Linda: I recently heard a story about a little girl whose grandmother bought her a new toy before going to church, but had not yet shown it to the girl. Since she was so young, it was hard to sit still in church, and her incentive was that she would be able to enjoy her new toy when the service was over. When the service was complete, the grandmother began talking to the priest, and the little girl proudly announced that she had a brand new jump rope, but didn’t know how to use it yet.
The priest was young and hip and offered to show her how to skip rope. The young priest demonstrated and then the little girl tried it a few times. Once she was successful in getting the rhythm of skipping over the rope, her grandmother and the priest clapped and exclaimed about how well she was doing. The adults talked for a while longer, and the little girl went off to the side to practice her new skill. When she returned to them, she announced, “I can do it, but I need a lot of clapping.”
We never outgrow our need for clapping. We are often generous with our acknowledgment of a child’s behavior and make a fuss over their achievements, but don’t go out of our way to praise the achievements of the adults in our lives. That inner child that resides inside each of us never grows up and always desires to be seen and appreciated. If we were fortunate enough to grow up in a family where we were frequently acknowledged, we enjoyed it and want more of it. If our parents were distracted and didn’t see us, or were unhappy and projected their darkness on to us, it left us hungry to be seen and validated and we need to make up for that deficit. No mater what our background, we all want to be seen, heard, and known. We want to know that we matter, that we are respected and that we are loved.
It’s obvious to us that children need to hear praise for their best qualities and specific behaviors. But we somehow lapse into believing that grownups don't need such encouragement, and if we do need it that we are somehow deficient. There are widespread beliefs in our hyper-independent culture, that we should be a self-contained system and not need validation from outside ourselves.
To sit down with our beloved in a formal session to exchange what I love about you is an intimate and soul nourishing experience. Such a heavy dose of validation can lift our self-esteem. We can see ourselves through the other person’s eyes that may see our gifts and talents more clearly than we can see them. Our confidence can rise. And to lace our appreciation and validation throughout our interactions on a regular basis sets up a powerful dynamic. When we receive validation from someone we respect and trust, we often find that we can accomplish things that we formerly had no confidence to even attempt.
Some people are more self-referential than others. There is no right or wrong about this; it’s only a matter of style. There are those who are on the more independent end of the spectrum, and therefore need less validation. But those of us who need more shouldn’t be embarrassed to ask. Often our partner is quite willing to offer those sincere and encouraging words that mean so much. “You’re beautiful; you’re intelligent; you’re creative. I admire your drive and ambition; you’re a terrific mom; I am impressed by how well you balance motherhood and career. I’m so happy to have a partner to come home to; I love your cooking; you enrich my life. I’m so happy to live my life with you. You are special. I adore you; you’re sexy; I desire you; I enjoy making love to you. You and I are a terrific fit; I love your values. You make a beautiful home for us to live in. I know that you can do whatever you set out to do. I believe in you. I feel like I hit the jackpot when I found you!”
The one offering the validation and affirmation gets to benefit as well. When we look for things to validate in our partner, we are intentionally cultivating an attitude of gratitude. Then we begin to experience life as sufficient and abundant, counting our blessings on a daily basis. Giving to each other becomes something that is effortless and natural. A deep trust grows that our offerings will be appreciated and reciprocated. This trust isn’t based up on blind faith but was rooted in years of experience that reinforces this sense of confidence in each others generosity.
The process of giving is itself pleasurable and fulfilling. We enjoy giving for its own sake. This generosity is not a means to an end or a way of giving to get. The pleasure of bringing greater happiness into the life of our beloved is an affirmation of the value of what we have to give. It is a validation of our personal worth. Both partners stand to benefit from establishing this positive cycle because the one receiving the validation gets to feel special and the partner offering the appreciation gets to feel their gratitude even more deeply. How do you like that for a double joy jolt!
Linda and Charlie Bloom are excited to announce the release of their third book, Happily Ever After . . . and 39 Other Myths about Love: Breaking Through to the Relationship of Your Dreams.
“Love experts Linda and Charlie shine a bright light, busting the most common myths about relationships. Using real-life examples, they skillfully, provide effective strategies and tools to create and grow a deeply loving and fulfilling long-term connection.” – Arielle Ford, author of Turn You Mate into Your Soulmate