Most of my successes are silent, seen only by me. Nobody sees me tweak a song all day, edit a story until it’s done, listen to my music until 2am in the morning trying to figure out if it’s cohesive, go through my old notebooks finding lyrics, poetry, material to work with…
Seeking outside validation is a crap shoot and bound for failure if that’s the only driving mechanism. It’s faulty and based on unpredictable and uncontrollable outside things, namely people. And each person in this world has their own goal, a priority of themselves first above all else.
Because I grew up with a father who was a local musician, admired in many circles, I always felt like I was living in shadows of someone more talented and bigger than myself. I started playing music when I was very young, and picked up the guitar at 13, knowing full well music was something I wanted to pursue, but somehow, I didn’t learn how to validate myself, because I always felt like someone was better. After my dad, there was a guy friend who was amazingly hot and talented at the guitar who I felt always criticized me. I wanted him to appreciate and respect my songs so badly, just like I maybe wanted my dad to look at me and say, “Damn, my daughter is super talented.”
After that boy, there was a string of other men I let become my harsh internal critic, and I constantly sought out their approval, in an endless empty desire to fill myself with someone else’s validation. I spent years searching for that better-than-me musician or writer who would make me real, like the velveteen rabbit, just begging for someone to consider me as an item worth handling.
I don’t know, maybe the Velveteen Rabbit story is another in a string of societal myths of outside validation making you real that set me up to be endlessly disappointed and searching for something more. I’ll have to take a look at that.
At 31 years old, I think I’m finally aware of the pattern enough to realize that I can only seek validation from my self, anything else is icing on the cake. I can connect with people, I can share what I’m doing with them, but I can’t expect them to make me feel better about my work or what I do. They can’t make me real. I am real, but I need to see it before I can even accept that anyone else can see it.
I’m not sure what it is that separates those who are majorly successful in the worlds eyes from those who are mildly successful, seems to me the talent is often there in both cases, but sometimes, those that are more successful simply believe in their work to a level that allows them to never back down. They don’t hide their art under a rock as soon as they perceive the slightest rejection.
One of my biggest lessons in life has been learning to accept myself and my own art, and not look to people who I admire or look up to to tell me I “have it” or don’t. It’s hard, it’s like drugs. I crave attention and connection and understanding, and I get so tired of trying to give it to myself all the time. It’s like living in the middle of a desert, patting yourself on the back for managing to bleed cactuses for water so you don’t die of thirst. It gets old, congratulating yourself for simply being able to survive.
“Knowledge, ultimately, means perspective. There’s knowing something and then knowing it. Another Taoist saying is that “you have to not know you know anymore.” That’s the hardest part. Because you can get real real smart. If you get stoned or high on a spring morning, or you’re fucking or in love–whatever it is that does it for you–it’s, ‘Ah, I know! There it is!.’ But it’s a bubble. It bursts. And when the bubble bursts, you’re right back where you were with your habit and your weaknesses and your fears and your loneliness and your lies and your stupidities and all the rest of it, stumbling through life and not really knowing what the fuck is going on…“
“I thought I would stand myself a little dinner. I hadn’t quite enough sense to know what I really wanted was human companions. There aren’t such things. Every man is eternally alone. But when you get mixed up with a fairly decent crowd, you forget that appalling fact for long enough to give your brain time to recover from the acute symptoms of its disease–that of thinking.“
–Diary of a Drug Fiend/Aleister Crowley
Seems that’s the eternal equation. We need to validate ourselves, but we want outside validation. So we have to go ahead and validate ourselves in spite of our wants. Because being human means wanting, and wanting is a disease in and of itself. I know I have an endless want monster inside. I get a little bit of validation and attention and suddenly I want more. I stop taking care of myself as soon as I realize I can get a balm from someone else, but then I always come back to me again and find that I need to get my own damn balm, even though it’s harder and it’s seemingly thankless and it takes longer and it gets so tiring taking care of myself all of the time because frankly, I’m a lot to handle, and I spread myself thin just trying to manage my own moods and desires and abilities all of the time.
But hey, that’s life.
So the moral of this story is: Validate your own damn self, because you know how to do that better than anyone else, and if you don’t validate yourself, you won’t even be able to accept anyone else’s validation to begin with.