What’s your relationship with validation and praise? Do you seek it, sidestep or dismiss it?
And what’s the relationship between praise and ego?
Give the ego a fish, and you feed it for a day. Give the ego a fishing rod, and it will happily fish for compliments for a lifetime. It’s like feeding a teenage boy. The need for validation is insatiable. It’s like Hannah says to her serial womanizing friend Tom in the movie Maid of Honor,
I feel sorry for you that you have to validate yourself through insatiable-meaningless-ego-sport-sex.
We all have our ways of fishing for compliments.
A man walked in to a bar after a long day at work. As he began his drink, he heard a seductive voice say, “Hey handsome!” The man looked around but couldn’t see where the voice was coming from, so he went back to his drink.
A minute later, he heard the same voice say “You’ve got a great body!” The man looked around, but still couldn’t see where the voice was coming from.
When he went back to his drink, the voice said again “You’re a stud!” The man was so baffled by the seductive voice that he asked the bartender what was going on.
The bartender said “Oh, it’s the nuts–they’re complimentary.”
Its nuts the way we fish for compliments and desperately seek approval. It’s also nuts the way we shy from compliments and hide from who we are. These extreme responses are two sides of the one coin, both of them cunning plans to avoid accepting yourself.
Recently I played the card game “Imaginiff”. Each person draws a card with a scenario on it, and the rest of the group votes. So the card might say, “If so and so was a car what would she be? A Ferrari, Cruiser, Rolls Royce or Jalopy?” Then the rest of the group votes. Or if so and so was a dog, what would he be?
It’s an interesting test of your ego; to compare how other people see you to the way you see yourself and notice how you react to this realization. So when the question came up, “if Ian was a movie genre, what would he be? Action, comedy, teen romance or foreign?” I was a little miffed that no one saw me the way I see myself, in the action mold of Jason Bourne. Almost everyone picked “foreign.”
Maybe my accent left me no hope, but foreign films? With their slow moving, subtle plotlines, annoying subtitles and sultry sex scenes…..well I guess it’s not so bad. But I would prefer action.
I shouldn’t be surprised. It’s easy to forget that no one else is present in my Ludlumesque fantasies. They don’t hand out an Academy Award for best fantasy, although most of us are brilliant actors; playing the part of whoever we are pretending to be to avoid being ourselves. Its nuts to live this way, building up a false view of ourselves, expecting other people to read our minds and then feeling hurt when they don’t.
Imaginiff we could find peace with who we are and stop looking outside of ourselves for validation. Imagine the acceptance speech we would give at the dais of our true essence.
Imaginiff if you could be completely at ease with who you are and let others be who they are, knowing that it’s all changing all the time anyway. Personal offense wouldn’t feel so devastating if we took this compassionate and open view.
Imaginiff you could measure yourself, or as my 9 year old says “size yourself” with a Mary Poppins magic tape measure. The mark on the tape measure says, “Practically perfect in every way.”
If you saw yourself this way, you wouldn’t need to fish for compliments nor throw the compliments back and drive yourself nuts trying to prove that you’re either lovable or unlovable depending on your ego’s plan at the time.
Taking about nuts, there is a Peanuts cartoon where Charlie Brown is sitting on a bench about 50 yards away from 2 girls. The thought bubble says, “I wonder if they’re talking about me.” In the next caption he says, “I know they’re talking about me.” Then in the third caption he throws his hands in the air, “Why does someone always have to ruin my day.”
This is what we tend to do, mind reading and assuming and thinking the worst. To paraphrase Eleanor Roosevelt, “No one can ruin your day without your permission.” But how do you counter this tendency to take things personally?
There is a phrase you often hear in relation to not taking things personally. It is “having thick skin.” I know what people mean by this, but I think it’s the exact opposite of what we need. Is it really possible to thicken your skin without shutting down your humanity? Thick skin is another way of saying that you’re putting up walls. I think it’s far healthier to let your open pores take in everything that you’re feeling and sensing WITHOUT letting it crush you. Take it all in, but don’t buy into all of it. Feel it but don’t let it mean absolute and unchanging things about who you are. It’s the meaning you ascribe to feelings and sense that drives you nuts.
Trying to develop a thick skin plays right into the hands of the smallest version of yourself. It sends a clear message to your mind that you need walls and protection because people can’t be trusted and you can’t be loved. It’s far more effective to kill the ego with kindness.
Accept ALL of it without judgment; all the thoughts, feelings and sensations, including the thought to take things personally. Love it, smile at it and give it nothing to latch on to.
The more grounded you are in self appreciation, the less time you will spend looking for validation from the outside. Once you completely accept yourself the way you are, you accept others as they are. Then you no longer seek approval from others for being yourself. Best of all, by being yourself, you subconsciously give others permission to do the same. It’s a beautiful cycle of acceptance. As Oscar Wilde said,
To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance.