I’ve spent a lot of my life in mistrust of myself, which is to say “over there”, some external measure was always the answer. Validation of what was right or wrong, good or bad, wanted or unwanted, came from outside myself: do what other people want so they won’t be mad at you or argue or so you won’t add to their stress, do what other people want so they will love you, get good grades so that you will be successful, admired, as perfectly close to 100% as possible, go to the gym, workout a minimum of 60 minutes a day, eat less, eat the right foods, live alone because you have to live alone to find yourself, find yourself, make art, make the right art (the kind that sells), get a dog, get the right kind of dog…you get the idea.
This type of thinking places your wellBEing on different modes of external validation. All you have to do to be happy, fulfilled, successful is to follow some prescribed series of cascading actions. You just have to fit inside the right box, the box of the identity you want to hold, and then things will work out. Displacing your trust, and putting it over there, for someone else to define creates a sense of urgency. You have to hustle to keep up, to maintain the desired equilibrium, and prevent the inevitable changes of life from, well, changing, or at least moving out of your realm of control. External validation is misguided trust that actually stops you from your own well-being, but we all fall victim to it.
Examining the Roots of External Validation
The idea of external validation as the pathway to basic human desire is sold to us, institutionalized and baked into American culture. How often have you watched a commercial or seen an ad, especially in the realm of wellness that markets you a product supposedly designed to make you happier or heal you. Your wellbeing is presented as a binary. Do this thing that I, this ad, is telling you to do and all your problems will be solved. Michelle Pellizzon and her team explain this more here. You are an organic being, composed of complexity and nuance, no one thing can make you happy and what works for one person is not the same for someone else.
Institutions and culture capitalize on black and white thinking. There is a right way and a wrong way to move through the world (much of which…