When we consistently suppress and distrust our intuitive knowingness, looking instead for authority, validation, and approval from others, we give our personal power away.
External validation is the seeking of approval from others. We all do it at least some of the time. We need people to affirm that we’re good, capable, beings. We’re smart, funny, and beautiful. We’re hard-working, accepting, and athletic. In short, we need people to tell us we’re awesome.
And the more we need this approval of others, the more power we give away. The more power we give away, the more unhappiness we drag into our lives. We end up living our lives for others. We give them power over us.
Earlier in my life, I required almost constant external validation. It took me a long time to recognize it. It took even longer to try to fix it. It’s a constant work in progress. No matter how hard we try, we’ll always do some stuff to garner external validation.
Take blogging as an example. As much as I write for my own personal reasons, there’s a part of me that still gets external validation from blogging. I check my traffic numbers about once a week. Why? It makes me feel good that people are reading my stuff. And that good feeling comes at a price… I’m more inclined to write about topics that appease the audience instead of the topics that truly interest me.
A few weeks ago, I started the BRUcrew online group. The object was to present a series of “challenges” that would push the comfort zone of those that chose to partake. It was about overcoming fears. Many of the challenges have involved social situations. The goal is to threaten our source of external validation, which forces us to rely on internal validation. If we can get 100% of our affirmations from ourselves, we enjoy a Hell of a lot more personal freedom. The more personal freedom we enjoy, the more we can engage in the activities that truly excite us. The more exciting lives we lead, the happier we’ll be. It’s quite simple.
Many of the BRUcrew challenges have been things that a very specific fears I personally harbor. The latest one (#16) was to DNF a race at the finish line. This would force us to forgo most external validation- no medals, no finisher’s shirt, no online race results, no PR, no cheering from the crowd, no RD telling us we did a good job… whatever. It forces us to ask ourselves “Why the fuck did I just run this race?”
The answer, of course, must be an internal validation.
Shelly and I ran the San Diego Trail Marathon yesterday. From the very start, I planned on DNFing at the finish. The course was an out-and-back. From the turn-around point, I continually envisioned how the finish would go down. It was a small race, so I couldn’t just blend in with the crowd and slip around the finish chute. As I considered all the possible scenarios, I found myself pondering the reaction from others. As much as I would like to think I’ve come a long way toward the goal of not needing external validation, the prospects of DNFing made me nervous, which was really fear. What would people think?
After a few miles of wallowing in that fear, I came to my senses. I recognized I was considering not DNFing because of the very fear that created the challenge. At that point, I knew I had to DNF to regain the power over that fear. I had to confront it.
And I did.
And it was awesome!
Paul, the RD, met us at the finish. I asked him to DNF me. He asked why. I simply responded that it was a personal growth exercise. Many of the people that watched the finish wondered why I didn’t finish like most normal people would. Some were clearly judging me. A few people asked. I just shrugged and didn’t give an explanation.
The fun continued later last night. I made an offhand comment about banditing to a lady on the course (see yesterday’s post), which started a funny Facebook debate about the merits of banditing. At some point, my friend Vanessa commented that she would be disappointed if I did bandit the race. She assumed I had bandited the race. Instead of setting the record straight, I gave a vague answer. It was another exercise in needing external validation.
Vanessa is a dear friend. Old Jason would have immediately taken steps to assure she wouldn’t be disappointed in me. I would either have denied banditing or given ample justification for banditing. I did neither. I let her disapproval dangle out there. I was forcing myself to be okay with a close friend being disappointed in my behaviors. I was intentionally ignoring her ability to provide external validation.
The goal of these activities is to teach myself to stop relying on others for validation. It’s always a work in progress, but each baby step is a move in the right direction. Each challenge gets me a little closer to achieving self-worth independence.
The cool thing- the quest to free myself of the need for external validation acts as a bit of a filter that attracts people that don’t need external validation and repels people that do. The net result is the creation of a community of friends that’s pretty much free of people that are easily offended, excessively needy, and closed-minded. There’s a pretty good chance that if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’re not someone that needs a lot of external validation. Of course, it’s not a surprise given barefoot running itself is usually a good indicator of one’s need for external validation.
What do you think? Has anyone else went through a similar journey from high external validation needs to low external validation needs? Share your story in the comments!