Desperately Seeking Approval? : LUSENET : Inertia Forum : One Thread

Pauline's latest journal entry addresses the issue "External Validation", a topic that was recently introduced by Julie. My feelings on this subject are conflicted. For me, this isn't just about external VALIDATION - it's also about external INvalidation, or nullification, and how that fear causes me to continue to resist the lure of joining the ranks of the online journal community. Still, I was struck by Julie's reference to how life isn't something she experiences simply for its own sake anymore. Almost immediately, she thinks about documenting each event or adventure, even before she's fully participated in and enjoyed (or not, depending on the circumstances) the experience. I find that happens to me more and more of late, and, while I don't necessarily think it's a bad thing (unless taken to extremes), it does make me pause and consider possible implications.

Certainly, I agree that it's not healthy to rely too heavily on others to give sanction to our actions or beliefs, but an occasional pat on the back sure is nice. Too many of us seem to be lacking support and encouragement. By the way, isn't Pauline practicing a form of external validation herself when she "verbalizes the positive" and applies the technique "catch them doing something good"?

In a previous post, I said: "We all seek approval in one way or another, but I try to solicit favorable attention in ways that involve less risk to my already frail ego." Naturally, Pauline called me on that, and asked me to be more specific, so here goes. I often look for positive reinforcement through humor. When I make someone laugh, I feel happy. I also seek approval through being a good listener, a quality which appears to be in short supply these days. There's something about me that makes others, even complete strangers, want to air their problems in my presence. People comment frequently and appreciatively on that facet of my personality, and I take pride in it. Approval isn't the major motivation for my sympathetic ear - that's just part of who I am. Nevertheless, the bonus of an affirmative reaction from those who unburden themelves DOES cause me to feel better about myself, so I try to remain open to the troubles of others even when I'm feeling overwhelmed by my own. Pauline got the impression that I was presenting my qualities as insignificant ones, but that really wasn't my intention. I was merely trying to say that I don't usually take risks when seeking approval, preferring to stick with the tried and true methods. Pauline says the implications of "less risk" are "lower returns," but I don't believe that has to be true. For me, the rewards are substantial.

Our hostess also questioned my use of the term "captive audience". She says "no one tied her to the chair." But, because of the friendship factor, we care about what each other feels, or has to say on a subject, which makes us a more receptive, rather than selective audience. Sure, we choose our friends because of qualities we find appealing in them, but I also believe it's true that we "hang in there" with people we care about more than we do with others we have a less vested interest in. That is not to say I think friends and family would be biased in reference to the QUALITY of my writing. However, I DO believe they would take the time to read what I write (regardless of its value) out of allegiance to our relationship. Strangers wouldn't do that. I'd have to reel them in with something worthwhile. And, if my journal failed to attract readers, or encouraged too much negative feedback, I'd feel it was a monumental waste of my time, and I'd be down on myself, not to mention feel inadequate.

The bottom line is, I believe external validation, whether being sought or offered, is valuable, even in the form of constructive criticism, provided it is administered with a gentle hand, and the motives are to help, rather than hurt. However, despite having difficulty putting this into practice myself, I do think Pauline is right when she says we have to learn to trust our own judgement and instincts, rather than allow ourselves to be too influenced by the opinion of others. Perhaps I would do well to bear in mind something Benjamin Franklin said: "The greatest monarch, on the proudest throne is [still] obliged to sit upon his own arse."

-- Stephanie (, March 07, 2001


-External INvalidation is something that should never occur, IMO. I looked up the definition of "validation" but didn't end up using it in the entry: this is part of it:

To declare or make legally valid. To mark with an indication of official sanction.

If we're talking about external validation by our peers (as opposed to teachers or someone in an official capacity) then who is to say whose opinion is more "official"? This makes steam come out of my ears...

-A pat on the back is more than nice! I wasn't trying to discount entirely the effect of the praise or disapproval of others; I was bemoaning the dependency on it that many have, or the tendency for those people to run their lives (or any part of their lives) with the thought of what others will think.

OK that's maybe a bit too idealistic; I still think many, if not most people carry this concern to an unhealthy extreme. Many examples come to mind but I won't list them here (yet?) :)

And yes I'm bestowing "external validation" on others.. when it applies to my children it's my JOB; when it applies to adults it's a sincere pleasure to communicate how I feel. Again the problem arises when others depend upon it and set too much store by it.

-Stephanie said, "Pauline says the implications of "less risk" are "lower returns," but I don't believe that has to be true. For me, the rewards are substantial." to which I reply, how much bigger might those rewards be if there was an element of risk, and you saw yourself jumping into the water (to beat the metaphor to death) and instead of sinking like a rock as you'd perhaps expect, triumphantly floating on the waves, enjoying the physical sensations, reaping the rewards and also being able to say, "I DID it!!!"

OK off the soapbox.. for now..

-- Paulineee (, March 07, 2001.

For the record, I applaud Pauline's contributions to "external validation," and her generosity with words of praise. Also, I agree that "the problem arises when others depend upon it and set too much store by it". But, I am concerned that the direction this discussion has taken appears to shed an unfavorable light on yours truly. It occurs to me that followers of this thread could conceivably get the wrong idea, and come to the conclusion that I am one of those people who run their lives according to what others think. That is simply not the case, although I will admit to frequently taking the opinion of others into consideration, and SOMETIMES being influenced by that opinion. However, I don't see that as something to be ashamed of. No one is right all the time, and I believe it is important to be open to all viewpoints, including those in direct opposition to our own. I would also like to clear up another possible misconception. While it is my PREFERENCE to "solicit favorable attention in ways that involve less risk to my already frail ego," that doesn't mean I NEVER take risks. Of course I do. But, I honestly don't think the rewards of risk-taking actions are more significant than those leaving less to chance. There might be a slightly greater sense of accomplishment, but not a tremendously appreciable difference in terms of a satisfying result. Not all of us are cut out to be thrill- seekers; some of us need to feel safe and secure. On the odd occasion that I have been talked into going on a roller coaster, or other amusement park rides, I don't disembark saying to myself: "I did it! Hurray for me!" Instead I think: "What a damn fool. That wasn't any fun at all, and I KNEW it wouldn't be!" Sometimes it pays to listen to our inner voice...

-- Stephanie (, March 07, 2001.

To Stephanie:

I'm sorry, I never meant to imply that YOU ran your life according to what other people think. I was thinking more of another close friend who once would not answer her front door to me because she hadn't yet put on her makeup. Why am I friends with her in the first place? Because she has a wonderful heart and has listened to me whine for countless hours, and got me through a difficult time several years ago. Yet, she's so insecure about her appearance that she runs her life around it.


Sure it's a plus to have an open mind and listen to other viewpoints, and even be capable of learning and changing one's mind. What I object to is when people don't trust their own senses but trust someone else's more.

As for risk-taking.. I'm not one to take physical risks at all; I realize I'm missing the thrill of bungee jumping or parasailing, but that's ok. The risks I'm talking about are baby steps risks; taking on an executive position on a committee for the first time; speaking to a group for the first time; stuff like that. (And I don't mean to imply that you haven't done these things - I actually have no idea whether or not you have.) They're risks that I've taken and succeeded at and still remember with pride. I'm not talking about thrill-seeking, but about stretching and growing!

But that's getting off the track. I don't really know whether higher risk leads to higher emotional returns in this sort of thing; as I said in email, I may have been reading the financial pages too long.

-- Pauline (, March 07, 2001.

Hi guys. Sorry I'm a little late on the draw here!

I think that it's usually very healthy to interpret your feelings as they occur, but the entire external validation thing is something that I struggled with for a very long time without even realizing what was happening.

I spent several years as a professional musician. I was a hornist, until severe nerve damage due to overuse put me out of commission. I haven't played in two years now. Looking back on my career after the fact, I was really surprised to realize how much I relied on the opinions of others to tell me how I was doing. I think I mentioned in an entry that I would sometimes catch myself making a point of walking by the conductor as I left a performace. I knew I'd done a great job, but I didn't really believe until the big sweaty Armenian man put one arm around me and said, "Julie, my dear! You did a fabulous job tonight!" Music was something that I had originally done because I loved it, but it turned into something else after a while.

That's the main reason I think I freaked out when I realized what was happening to me in regards to my journal. For me to be in the middle of a really fun experience and focusing not on the moment but on the reaction was too much like what had made music stop being fun. I don't want that to happen with the fun I get out of everyday events!

-- Julie Vandenboom (, March 12, 2001.

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