What child is afraid of swing sets? This child was, that’s who.
I was afraid of the swings, I was afraid of the Big Slide, I didn’t venture into the “deep end” until I was seven years old. I stayed the fck away from the monkey bars, and I sure as hell wouldn’t play double-dutch jump rope because I knew without a DOUBT I’d be whipped in the face.
It’s not the failure per se, but the loss of control that frightened me. It was the idea of being suspended in the air, in the water, no top, no bottom, nothing holding me up but sheer momentum and no control of grounding.
Being caught in space. Indefinitely.
Control was my first frenemy. The first one who made me believe I was lost without her, when in fact I was most lost when in her smothering embrace.
When I had control, I looked for cracks in the surface.
Threats everywhere. I look for those out to do me wrong.
And when I had no control…when I was uncertain…I made up stories.
I see the fall. I see drowning. I see the spiral downward.
And I look for someone to save me.
Validation is what we crave when we’re unsure: of a moment, of our place, of ourselves. And seeking it out works in exactly the opposite way we want it to.
We plead for Yesses and get bogged down in our Tryings. We become so afraid, so unsure, SO self-conscious, that we hinder ourselves from moving forward, simply because we’re so scared of falling back. And so we do.
It’s frustrating as hell, but honestly, is it at all surprising? If our fear of falling short is the energy that we put out into the universe, why is it any wonder that we’re always feeling two steps behind?
Let’s not kid ourselves: it helps to be validated. Positive reinforcement…who wouldn’t eat that up? We want to know that we’re worthwhile; that we’re okay.
But when we actively seek validation, we’re being reactive instead of proactive. Our actions become an external comeback instead of an internal process.
We so desire to be loved and told we’re worthwhile, because at the heart of the matter, to feel ineffective is a frightening thing. And when we don’t receive validation – or receive the exact opposite, criticism – we start to tell ourselves stories in order to exert control. We say we’re doing things all wrong, we start to feel as if we have something to prove.
My question is this: Prove what?
We are alive. Here. In existence.
We are proven simply by existing.
We don’t need validation in order to be fully and wholly ourselves. That’s OUR job, not anyone else’s. It’s the stories that trap us. The stories of the flailing, the drowning, the stuck-ness in space. Will anyone love me if I fall? Will I be good enough even if no one else says it out loud? If I can’t see it, is it even real?
Untangle the trap. Recognize when you’re telling yourself stories by flipping the narrative. Instead of acting and reacting out of FEAR and NEED, be proactive and productive out of LOVE and WANT. Will you get some kind words or praise along the way? I mean, probably. Productive and Proactive are infectious. Everyone wants a little of whatever the most self-assured and got-it-together person in the room is having, and that will most likely get you a nice potpourri mix of extremes; both validation and judgement. The trick is to not let either guide your actions. And if you’re like me and you’re thinking, “But wait. I’m not that self-assured and DEFINITELY don’t got-it-together at ALL” …it makes no difference. Proactive and Productive read as self-assured and got-it-together from the outside. That’s their story to tell. Not yours.
I still tell myself wild stories that I am caught without grounding in space, that I am thought ill of, that I am screwing up and that someone is onto me. That someone else is more qualified, more talented, more beautiful, more special and well-liked. Just More.
And when I tell myself these stories I take the drama, I take the romanticized truths in my head and I ask WHY. Turns out that the story I tell is usually rationally improbable. And that much of my story is actually rooted in a need to be validated; a surface-level reaction. A premonition that I might have something to be sorry about, just by being me. When the truth is that “being me” is the greatest asset I could ever have.
So swing high and dive deep. Take a stand and give yourself the credit you deserve.
Trust your actions. Trust your intuition. Because we have everything we need, right here, right now.
Your validation is that your life is happening For you. To you. With you.
Your validation – it’s in your existence.
And so you keep going.
Subscribe to The (Good) Word + join the WANT movement: