Thursday, February 2, 2012

Rethinking Where We Seek Validation

I'm just about a year out of college. A year out of the time in my life where success was measured by a letter grade on a paper. For seventeen years of my life, an 'A' was validation that I had worked hard. Landing internships further validated my hard work. Then, I landed a job. My validation was that I would finally become a fully-functioning, independent adult through means of a paycheck. To me, that was the ultimate validation. And I had it in my hands.

When my plans changed, I no longer felt that all my hard work was validated. But what did I mean by "validation?" Who did I think had the ability to grant this validation? By going through school, one is in a way taught that validation comes from professors, those with the power of the red pen. That led me to believe that my employers would in turn be the ones to validate me. But if there's one thing I've learned in these past few months, is that I must be the one to validate myself. I cannot let anyone else define success for me. I must do it for myself.

Perhaps that's the true meaning of becoming an independent adult. Not relying on the validation of others, but finding validation for yourself—allowing yourself the authority to decide if what you do is worthy or not. You can be independent monetarily, but being independent emotionally is freeing.

So, how do you get there? I don't think there's one universal path to get to that state of mind. But I do believe it starts with work. Any kind of pure, hard work. Then, begin to look for the good in what you do. Let that make you happy. Let that validate you.

I used to find great value in being so incredibly busy. But now I realize that I can still feel successful when I have less on my to-do list. I've learned that I can feel good about myself on the days where I complete even the simplest of tasks. There is success in washing the dishes again. There is success in doing another load of laundry. There is a sort of painful success in completing another set of physical therapy exercises. And despite my high dislike for job searching, there is even success in trying it again the next day.

As long as you put yourself to work on whatever is before you, you can find success. True validation doesn't come from grades or paychecks. Validation comes when you find the simplest reasons to value what you do. When you are comfortable being the one who validates your own work, that is when you can grant yourself truly independent.

Put in an honest day's work, regardless of whether your boss is the head of a multi-billion dollar company or the owner of a small business. Put in an honest day's work if you are the boss of others or if you find yourself only to be the boss of you. And when you find you are comfortable being the boss of you, it is at that point that you are truly free from needing the validation of others.



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