfortable things go away. It's human for many people to not want to have awkward conversations that involve tender subjects related to anger, worry or controversy. But when someone conveys a feeling to you and you tell them not to feel that way - intentional or not - you've just completely invalidated what to them WAS a completely valid feeling, which can - and does - lead to insecurity. And over time, if that person feels invalidated long enough, his or her insecurities can get the best of them and they can start second-guessing their own feelings. "Why do I always worry so much?" "What am I getting so angry about?" "Why can't I get over this?" to the point where that person can't even validate their own feelings anymore.

That's one way to become insecure, right?

Validation also comes in the form of what I call "getting a win." We all need to have a win every once in a while. That can come in a physical or emotional form. My son is on a track team, which is of course very competitive. He's good, but he's never been the best (except, of course, in my eyes.) There's always been someone faster, with a better time, or on a better relay team. I try to remind him that a win can also be besting his own time, but I know (validation) that what he really wants is to beat his competitors. Now, he's bested his time on many an occasion, but there is NOTHING like the look on his face when he's won a race. 

Pretty sure even the Virgin Mary
had insecurities. 
But what if wins aren't quite as obvious? What if you work in an office day after day? In my case, I write - primarily for other people on subjects that for the most part are not of my choosing. Not uncommon. I'm also edited - unceasingly, unendingly, and sometimes mercilessly. Again, most of the time the final product of what goes out under my pen isn't under my name, so it has to be perfect in order to have that other person's stamp on it. And as in many people's jobs, others are quick to criticize when they find something wrong and slow to praise. (In my case, people love to find typos in my work - like they've beat me at my own game.)

Though I understand that what I write has to live up to a high standard, it wears on me at times. I work hard at what I do, and an "i" left undotted or a "t" uncrossed weighs more heavily on me than most - sometimes like a pair of concrete shoes. And I think to myself, every once in awhile, it would be awesome if someone would tell me that I'm doing a good job. Even if it's, "Thank you for making me look good!" or "I appreciate you making my job easier." Sometimes it gets to the point where my challenge is less about my craft and more about this unending quest to send out a product that will get an unexpected email response of "Well done" than the incessant "I made some changes..."

Valid point. But not the only reason.
I understand it's nobody's job to make me feel good about mine, but it is people's job to make sure I do mine well. But every once in a while, I'm sure we would all like to feel a little validated that that we're doing well in our careers. In my case, I fear that my insecurities about my writing are starting to be reflected IN my writing. In short, I need a win. And I'd venture to guess that there are a lot of people out there who feel the same way.

Insecurities aren't something people are proud of. I'm not sure why they seem to terrorize some people, like me, and how others are less affected, or able to at least mask appearing affected so well. I'm sure people who struggle with insecurities are way more sensitive to a lack of validation - to them, it's just one more brick in the wall, and the taller it gets, the tougher it is to break down. And it doesn't help that insecurities are seen as a sign of weakness. You shouldn't be penalized because you want and need validation. Some people are in positions to receive it more than others. If your kid has a 4.0 GPA and is going to an Ivy League school, you're probably feeling pretty validated as a parent. If you've been with a company for 10 years and were just appointed a vice president, you're probably feeling pretty validated in your career. If your husband or wife lets you know in no uncertain terms that you are the best thing that's ever happened to him or her, you're probably feeling pretty validated in your marriage. Sure, everyone has areas of their lives that make them insecure, but lack of validation in any part of your life that is important to you is bound to touch off uncertainty and self-doubt. 

My point here is that we all need to know that who we are, what we do and how we feel has meaning, and in many ways, validation is a key player, no matter how much any internet quote says otherwise. So just think about it. When someone tells you how they're feeling, whether you think they're being insecure or not, validate their feeling. If you're in a position to tell someone they've done a good job, validate what they've done. And if you're one of those insecure people out there, try and look at something in your life that at which you're doing the very best you can to do - regardless of how it turned out for anyone else. Sometimes the key to overcoming some of your insecurities is giving yourself a break - and validating yourself.