-recognition or affirmation that a person or their feelings or opinions are valid or worthwhile.
This definition has pretty much been my whole life in a sentence. It has taken me 46 years to understand this. Well, I didn’t see it really. My friend Jerry pointed it out in a roundabout way. I’m writing a novel and the main character Samantha is a bit of a mess, but what 22-year-old girl isn’t?
My friend is one of the beta readers for this book and at three quarters of the way through the novel he gave me an insight about Sam. He said that she only asserts herself to one person when she has the validation from another and doesn’t the character realize that validation comes from within. It comes without fanfare, but as a whisper. Insert a punch in the face here.
At the time, I thought this was a very perceptive idea of him to see in the character, especially since he hates feelings. But the comment continued to poke me with a pin. For those of you who have taken on the monumental task of writing a novel, you know that some portion of ourselves get seeded in the characters. We write about what we know from experience and then dress it up. I may have unwittingly added a character trait I wasn’t aware of.
This comment is tacked up on a sticky note in front of my computer. I see it everyday. I started thinking about how much this pertains to me personally. The social distancing has made me get real close with myself and yesterday my mind was on overdrive having not left the house for anything the day before. Trying to banish this idea of validation from my mind, I did yoga which only made it bigger. Then I went for a muddy long hike and it got bigger still until I decided that I just had to deal with it.
I picked myself apart on that hike. I know where the need for validation comes from. I practically begged for it from my mother and didn’t ever hear she was proud of me until I was 27… when I had a baby. Out of all the things I had accomplished in the world, she was proud of human biology. I heard it once more a few years later when I graduated nursing school. I think this hunt for validation made me susceptible to poor choices in romantic situations. I had missed a lifetime of being noticed and I had to make it up somewhere.
That’s right. I’m accepting the blame for all my failed relationships. I made choices. I can’t blame anyone else. The only common denominator was me.
Since 2007, I haven’t had a boyfriend that has lived locally (initially) and all of them had either significant mental health issues or were alcoholics or both. Essentially, they were replicas of my mother. Here I was searching for the validation I never got from her in anyone that was willing to get close to me. All of those relationships ended badly and left me feeling just as alone as I had as a child.
I think realizing this will provide an interesting lens in which to view my novel when it is time to edit. I am one and a half chapters away from finishing. I think understanding this validation component will change me as a writer and as a woman. I feel like there are still more layers to go.
Here I go, whispering to myself, “I’m proud of you.”