The truth is, we as human beings, all like validation. We like others to tell us that we look nice, smell nice, feel nice -- or that we have lost weight or changed our hair or had our nails done or have amazing new shoes. At first glance, one might think this is normal behavior because after all, who wouldn't want to receive a compliment?! But the other truth to this story is that it often times goes much deeper than this, and that's when (unresolved) issues start coming up. The divorce rate in this country is up near 50 percent if I have my statistics correct -- and I can't help but think it has something to do with how we are connecting and relating to other people and more importantly, how we are relating with ourselves.
I recently started taking vitamins and supplements again, and my homeopathic doctor reminded me that I should only take the vitamins 5-6 days a week instead of taking them every day. I asked why, of course, because in my opinion, why shouldn't I boost my immune system with vitamin super powers every single day? He told me that if I began to rely on vitamins every day of the week, that over time my body would "forget" how to produce the vitamins on its own. Meaning, my body would become to used to the vitamins being pumped in every day that it would get a little lazy and stop functioning at full capacity. While his answer made logical sense and didn't surprise me, it did get me thinking about how this could be a metaphor for other areas of my life, such as my relationships with other people.
Up until very recently, I was in a long-term relationship that was going on five years. Yes, we were happy on the surface level and looked like "the happy couple" to most of our friends and even our family. One of the things I loved most about this man was that he was constantly "validating" me by telling me how good I looked every single day. For years and years, I loved this. I loved to constantly hear him say sweet and flattering things to me about my body, my eyes, my lovely and amazing personality. In fact, it really never got old. I loved every second of it and am fully comfortable admitting that! But after years of being together and seeing each other all the time, he seemed to sometimes "forget" to say these things. At first I pretended that I didn't notice and told myself that I didn't need him to say those things in order to feel or believe them about myself. But after a while, I started to really doubt myself and fell into the belief that without him constantly telling me these things about myself, that they actually weren't true. I began to lose self-confidence and I could feel my self-esteem sinking lower and lower on days where he didn't compliment me or tell me how beautiful I looked. And sooner than later, I became aware of the fact that I was actually addicted to hearing these statements to the point where I almost felt like I couldn't function without this validation. I wanted to be affirmed by someone else in order to feel worthy of being me.
In this particular relationship, things did end for a multitude of reasons, though I fully admit that this was one of them. Any man would eventually tire of these demands, and my partner was no exception. And in the few months following our break-up, I began my inner work of truly believing and validating myself. I no longer had someone on the other side of the bed or across the table from me night after night, telling me I was pretty or skinny or that I had the sexiest laugh. In fact, all I had at that point (since I had decided to take a much needed break from dating) was myself and the relationship I had created with myself, which clearly needed some TLC. I, like most women, had fallen into the pattern of looking outside myself to be affirmed that who I am inside is worthy and beautiful. I fell into the pattern of wanting, needing, and then demanding that I constantly have my partner remind me over and over how special I am. I got so used to having him say these things and having him to "make me feel better" on those tough days, that I seemed to forget how to do this for myself. In other words, I was relying on my partner to be my "emotional vitamin" and supply my emotional self with all the validation and affirmation and love that I felt I needed. I stopped doing it for myself and over time, I forgot how. I missed my fix. I wanted my daily dose of energy that would last me a full 24 hours and provide me with all the emotional nutrients I needed.
Because I had made a commitment to remain single and work through these issues with myself, I didn't have anywhere to run. I could have jumped right into another relationship and started the same pattern all over again with someone else. I could have decided it was too hard to face my relationship with myself and go inside to see what was misfiring. But I didn't. I knew that if I ever wanted to be happy, fulfilled, and truly confident, that I had to start in myself -- and yes, that meant being my own vitamin. It soon became my job to fill in the gaps of my confidence or self-esteem that I had let someone else do for so many years. It felt like starting over in the sense that first I had to play damage control with myself and see where things went awry. I had to stop taking my vitamins and allow my emotional self to "remember" how to love myself and validate who I am inside. I had to take the courageous steps to come up with my own antioxidant recipe that would fuel me to thrive.
Almost nine months later, I can say that my relationship with myself has improved enormously! I am still not dating, which is partly because I am a bit worried that it's too soon and I may fall back into the same pattern, but the other part is that I actually like who I am when I am not constantly seeking outside myself to fill in voids. I actually enjoy spending this sacred and blessed time with myself as I learn how to navigate the waters of my own emotions and emotional needs. And an even bigger part of feels me liberated! I no longer feel like I am emotionally chained to men (or anyone else) to feel validated or worthy of myself. I don't need someone to hold me all night or take me to dinner or whisper "I love you" in my ear all day. The beauty of being on my own is that I get to do that with myself. Yes, I get to. I don't have to. It's a choice. I can easily choose something else but day in and day out, I choose the path that is going to take me closer and closer to independence, not just as a woman, but as a soul.
When it comes down to it, it's in our nature to want to hear nice things. It's in our nature to want to take a pill or a powder that will magically make us feel better and improve our mood or performance or even our health. But after time, this will wear off and what we will have left is an opportunity to go deeper into our self and see what's there, with our own eyes. We can't go on forever seeing ourselves through the eyes of someone else. Marriages end -- we have living proof of that here in the United States. And I absolutely do want to be married some day, but the type of marriage I want is one that allows me to also be one with myself. I agree that in relationships it's beautiful to be able to meet each other in the middle and help each other out, but for me, that inner validation has to come from inside. I need to know how to fuel myself on those days where I want nothing more than to crawl back under the covers and hide. And what a beautiful thing it will be to bring that into my next relationship so that I can truly hold my own and fully be myself, no matter what my partner does or doesn't say to me. Because whatever is said to me will be in addition to how I already feel about myself. It's as if, in addition to the vitamins, I am doing things every day to take care of myself, such as eating a balanced diet and getting plenty of veggies. It isn't "bad" that someone compliments me, especially when I am doing all the things I can do for myself to truly believe in myself and believe the words someone else is saying. It's about balance and finding a middle ground, and my middle ground happens to right smack in the middle of my chest, in the shape of a heart. It's from there that everything else can just be what it is because I am one with myself.
For more by Robin Hoffman, click here.
For more on emotional wellness, click here.
Follow Robin Hoffman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/StepintoSoul