Day 528: The Value of Validation

Recent circumstances have reminded me a lot of my childhood and I have been pondering my past experiences in terms of how my dad would approach certain situations. I remember him always being the same in this respect, up until his death last year.

The point I have been mulling around in my head is centered on validation, and what the effects of it are on a child.

The memories of my dad congratulating me or saying "well done" are small in number. When I was a child my reaction was that somehow he wasn't interested, but now as I look back this feeling was simply born from the fact that every other adult in my life would congratulate me on successfully completing even the most menial of tasks. Now I cannot answer at this moment with absolute proof the question of "what came first?" (the chicken or the egg?) in terms of a child's desire for validation: does the parent create this desire or is it inherently present in our DNA. At this point it is most likely a part of our DNA, although what I have seen for myself is that our DNA is not set in stone. The development (or non-development) of the desire for validation would not spontaneously manifest simply because there is a genetic predisposition - the environment must contribute by creating events that cause the child to recognise that validation is in some way a "good thing", like a reward.

Obviously just because we feel rewarded or "good" about something doesn't mean that it is actually "good" for us. What I have come to recognise from my own childhood is that all the rewarding and congratulations that I got for every little thing I did caused me to start doing things not because I enjoyed them, but because I wanted that positive feeling of being rewarded.

So back to my memories of my dad: he did not say "well done" for the things that I apparently enjoyed doing. For example, when I was a girl I went to a horse riding school and competed in a little event. I perceived that my dad showed no interest in my little tournament - but in reality I was supposed to be doing this because I wanted to - because I enjoyed it - but my experience became more about wanting to get recognition for doing this thing that was supposed to be just about me having a good time. In this respect, the constant validation that children get creates the outcome of the child no longer doing things out of self enjoyment, but out of a desire for that positive feeling from being told how fantastic they are.

In terms of my own experience, I can now clearly see the benefit of my dad's actions. He only would congratulate me or tell me he was proud when I actually accomplished something of note, and even that was not so much a "congratulations" but more of an acknowledgement of what I had done and a reflective discussion. I have to almost laugh - it is so difficult to describe how he would talk to you and bring such clarity to a point - I feel as though my words fall short. He encouraged me to do what I enjoyed simply because I enjoyed it. He did not tell me how great I was for actually doing something, he would just say "cool" - while on the other hand every other adult kept pushing the "well done" button, not realizing that in doing so they were creating the perfect habitat for dependance to take hold, which causes the desire for validation to outweigh the point of self expression.

In recent days I have been becoming more and more aware of how so much of our interactions with each other comes from the point of validating each other. Like with every other thing, the reason for this is simple: reciprocation. If I tell people that they are great, they will most likely tell me that I am great, so fulfilling my desire for validation. If I tell other people that I value them, they are more likely to tell me that they value me, so fulfilling my desire to be appreciated. We do not do things because we enjoy them, we do things that we determine will bring us the most positive feedback. We do not act according to the principle of "do unto another as you would like to be done unto you", we do things that will most benefit our self image. Obviously your self image depends on other people validating you constantly and your self image has become one of the most important things in your life because your entire childhood was about how fantastic you were.

In reflection, a child is so susceptible to developing the desire to make their parents (or other loved ones) happy because the entire design of growing up is based on the observing and internalizing of the environment with the goal of fitting in (in a very basic sense). The child becomes happy when the parent is happy, and the child becomes happy when the parent, whom the child loves dearly and respects completely (for a while at least), tells the child that they are magnificent. I am not saying that validation is "good" or "bad" - it is simply a tool we use in our relationships, but unfortunately it has been used in such a way that causes so many children today to be more focused on making other people proud than on their own direction and enjoyment in life.


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