We all want to be a ‘valid person’. But most of us have some little (or large) secret insecurities. These can make us nervous about being ourselves. So there is a human tendency to seek validation from others. Comedians seek laughter. Actors seek applause. Craftsmen seek appreciation. And so on.
I think for most of us this seeking of validation starts when we are small. Do we fit in? Are we popular? Or are we on the edge of the crowd? Are we sometimes shunned?
I remember when I was at primary school and we’d have a medical check. When they did the hearing test I tried really hard to hear the quietest sounds. I was always hoping the nurse would say, ‘You have incredible hearing. I think you’re unique.’ I hope she’d tell others and officials would come and visit me at school and say, ‘Your hearing ability is so amazing, the Prime Minister wants to meet you.’
Needless to say that never happened.
But seeking validation can be very dangerous. Sometimes we give the power of validation to the wrong person – the overbearing parent, the judgemental friend, the unsupportive spouse.
And that’s what we need to understand – we hold the power of our own validation and we choose who to give it to. Be careful.
Many men suffer because they gave the power of validation to their father but he never validated them, never said well done.
In Paul Merton’s autobiography he tells how he sought his Father’s approval but it never came… until his Father was dying. At the last moment in the hospital he tells him how proud he has been of him. After his death, when the family are clearing his Father’s house, they find a scrapbook with every newspaper article about Paul Merton. His Father had been a secret admirer all along.
Many men and women give the power of validation to one parent or other and sometimes the approval never comes.
In some ways we are all seeking a mini-validation by getting the thumbs up ‘like’ on Facebook, or the favourite star – or even better a RT – on Twitter. I’m hoping for a few on this article! But if not, I’m not bothered.
I sometimes get people giving me the benefit of their opinion on my life or work. Here’s a news flash for them all – I haven’t given you the power to validate or invalidate me.
I choose to let history / God / the Universe validate me or not.
The group of people that irritates me the most is those who think they are something special when they’re just like the rest of us. They assume that their opinion is of more value than mine. They spout their opinion as though it was an inarguable fact, when it is just an opinion.
People told me I couldn’t go to the Third-World to help the poor. People told me I couldn’t write a book. They told me I couldn’t start a Charity, or buy my own house.
So I did.
Be careful of those who try to hold you back. They may be trying to keep you down in order to lift themselves up.
You have the power to validate yourself.
While it is always helpful to have a few wise counsellors around you, you need to be true to yourself.
We are all looking for someone to believe in us but be very careful about letting others validate you, because one day they may decide to invalidate you.
You are unique.
Go and be amazing today!
Was life better before Facebook? Possibly. I never saw what you were having for lunch, or the amusing thing your cat did.
On the other hand, I do like being in regular touch with distant relatives and friends.
Last year, a couple of people commented on how idyllic my life sometimes looks on Facebook – the family walks, meals together, and smiley selfies etc.
To be honest, my life is just like most other people’s life – happy bits, sad bits, boring bits, cooking dinner, putting the bins out, paying bills, blah blah…
Some people’s life does look idyllic on Facebook and maybe it makes us jealous. But we really need to understand what Facebook is.
Facebook is mostly spin.
Just as the Blair government made an art form of spinning negative political news to make it look like something positive, so people are doing a sort of life spin on Facebook. We show only the best bits, the happy positive bits. There’s no intention to deceive. Just to show ourselves in the best light.
I tend to post happy family times because it’s something positive. I don’t post about arguments, or the time I had to go to the eye hospital and was quite scared about my eyesight, or when I get a letter with bad news, or times when I feel hurt, and a whole load of other stuff that would make me look bad, irritating or boring – even though I can be all of those things!
Facebook seems to be split into two types of people – the angry people who rage about something new everyday, in a way they never would if they were talking to the person face to face, and normal people – those who mostly post simple moments that made them smile or think.
There is possibly a third group – the show offs – those playing the ‘keep up with the Joneses’ game of look-at-what-we-just-bought-that-you-haven’t-got.
I tend to block the angry people and the show-offs.
The problem is, if you think what people post on Facebook is their whole real life, you may become depressed that, by comparison, your life seems boring.
Here’s the thing. Everyone’s life is boring or mundane a lot of the time. We have to make our own joy.
A few years ago our family moved from buying mostly material gifts at birthdays and Christmas, and started giving ‘moments’ instead.
We went to see the Chinese State Circus when they came to town. We booked into a Jazz Breakfast. We hired a boat for the day and cruised down the river in Norfolk, for a picnic. What were we doing? Making memories.
Good stuff rarely just happens. You have to organise some stuff to create memories. Sometimes it can all go wrong, but the memory of it all going wrong can still be a funny memory.
Facebook isn’t real life. It’s a million tiny snapshots of what’s in people’s heads at a certain moment of their day.
If you want more happiness in your life do two things:
- Don’t think Facebook ever tells you much more than a bit of spin.
- Organise your own spontaneity! Plan some stuff. Make some memories of your own.
And perhaps it is time to write down the dreams you have for your own life. Then go and make the dream come true. And, when it does, tell us, on Facebook!
You would think that the older you get, the easier it is to make friends. But often the reverse is true – it can be harder to make real friendships.
When you were little it was fairly easy to make friends with anybody. You always had something in common – you were just a kid. When you are a kid anybody can be your friend. If they are standing outside your house, they’re your friend!
I remember a boy from the next street walked over to me once. I was test-driving my new wellies by walking in a muddy puddle. He came over to watch. He wanted to walk in the puddle too but he was only wearing shoes. I tempted him in. He had a great time but ruined his shoes. His Mum went mad. We became friends from that day. But when we left primary school, we lost touch.
From your teens into your twenties you are exploring the freedom of adult life and are likely to ‘try out’ lots of friendships. It’s a time of experimentation and friends are in great supply. You’re often spoilt for choice.
In your thirties you find you have a set group of friends. They know the places, the food, the ‘in-jokes’. It then becomes hard to make new friends. We now have emotional baggage and we have found a few people who understand us, or at least tolerate us.
We experience internal shifts in how we approach friendship. We move from self-discovery to self-knowledge, so we become pickier about whom we surround ourselves with. We become less tolerant of those people who engage in toxic behaviour – like constant negativity, victim mentality, repeated angry reactions and putting others down. (We’ll explore those in another post).
The manipulators, drama queens, and egomaniacs will eventually be sidelined by most people.
When we find true friends, it is important to invest time in those relationships. Spending time with a true friend is never a waste of time. An outside observer could view the time I spend with true friends and think they were watching two people waste time – nothing really happens. But actually it does – something deep and unseen.
I used to have a friend who lived just round the corner. We’d call on each other and have a chat and drink coffee.
One day he became ill and went to hospital. Soon he moved house and his sickness became terminal. It was devastating to watch this guy, who was only a couple of years older then me, physically decline.
When he died, I conducted his funeral.
I miss him dreadfully. Every time I walk past his old house I remember the days of laughter, discussion and friendship.
And that’s the thing, when you get into your fifties, some of your friends pass away.
Those sad moments make me realise that actually we are all one. When I was little, my Mum told me never to speak to strangers. But you know what? I’ve started doing just that – saying hello to strangers I meet in the street and on walks in the countryside. We are all human and many are lonely.
Earlier this year, we arranged a reunion with a few friends from college days. I’d not seen some of them for twenty or so years. We picked up the friendship like we’d seen each other yesterday. We are going to meet more frequently now.
These men were really three clowns. (I’m the fourth clown.) We were and are a bunch of clowns. But those friendships are special.
As we drove home from that weekend reunion, I remembered that, back in the 80s, when our son died just before his third birthday, these three guys were the ones who came to visit us when no one else did. They didn’t come with an agenda or advice. They just came to be with us. They still clowned around but with a deep respect for us. It brought a bit of normality into our tragedy. One of them came to the Coroner’s Office and helped me register the death.
These days I think I have friends for different needs. It may sound a bit clinical or efficient but it isn’t. I have writing friends, a few coffee friends, some lunch friends, a swimming friend etc. Some of those friendships overlap, which is even better.
If we want friends, we need to be a friend. We need to invest in time together, create memories by doing things together, and build a shared history.
Facebook tells me I have 170+ friends. I haven’t. I know 170 people enough to chat to them when we meet – and it’s rare that we meet. Those are really acquaintances.
True friends – in whose company we can just be ourselves – are few. And that’s true for most of us.
So what’s the simple step on friendship? If you want a friend then be a friend to someone. Invest time in your best friendships. Make time to hang out. Look at yourself and ask if you frequently engage in toxic behaviours of negativity, anger, ranting, or the ‘poor-me’ victim mentality. If you do, stop it. Be positive. Don’t take things too seriously. Be the type of friend that you would want someone to be to you. Who do you plan to spend time with this week?
‘You are my friends.’