Everyone needs validation. Only recently has that word been used to describe what individuals need emotionally. People talk about wanting love, understanding, money, romance, someone to talk to, success, to look good, have nice things…the list goes on. These are all forms of validation.
The Merriam-Webster on-line dictionary defines “Validating” as, “to recognize, establish, or illustrate the worthiness or legitimacy of”, thus, a process of mirroring back to someone or yourself, “You did well; I’m listening; I care”.
This time of year is full of graduation parties; a perfect way to validate you and your success. These parties also validate family and friends who attend. Parties are social opportunities to show off our lives, such as our children: “Look how big he’s gotten!” “She looks just like you!” “What are you doing now for work?” These types of statements or questions validate your life. Our children, marriages, relationships, old friends, new friends, jobs, and careers are all sources of validation.
We come to understand that validation of our children is important in the development of a healthy self-esteem and belief system. Before the 1980’s, this was typically not the case. Rather, we commonly heard our parents say: “Don’t cry, crying is for babies.” “Be a ‘good’ girl/boy and behave yourself.” “If you’re a good boy/girl, you can have dessert.” Back then, if you were only ‘good enough’ was a consistent message. So, the question lingered in our minds: “Am I ever good enough?”
Parenting has changed dramatically over the past 30 years and validating our children has become a priority. Whether our children are struggling in school, with friends, extra-curricular activities, or they are doing wonderfully, the child is always innately ‘good’. We have learned to separate actions, difficulties, and even successes from the person. Today, it is understood that validated children tend to grow up to be well-adjusted, validated adults.
As adolescents, the task of receiving validation becomes more challenging. Adolescence is a time of rapid change; physically, emotionally and behaviorally. Who we “appear” to be one day, can change in the span of just a few months. Changes in height, weight, voice, moods, even abilities can be confusing, and, in this ever changing period, how does one legitimize who they are at any given moment? Ironically, the key during this period is to validate, acknowledge, notice and accept that changes are happening, and, despite what is going on, to know you are the same person.
The need for validation continues throughout our lifespan. As we become adults, we need to learn to validate ourselves, as opposed to relying on the outside world to provide it. Still, the need for recognition, of feeling valued and worthy, is important in adult relationships. Consider how good it feels to get a positive work review, a promotion, or when your significant other tells you that you are beautiful, smart, and good at what you do.
Even in our ever advancing technological world, we all continue to seek validation. We seek it by having as many Facebook Friends as possible, or how many ‘likes’ or ‘comments’ we receive to our Facebook posts. And, of course, to how many people read (and respond) to my blog. Today, even our online lives can be as validating (or not) as our “real life” world.
There are times when we forget, or maybe we never truly understood, how important it is to not only receive, but to also give, validation. Validation needn’t be a difficult task. Validation is given by stopping what you are doing and ‘paying attention’ to what your 5 year-old has to say (or 25 year-old); validation is given in taking responsibility for your actions and words; validation can be come in the form of a look, an inflection of your voice; validation says I see you, you matter, and I care.