Some time ago I posted a thing on that social media Zuckerberg doo-whatsit where I called out some people who did not interact with their community but expected everyone they were grooming to interact with them. They wouldn’t make an effort to exchange ideas, or engage in conversations, and would ignore anything that didn’t follow their own particularly tight focus.
A tight focus on a goal is not a bad thing, neither is ambition or motivation, but to neglect the greater community is just bad business.
One person who, though at the time I didn’t admit it, I’d been thinking of in particular, reacted and accused me not only of seeking external validation but of needing it to support my own sense of self (though he never said in those words). There was a minor interchange of no great note, but it got me thinking on this, as well as the way we constantly judge not only each other but ourselves.
Judging is normal, let’s get that out of the way now. Trying to convince people to stop doing it is like trying to talk everyone into being happy all the time; They might raise their fists and shout, “YEAH!” but they won’t, and that’s because in the bare-naked reality of the universe they can’t. Happiness is not a ring to reach for, and everybody judges everybody, just put that in your brain and leave it. You do it, I do it, that weird guy with the bangs who seems to always leer at everyone does it, and what’s important is not that we do it, but what we do with it when we do.
And knowing that others judge us, and how we absorb that, is where the need for external validation comes in.
Humans need the herd, the group, the tribe, the clan, or whatever you call your personal society, not only to survive but to live meaningful lives. We seek others of the same ilk, and we gather in packs with those on a similar journey, whatever that may be. It’s our nature as social animals, and it’s helped us not only to hunt and gather but to thrive and evolve. Part and parcel of that is the need for approval from the group, especially those particular individuals we’re closest to, the ones we care about above the others.
So when this guy made some disparaging remarks suggesting I was looking for external validation and that it was a bad thing, I took a bit of umbrage with that. Of course I look for validation, of myself, my ideas, and simply my existence. Of course I want people to like me, and of course, I feel bad when they don’t. The opinions of people I respect matter to me. Nobody lives in a vacuum in the real world.
Having said all of this, I’ll risk being self-contrary and say that the most important opinion should always be that which we hold of ourselves, and that’s one we should be consistently reevaluating. I will always be significant, but I won’t always be right. Be firm enough to hold yourself in high esteem, but flexible enough to accept that criticism when it comes from your crew.
You’ve got this far. You’re doing a good job.