On seeking validation

posted by Jeff | Friday, January 19, 2024, 12:00 PM | comments: 0

One of the things that stands out as a parent of a teenager is that they require a lot of validation. A lot. This is not a new discovery by any means, more of a reminder to me. It makes me aware that I'm not great at it, for a lot of reasons. But it also got me to thinking about the role of validation in my own life. I think I'm mildly angry about it.

Like any teen, I desperately wanted to be validated, recognized and seen. I think that's pretty normal at that age. I've never been one to keep score in life, but looking back at those days, I did not get a lot of validation from anyone really, including the people who should have been doing it. There were two adults at school who regularly got involved with me (and a number of volleyball coaches), and I think that's why I turned out OK. But mostly, I waited for validation that never came.

In college, I think I transitioned to a place where I just didn't seek validation, because I still wasn't getting it. I made up in my mind that I wasn't going to get it, so just do all the things and let the outcomes be my validation. For example, I did a lot of stuff outside of regular class work my first year, and I did get an award for that, but the more I did after that, the less it seemed to matter to anyone. (This is where another autism retrospect indicates that a lot of me feeling like a flawed personality was hitched to my wiring, and it's regrettable that it involved a lot of self-loathing.) When I got into the professional world, I just pushed ahead to get where I wanted to be. Those arrival points were my validation, despite hearing nary a "good job."

In my middle-age reflection stage, I'm looking back and thinking, wait... I've accomplished a lot of things. I've done really great jobs at stuff. Why have I so infrequently been validated by others for this? Does it matter? Depends on the context.

I think this sort of depends. For my hobby and leisure things, I am deeply uncomfortable about getting any recognition. I was in a social situation some years ago where a few people credited the online communities I started for bringing them together. While I'm happy to hear that, for some reason it's uncomfortable to receive that message. But in terms of jobs, and I've had a lot of them, I have rarely been validated for the work that I've done. That's a little odd seeing as how jobs are transactional; I get paid for what I achieve. But when I think about how I operate as a leader, I'm constantly giving positive feedback for achievement. I'm a goddam cheerleader in that role. Unfortunately, I don't feel like I've had that for me.

Professional validation comes in many forms, but the most basic are verbal acknowledgment and monetary reward. The industry that I work in is weird, because people are very much treated like cogs, interchangeable at any time, but also paid relatively well. But from a satisfaction standpoint, not getting either form of validation is a bummer. I haven't really thought about it until more recently. It bothers me.

There's another post at some point about motivation and intent. I'm not going to claim any typicality here, being neuroatypical. Not seeking validation as an adult could be environmental for me, but it could also be related to ASD. Validation has never been the primary reason for doing much of anything for me, as I intend to lean on intrinsic motivators.


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