The Need for Validation
“What the superior man seeks is in himself; what the small man seeks is in others.”
A wise man once said it so it must be true. But of all Confucian proverbs, this is what I disagree the most.
We all give our best and strive to be better, some compared to others, some compared to our previous selves. We seek that moment when we feel confident about ourselves and our accomplishments. But when left unnoticed, don’t we all feel disappointed?
Notice an unruly child; the one who throws tantrums and cries at every little chance possible. Isn’t it that once she is noticed, she’ll behave better? Yes, all she needs is attention.
The feeling of being needed is great but making another person feel that way is rewarding. When you notice people’s achievement, no matter how small, can motivate a person so much.
We can say that when you are confident about yourself, the opinion of others matter little or not at all. But why do awards and certificates given out at any formal events? Plaques of appreciation, certificate of recognition, a medal of honor among others are displayed in most homes. What’s the purpose of such but purely decorative and of no monetary value?
Back in college, I used to compete in academics a lot. More often than not, I took home the bacon to the point that they weren’t even surprised when I earned another first prize. I am not the competitive type whose eyes are on the prize. I just give my best whenever I did something. My living mantra was ” If you have to do something, might as well do it well, otherwise, you are just wasting your time.” I never aimed to be the best among the others. I just wanted to do well. Because they had gotten so used to me winning, they seldom congratulated me anymore. It is as if it’s automatic and that I would definitely add another medal in my collection, like it’s an obligation to them. Did it motivate me? Nope. I lost all interest, my confidence plummeted to the point that I became scared of failing. Failure became my biggest fear.
There was a time when I inhibited myself from joining any more contests and activities. I stepped back and they took it as being too proud of myself they don’t deserve to be my competitors anymore. It wasn’t true. I stepped back because I was scared I might fail. I became complacent to myself even. Until one day, I heard my father talk to his pal in a bout of alcohol.
I just arrived home then and went straight to my room. Not aware that I could hear them, my father said to his friend,“That’s my daughter I talked to you about. She’s the pride of the family. Look over there, those are her trophies. Such a smart child. ” He never said those words directly to me nor say them when he is sober but his drunken words made me want to make him proud even more.
Validation is the “recognition and acceptance” of someone else’s experience. We don’t need to feign interest if we really aren’t but giving someone a kind word, a pat on the shoulders, a nod of acceptance when they really did well can change a person’s life. Why deny these simple acts?
We shouldn’t be seeking for validation from others. Self-validation is also a thing. But we can’t deny the fact that feedback from other people can either make or break us. So why not give out those words of appreciation at every chance we can get? You won’t know whose dreams you’ve help build with them, how many people have succeeded because of a single positive adjective, a dreamer who strived a little harder, a person who gave another shot on his dreams after saying it’s his last. We might not know but it can go a long way.
Never put other people’s opinion ahead of yours but don’t be too tense in giving out validations to people who deserves it. Never let anyone invalidate you and your achievements and so you shouldn’t, too. After all, it is part of our interdependency as humanity. Some accomplishments may look trivial to others but it can also mean the world to someone. Not invalidating a person’s effort may just give someone a little push or encourage him to hang in there a little bit more, and finally, make it!