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Why I Seek Outside Validation

Why I Seek Outside Validation

The Inner World of an Adult Orphan


So I wrote my first article on a public forum.

When it was posted, I felt accomplished and gratified. I was proud of myself. I felt like I had a new status as a published author.

This grew almost into an obsession, as I found myself logging on countless times to check the comments, and feeling immensely pleased with every comment (regardless of the content).

The extent of my reaction to the article and the comments felt childish to me. Out of proportion.

I found myself logging on countless times to check the comments

Instead of trying to stop myself from obsessing, I tried to understand, What is it that I gain from having my words read and commented on by others whom I don’t even know? And how many readers do I need until that need will be filled?

I think reading the comments makes me feel valuable. My existence is confirmed. And somehow, although there are quite a few objective measurements—as well as loving people in my life—that should confirm the value and validity of my existence, it’s never enough.

But when I’m validated by people who are more distant from me, somehow, that “does” it for me. Then I feel whole.

I’m a teacher, and this plays out in my classroom too. I don’t just appreciate good feedback and get annoyed at negative behavior. I experience and internalize my students’ attention, or lack thereof, as the creation or destruction of me.

And for me, that goes right back to my orphanhood, which was the subject of my first article.

I look into the small, pleading eyes of my child. I feel palpably that more than anything else, he is asking me to confirm that he is. That he is worthy. That he matters.

If I don’t give him that, if I don’t show him that he matters, my child will actually consider himself a non-entity, having no reliable source confirming that he is.

This is what I feel when I look into the eyes of my child.

My father could not give me that basic confirmation that I am, that I matter. He passed away before he had enough time to do that for me.

So I look for compensation. I need to attach some tag to myself as “the guy who is good at X” or “the guy who does Y,” and I desperately hold on to that identity as a confirmation of my existence. I constantly check up on this created identity to make sure it is valid and intact.

I need to impress people. But that’s not enough. I need to outdo everyone else. And as soon as that fails to fill the void, I need a new source of outside validation . . . and on it goes.

I look for compensation

And I need the validation from strangers. Those close to me are real people with the real give-and-take of a relationship. They see the whole me, and I see the whole them. I know that they don’t admire me in an absolute way, because we interact in the context of my weaknesses, not only of my strengths. And since for me admiration is not just nice, but I feel dependent on it, I need it to be absolute.

The stranger appreciating me fills my void. He’s just there to confirm my validity, and there is nothing else to the relationship to risk.

Not so with my intimate relationships, which are fraught with all the good, bad and ordinariness of myself, the part of me that is nothing more than—albeit nothing less than—a human being.

So where do I go from here?

Our sages say that at the very place where you find the greatness of G‑d, that is where you find His humility.1

The Arizal explains that G‑d created the world because He wanted to do good for His creations.2

In chassidut, it is emphasized numerous times that the creation of the world is not the main (or defining) factor of G‑d.3

My understandingWe interact in the context of my weaknesses of these statements is as follows:

One way to appreciate an individual is by learning about his achievements and unique capabilities. Which is why some flaunt their accomplishments, to show others who they are and to demonstrate that they are deserving of esteem.

There is no one who can compete with the awesome capabilities of the Creator of all achievers and achievements.

However, what seems to us awesome and unfathomable is to G‑d insignificant—to the extent that He “humbled” Himself, “moved away” from His true greatness, and “lowered” Himself to invest in creation.

Achievements which would seem to us great enough for anyone to want to be defined by are not a definition of G‑d, but rather a concealment of His true infinite greatness. So that which seems to us a display of His greatness is in reality an expression of His humility.

So what motivates Him to do this?

To do good to His creatures.

G‑d wanted to be kind to others, and that is why He created others, to be kind to them. He wanted there to be an “other” that was specifically NOT Him, and then relate and give to that “other.”

Perhaps, if G‑d was (G‑d forbid . . . ) lacking something, I’d say He turned to creation not for our sake, but for His. But G‑d is complete, and infinitely beyond creation. He did it for us. He engaged in the relationship with us for our sake.

Kindness. Humility. Defining factor.

What message does this contain for my life and for my journey?

If I’m lacking a secure identity, and I need to help other people as a way to find validation, then I’m not invested in kindness, but self-service.

How do I reach this level of security and calm?

If I’m secure, I can give to others with ease. For their sake. I don’t need to worry how they react, and to what extent they will admire me. This action is for THEM. I’m not helping to define myself in some way or to elicit their love, I’m just helping them.

But how do I reach this level of security and calm?

By internalizing that I am but a creation of a whole and perfect G‑d, who is self-sufficient and the source of all other things. I have Him, and if my relationship with Him is right, or at least I’m journeying in that direction, I need not be anxious about anyone else.

And then I can be truly kind, compassionate and giving to others. I don’t need to worry about myself.

We are taught, “Just as He is compassionate, so shall you be compassionate.”4 Perhaps this could be interpreted as, my compassion needs to be like His compassion. Free, for the sake of the recipient, and not compelled by my need for outside validation.

Really, this is almost idle fantasy for me. I don’t have that relationship with G‑d. I don’t have a faith which is true and tangible enough to enable me to actually feel less dependent on others, and less worried about my circumstances.

This is almost idle fantasy for me

Amazingly, however, when I commit to behavior that fits with this way of thinking, even if I’m not actually feeling that way, I’m redeemed from the intensity of my dependency and anxiety.

When I’m anxious about how my class will go, and I mentally tell myself, “This is not to impress them, it is to help them in any way I can,” I feel capable of truly teaching and inspiring. And the same goes for so many other little encounters in my day-to-day experiences.

Though my father and mother have “abandoned” me, and I don’t feel anchored and secure, G‑d, and my commitment to Him, will gather me in.5

Pesikta Zutresa, Eikev.
Eitz Chayim, Shaar Haklalim 1.
Torah Ohr 98b.
Jerusalem Talmud, Peah, 5:1.
Paraphrased from Psalms 27:10.
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karen February 21, 2015

I like your article. Now a days it is difficult to find sincere and honest people, you were with feeling of genuineness and your true self. I am afraid sometimes to be transparent and show who we really are. I pray that expression of self would be more free and less of the hurt. God bless! Reply

yochanan February 20, 2015

it is also worth noting that we are usually very caring people and whilst many people tell us not to seek acceptance from others as a way to feel good about ourselves we must remember that we are caring people and being selfish also is not a solution.

In this world being a caring person is a challenge, and we must adhere to our values in the face of criticism and abuse from others, after all this is why G-d is with us, adhering to our Good values is adhering to G-d.

do not betray yourself and your values, i am treated as a stupid person in england because i try to do what is right by G-d.

in the 60's and 70's many people try to find themselves by doing art etc and i didn't understand this as no person seemed happier because of this, but what i understand now is that to find yourself is to find your Good values as your values are who you are.

Shalom Aleichem

yochanan Reply

LWHH Costa Rica February 20, 2015

When you step back and serve others with the result being pointed toward them, then you will be validated. It is proof that G-d is living through you, in you, and around you. It is a profound, yet humbling experience. It's when you know you are not only validated, but loved. I think its called "Let Go and Let G-d". Reply

Anonymous February 19, 2015

I can relate I think.
I will write a few words of "wisdom" and then reread my comment several times in pride at how "wise" I am. Even as I write this, I am embarrassed by it.
For me your lesson rings with Truth. When we do for others we truly emulate G-d. And how can one have anxiety when one is emulating G-d?
The self only matters when it is in service of another.
Peace to you, friend. Thank you for writing this. Reply

Patricia February 19, 2015

Re: a suggestion for a vdieo to watch Dov, All these comments are cheerful, and since I've been doing some thought I have come to realize I am other-directed and think I internalize that that is outer when there is comparison made to other people. I also will add that the video I suggest doesn't help in the way of stopping others from being controlling just manipulating and the video does help with my self-control. Thx once again for your article! I'm a Noahide. Reply

yochanan February 19, 2015

i had similar, and i found that i too needed to be accepted to feel good about myself and this is natural, however, this can be done to much and a person said to me that whenever you have a problem, i.e how you feel, ask yourself who are you trying to please.

Shalom Aleichem Reply

Anonymous February 19, 2015

I guess I know exactly how you feel. But my experience is just the other way around. May because I am a female. I had a wonderful relationship with my father and was always very fond of him. I know it is not done ro say some of these things but I never had a relationship with my mother. Not even a good one. She used to ignore me and I was always jealous of other girls who did nice things with their mon and I really missed that in life. They both passed away now and I remember very clearly that I was very sad when my dad passed away but never shed a tear when my mon died. Sad isn't it. I don't make the same mistakes she made. At least I tried not to. Reply

Feigele Boca Raton FL February 18, 2015

The secret is to let go of “yourself”! The secret is to let go of “yourself”! Too much time has been lost in reminiscing of the past. I too had my share of pain, but it’s a long story. Yearning for lack of acknowledgment is not valuable as oppose to spend all that time being more productive and beneficial to all around you including yourself. One lesson you should learn from the past is that it is all up to you to make it a better life. Time runs fast don’t let your better years pass you by. Reply

Tami Podell February 18, 2015

Hello Dov,
I really appreciate the vulnerability you express and sharing it.
I agree with the previous comments that to some degree, I suppose we all do things for validation or ulterior motives.
Staying focused on doing whatever we are doing with others is FOR the other seems like it would much more effective and,, ultimately, it has inherent gratification in it when done with that pure motivation..
Thanks for that article. Reply

Anonymous Cape cod February 18, 2015

Whoops! I did it again! What a great article! I've been struggling with this issue for years in psychotherapy. I don't think I've really made much progress. I still feel like a "mistake" because my mother told me I was. I still feel unworthy and need constant validation from strangers. Until I read your article, I thought I was the only one who struggled with this. Maybe I should skip the therapy and just pray to G-d to help me feel worthy and authentic! Oops! By posting this aren't I once again seeking validation from strangers? LOL! I just never learn!! least I'm posting it anonymously! Reply

SameHere February 18, 2015

I also search for compensation The faith promised me a girl and has failed to deliver for the last 20 years, so I look for someone much better than I would get otherwise in order to validate that the good of the faith is on par with all that it has been claiming throughout my life. I hear everything bad happens for a reason. Maybe it has withheld her from me all these years so it can deliver someone amazing like a supermodel but I'm far from inspired at the moment. Reply

SKM UK February 18, 2015

Validation Sometimes in life you are surrounded by people who judge you by their own negative, misconstrued perspective, yet they are convinced by their opinion. From spouses to your own children, parents, siblings, friends, it can be this constant negative validation even in jest. Once when I was starting out as a teacher, I had an observation and the man who observed me, really arrogantly, told me, I think your teaching is inadequate. Those words almost destroyed me, they took my soul to a very low place. I lay in bed totally defeated by a life filled with negative validation. Suddenly I remembered the words of a Rabbi on a flight to Israel, he said, where ever you are, read Torah and Tehillim, because you might have been the only person in that place. I thought this pit of negativity is a real place, I picked up my Chumash and read. The light from the Torah shone so bright it changed my whole life, the void became Torah filled. This month I was OFSTED observed as good to outstanding teacher. Reply

Anonymous Israel February 18, 2015

Turn to Hashem I can relate to a need for outside confirmation and was essentially seeking that from others, not always in the best ways. But no other human being can really make up for what you didn't get from your parents. However, I then turned to G-d and asked HIM for that confirmation, to "re-parent" me, because that was the one place I could legitimately ask. Along the way He tested me and took me on a very unexpected path into Judaism (I was then a Christian) but He also blessed and helped me greatly, even to the extent of directly showing me that all there is is G-d and that He loves me in an amazing experience that also gave me immense security. Nowadays life is very good and fulfilling. Turn to Hashem for the validation you need and ask Him for it. He will give it in whatever ways are right for you and will also test you and help you grow and help you do what parents are supposed to do - help you to be able to stand on your own two feet as the unique human being that you are. Reply

Anonymous Canada February 17, 2015

Thank you for writing my thoughts exactly. And thank you for providing the solution, which works for me when I remember to think that way. My parents went through the war. So I was fortunate to have parents growing up, and one is still living. However, having been raised fighting for survival instead of having a childhood, my parents and others like them did not know about validating at all. They only knew about "what we must do." So, your article surely spoke to me. And I thank you for writing it so well. To John from Wichita: My heart goes out to you! May I suggest that you seek help to learn how to let go. A tall order indeed, to put it mildly. However, letting go is the portal to inner freedom, and the portal to accepting the following absolute truth: The Almighty's entire purpose for the universe can not be completed unless you were born. How do I know? Because He decided that you should be born. He made no mistake. It was as deliberate as G-d is deliberate, far more than we can be Reply

Rena February 17, 2015

I identify with your need for validation even though I was not orphaned as a child. I think it's a universal experience. We all want to know that our work is valuable and appreciated. When we get appreciation for our work we're motivated to produce more of it. Reply

Dan February 17, 2015

Wow! You totally described me. I don't know that I related to any other person or article as much as I related to you in this piece. Thank you so much for sharing and encouraging me in my journey. Reply

Samuel Italy February 17, 2015

Wonderful! Reply

Patricia Vancouver February 17, 2015

a suggestion for a video to watch I have no idea if this could help, as it did for me-a video done by Shmuly Rothman on titled "Are you in control? Don't be manipulated by others." He is an educator for the Aleph Institute. I am other-directed and every day am looking for a direction that comes - using my mind, and aware of my heart, you know--inner direction. This video helps one to have the tools and technique in the helpful comments for not allowing people to control one. the video is done for prison chaplains. I'm not involved myself, but this video helped me with my own stuff. Thx. Reply

David W. February 17, 2015

Thank you! Reply

appreciative Pittsburgh February 16, 2015

Thank you for sharing The journey (and it's vulnerability) adds weight to your eventual resolution - which is actionable.

thank you for sharing - and for a helpful, enjoyable read. Reply

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