Validation Issues: My Explorations


A vintage poster promoting swimming lessons. Subtilely, the children are segregated behind the instructor. Designed under the auspices of the Works Projects Admimistrstion (WPA).
A WPA poster designed by John Wagner in 1940

I’m at odds over my need for approval.

Yesterday morning, at my local coffee shop in Washington, DC, I held the door open for two female joggers. Well-coiffed, immaculately dressed,  both in my age-bracket, they breezed by me as if it was the Hay-Adams Hotel and I, an invisible doorman.

I mumbled, to myself, “You’re welcome.”

Not a big deal. Drinking my coffee, I dwelled on it. Was I irked over their rudeness, or because I needed my chivalry acknowledged?

Is there even a difference?

In 1972, when I was thirteen, inspired by the Munich Olympics, I practiced diving at the Jewish Community Center. No flips. No pikes. Just jack-knifes off the low board.

I caught the diving instructor’s attention. He commented I was pretty good and should consider trying out for the team.

Later, I excitedly told my father. He rolled his eyes and said, “So now you’re going to talk about diving for a couple weeks until you realize it takes hard work, and quit?”

He was peering at the dusty drum kit in my bedroom. Or perhaps, the half-filled coin and stamp albums strewn on the floor.

It sounds harsh now, but it was spot-on accurate. Already diagnosed as “hyperactive,”  I tended to attack new pursuits with gusto before quickly growing bored.

Did being “spot-on” justify my father’s frank observation?

I doubt he understood how soul-crushing he had been. I certainly didn’t have the ability to articulate how I felt in real-time, at that moment.

Nor could I comprehend the significance of what he had said.

My father died nine years ago and I continue to miss him. We had a healthy relationship. As adults, we were good friends. I valued his opinions, and his company.

I  also recognized my father’s flaws, but none were deal-breakers. He meant well and had a good heart.

In one of my first posts, Nail Biting Suspense, I wrote about the difference between blaming my parents for my life versus understanding their roles in who I am. This is a great example of that important distinction.

Am I suggesting my desire for validation stems from one single incident? No.

Do I believe my father’s history of frankness, coupled with my inability to express my feelings, contributed to my hunger for approval? Yes.

Do I envy people for whom validation is icing on their cakes of self-worth? Absolutely.

Perhaps most important, however, as a father myself, I have strived to balance criticism with encouragement while we raised, and continue to nurture, three healthy daughters.

Though I still struggle  with validation, I am in the process of more objectively understanding, and building my sense of self worth. In that process, I take immense comfort knowing that I didn’t pass my compulsion for approval to my daughters.

Stay in touch. Share, comment, connect!

P.S. It took me a couple looks at the Swimming Lessons poster to notice that the artist had segregated the children. Not germane to the topic but I found it interesting.

An animation of Sally Field from her Oscar acceptance speech for her Best Actress in the 1984 movie, "Places In The Heart". Ms. Field excitedly, exclaimed, "You like me!" It was a revealing look at a two-time Oscar winner's need for validation
Evidently, I’m not alone…

5 thoughts on “Validation Issues: My Explorations

  1. At a certain point in my life I had felt the same way you do about needing approval. Everybody does at one time or another. Then when I reached my late twenties I came to realize the only person I needed approval from was myself. If I tried something and failed I would chalk it up to life’s lesson and retain what I just learned. The most important lesson that I learned? I have flaws and always will because I’m human.


    1. Congrats on having such a healthy epiphany. Your self-awareness is admirable.

      I don’t know if I’d characterize my process as accepting flaws per se. “Flaws” sounds like something’s broken.

      For me it is more a journey of self-awareness, understanding my nature and changing my relationship with the aspects of my nature that create obstacles between me and my ability to authentically connect with other people.

      Thanks for the thoughtful insight Nick. I sincerely appreciate your comments.


  2. Maybe your desire to have your kindness acknowledged is not about your need for approval; maybe it’s about being raised with manners and the ability to recognize the lack of (this was outright rudeness you described). Please continue with chivalrous gestures. You have set a standard for your daughters’ mates/future mates. The world needs more gentlemen. You are a breed at risk of extinction.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Couple thougts. Firstly, thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts. I am extremely appreciative.

      There is definitely something to the fact that I was raised to be a gentleman and that plays into moments like the one I described.

      I also agree, it seems like civility and good manners are on the wane. Is it possible that in some regards, our perceptions are a reflection of our age?

      It feels like we, as a people, are more adversarial, embracing an “us versus them” mentality. That enables “us” to look at “them” as undeserving of civility.

      I’ll offer a quote by Socrates on the subject, as food for thought.

      “The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.”

      (This is definitely the first and I’m guessing, last time you’ll see a Socrates quote come out of my keyboard by the way. 😬)



      Liked by 1 person

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