Saturday, October 03, 2009

External Validation is Over-Rated

"The unexamined life is not worth living." -Socrates

I find myself doing most of the examining of my life while driving, and this morning was no exception as I was on my way to my Saturday Master Mind group. My examining lit upon the subject of external validation.

As I drove east on Main Avenue this morning, I wondered why even as a 40-something "adult," I still sometimes realize I'm seeking outside myself for approval or acceptance. I know better, but sometimes I notice that I've made that mean more than it should.

For me the challenge - which I accept happily - is feeling what I feel without judgment. I remember as a kid and later as a young adult learning to stuff my feelings and think my way through every challenge. Consequently I became a great thinker - but I lost some of my empathy regarding others and myself during those years.

It's interesting how selective my memory is when reflecting on those years. I'm sure there were many and varied messages coming my way, but I seem to fixate on the memories of those comments that somehow implied I was wrong, or I shouldn't do or think or say or feel something I obviously felt compelled to do or think or say or feel. Why I gave up my own opinions to others during those years is beyond me now, but I did.

Now, with heightened awareness, I definitely KNOW better, but don't always DO better. Thus the dilemma.

Why do I still find myself at times looking for validation or appreciation or approval from people who can't - or don't know how - to give it? And why do I discount the many, many places I DO receive that appreciation and validation? And, the biggest question of all: why the need for external validation at all?

I find that I'm a verbal processor, so I am a huge fan (personally) of Master Minding: getting together on a regular basis with like-minded and like-hearted folks who I trust to listen objectively when I need to verbally process and give me honest feedback - and feedforward - when I request it (and even when I don't, but need it anyway!). It's not always easy for a recovering perfectionist to hear that I may not have it all figured out all the time, but that's what growth is all about.

Of course, the goal is to get to the point where questioning and processing is no longer necessary - to the point where knowing what I know is enough. But until that time, I'll trust that my own personal growth plan will give me more wisdom so that I can be the best coach and facilitator I can be. I understand more and more that that is one of my gifts, and I just want to be able to provide that for more and more individuals and organizations - and be well compensated for it - so together we really can change the world.

As we improve our communication skills at work and at home, more and more of us will get to that place of just knowing - where we don't have to work so hard to convince people of our point of view, but are open to learning from each other.

The process of waking up is a slow one for me, but gratefully it's a continuous one!

"Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes." -Carl Jung