For most people, it won’t exactly come as a surprise that I love hearing that people appreciate the work I do. The reason that won’t come as a surprise is that it’s a completely human thing to feed off validation from others. Be it validation of our emotions or of the work that we do, it’s a good feeling, right?
What about when that validation comes from someone you admire or look up to? Someone who’s been working in roughly the same field as you for much longer than you have?
Well, that’s been an experience I’ve been having on a semi-regular basis recently. Since starting to do bits of work with various mental health charities in London, I’ve been meeting lots of people. Some of these new connections are people I’ve actually been following on social media for a long time; others are people I’ve never heard of before but immediately have respect for when I hear their stories.
I think it’s also human to always regard other people’s stories and pain as being more valid than our own. I do it, I know a lot of my friends do it, and often as soon as we’ve told someone that their pain is just as valid as anyone else’s, we start telling ourselves how invalid our own pain is. It becomes an endless cycle of hypocrisy.
I, of course, am no different. I’m enormously lucky in that every month I meet at least one person who inspires either with what they do or what they’ve come through. Sometimes I sit and have long conversations with them, sometimes we swap experiences; and I always walk away thinking “my story is nothing in comparison to theirs”.
Then comes the validation. I’ll talk to another person (Person B) who knows the person (Person A) I was talking to and comparing myself to, and they’ll tell me that Person A was speaking very highly of my work. Often, when I hear these words, I’ve had a glass or two of wine. In these instances, the only reaction I’m capable of is “oh wow”, accompanied by lots of blushing and avoiding eye-contact.
You see, I don’t always handle praise particularly well. I appreciate it, but I never know what to do with it. When I’m sober, I generally just smile and say “thank you” several times over. But then the praise keeps coming, and what do I do then? Honestly, I generally thank the person a final time, make my excuses and leave.
It may seem ungrateful that I don’t hang around to maintain the conversation, and that I’ll do anything to get away, but you have to understand that I’m enormously grateful. The sense of validation that comes with such praise, that’s what keeps me going. It’s what encourages me to continue working even when I feel like I can’t possibly have anything left to say.
I do my best to pay it forward. I praise others when they talk about their stories, I remind them that their pain is valid, that pain is personal, and that someone out there will have have a similar experience to them and may hear their story and take something away from it. Sometimes the thing that people take away from hearing someone’s story is as simple as not feeling alone. Sometimes, being reminded that you aren’t alone is all it takes to give you the nudge to make the decision to choose life.
Another form of validation I had recently was while I was in that really dark space. I was struggling, a lot. I told a friend that I was trying to choose life, but I didn’t see how I could. My friend then told me that sometimes, life is just too much. Sometimes, you have to start by choosing existence. You don’t spend the rest of your days simply existing, however you do exist just long enough to build up enough strength to start living again.
I’d never considered things from that perspective before, and yet my friend was quite right in what they were saying. So that’s what I did. I chose to exist for a few weeks, until I had what it took to get up and live my life to the full once more. I didn’t remain existing for very long. I never do. None of us really do, if we’re honest with ourselves. We all prefer the feeling of being alive to the feeling of simply sailing through life in a state of existence.
From memory, I think I touched on my inability to accept praise a few months ago when I was talking about learning to love myself and to let others love me. I can accept praise now. It’s just a case of learning what to do with it at this point. It’s going to take time.
In the meantime, my message to you this month is to never give up on what you’re working to achieve. The validation doesn’t always start immediately. For me, it’s taken nearly a year to get that validation. I can confirm it’s worth the wait. For now, show yourself and those around you that you’re committed to achieving the things you’re chasing.
Also, if you like something someone’s doing or if you admire them, tell them! I’m pretty sure they’re craving the same validation as the rest of us – like I say, it’s human. You have the power to give someone that feeling of elation that comes from being told that what you’re doing is worthwhile. Don’t squander it. It’ll make you feel good, too.
Until next month, I hope the rest of March is good to you. For me, I’m going to go and make the most of the last of my birthday trip to London. There are markets to explore and exhibitions to see! And next time we speak, I’ll be 20. How cool is that?
Hope and hugs