Friday, May 23, 2014

The Instinct to Validate

I'm working on starting a validation service, where people can write to me at a special email address and I'll validate whatever is going on in their lives. I'm gonna post videos where I explain this service and discuss validation issues. The videos will also have transcripts, and I'll probably start by keeping those transcripts on this blog. If this turns into something huge, I'll get another blog specifically for this project, where I'll double-post things from this blog that are focused on validation. My project isn't just about giving people validation, it's about teaching people what validation is and how they can be more validating to others in their own lives.

Teaching validation is important. It's my life's work. Seriously, I feel like it's at the core of almost everything I'm working on. It's in my fictional stories. My first novel was all about the negative effects of peer pressure and suppressing the gut feeling that tells you to run. I think one of the reasons I'm so passionate about my sex blog is that it automatically promotes the message, "It's okay to feel this way." This is definitely something I'm fighting for.

But I don't always want to be fighting. I don't want to spend lots of time around invalidators so that I can educate them. I try to surround myself with people who are validating and supportive and make me feel good about myself. It's because of that support that I'm willing to fight for this. I used to feel so lonely writing about validation issues, but now I know I've got people on my side, I know that "likes" from certain people are almost guaranteed, and I never had that feeling before.

When I was in a relationship with my boyfriend, I started off in a bad place. Coming right out of Colby College, I had gotten so accustomed to being invalidated and having my choices not respected that anyone who didn't do those things in a major way was awesome. I knew he wasn't an absolute validator deep down, but the fact that he didn't say anything that made me feel really bad was good enough. All I had to do was explain to him what was okay and not okay, and everything would be fine. But there is a huge difference between explaining your specific needs to someone who is sensitive of other people's needs in general vs. explaining to someone who isn't.

Being with my boyfriend made me feel like he was normal and I was weird. When we first broke up, I felt like I'd never find anyone else because I'd have to find someone who was willing to do a ton of extra work to be validating, since that didn't seem to be a "normal" instinct. But then I spent more time with my close friends and realized that it IS an instinct. I've said before that when someone tells me that their friend complained the whole time on a trip and ruined it for everyone, I automatically take the side of the complainer. I have logical reasons for that, but the biggest reason is that I've been the complainer way more often than I've had my day ruined by someone else complaining, so it's just instinctive to me. And it's instinctive to other people too. Even if they wouldn't necessarily take the side of the complainer like I would, they would at least consider that the person complaining was probably having a really bad time. Most people I get along with wouldn't automatically agree that the person shouldn't have been complaining.

I've been posting a lot of my personal feelings on Facebook, and I had someone tell me that no wanted to hear it and that I sounded "crazy as fuck." This was on a thread on my boyfriend's Facebook page. He didn't react to it at all. I had to keep pestering him to respond and when he finally did, it was a neutral response. A response that sounded like a class discussion post about how people use social media for different things. He really didn't care that someone hurt me. Now, he's not the kind of person who would have written something really bad to me, or even talked much about me behind my back, but he's also not the type who has the instinct to defend me. He's just neutral.

When I talked to a close friend about the message after, she told me that regardless of who the people were, her instinct would have always been to defend the person who wanted to share. That's my instinct too. It's not something I'm working especially hard at. It's not something I've worked to change about myself in order to satisfy the needs of someone I want to be with. It is literally just an instinct.

I'm not saying that people can't change, or that instincts can't be learned. You can definitely develop good habits to the point that you don't think about them anymore, to the point that they become instinctive. But I can't be with someone who I'd have to ask to develop those habits for me - I need someone who already has them. If someone is working on becoming more validating and consent-conscious, that's fine. Those are things I'm working on as well. But they need to be interested in these things on their own. I can't be asking them to start thinking about stuff that they've never thought about before.

I want to teach validation to the world. But I don't want it to be a full-time job. I don't want to be a teacher in my personal life. I need to be with someone who already has the validation instinct.

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