But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads. ~Psalms 22:6-7
We long to be validated. If you grew up without validation, you look at the passage above and understand deep down those terrible words. You have felt like a worm, scorned and despised. You have been mocked, insulted and dismissed in life. You have ached over the universal need to feel validated as a person. When others denied you this, you may have tried to validate yourself using external activities. When externals are used for self-validation, they often turn into ravenous excessities.
Growing up, Megan was always trying to live up to the expectations of her parents. It wasn’t that they were outwardly abusive; it was just that no matter what she did, she never quite measured up to their standards. Even if she came home with a good grade on a paper, project, or report, there was always a little bit more she should have done.
When she went clothes shopping with her mother Megan always felt diminished. She could remember putting on a new dress or shirt in the dressing room and feeling on top of the world until her mother looked her over. The reaction was always thoughtful and critical, as her mother tried to decide if her deficiencies were less than the cost of the garmet.
It was the same story when she got her hair cut. Her mother would stand next to the stylist, pointing out all of the problems, from frizzy, unruly hair to double cowlicks. Together, they w0uld poke at her head and pull at her hair, frowning and discussing her shortcomings as if she wasn’t sitting right there.
When they visited her grandparents or extended family, both of her parents were open and verbal about how well she was almost doing. It was as if they just couldn’t say something nice — period — but had to throw in a distasteful tidbit that called any genuine praise into question. They talked about her behavior, her body, her schoolwork. When she got older, they threw in her friends, boyfriends, goals, and plans in life.
At some point, Megan stopped sharing anything of significance with her parents altogether. Outwardly, she was compliant and obedient, divulging just enough details about her life to give them daily fodder for discussion without exposing herself to any meaningful scrutiny.
It was at this point Megan turned to other people for validation. Finding little — and none that was untainted — at home, her peers became paramount. There wasn’t anything Megan wouldn’t do to be “included” in middle school. She learned to alter her personality depending upon which group she was with, becoming a chameleon of sorts. Her true self she hid away, taking it out sporadically and only when she felt really safe with those one or two friends she could trust.
Her sophomore year in high school, Megan tried sex as a way to achieve validation. Once she got over the inital terror and humiliation of it, she began to realize she had a power to make herself valuable.
In college, she invariably was drawn to partners who were analytical and critical like her parents. She kept hoping she could get one of them to love her unconditionally but found herself disappointed. Through numerous relationships and a failed marriage, she was still trying. And the more she tried, the worse she felt about herself.