a field guide to quiet courage
PerpetualYou_Schiano-8664.jpg

Hope & Harbor

a field guide to quiet courage

on validation and giving ourselves permission

I have a habit – and I know I’m not alone in this – of looking for validation from others. Whether I’m writing an e-mail or weighing a big life decision, I’ve always felt the need to ask, “Does this sound okay?” or “Do you think that’s a good idea?” I always knew it was an insecurity, but I never considered that it was anything more than a quirk; certainly not a harmful one. But despite how common the insecurity is, I’ve realized that it can be harmful, because the more we feed it, the more it grows. And the more it grows, the louder it gets. And the louder it gets, the quicker we are to let the fear run our lives. Sooner or later insecurity owns us, and it doesn’t know what else to do but be insecure.

The search for validation, as I’ve come to know it, is the offspring of insecurity. But it’s not just about the need to be accepted: it’s the belief that we are unable to validate ourselves. When the weight of that realization fully hit me I thought: You, self, need to give yourself permission. You need to give yourself permission to see, to discover, to hold, to understand, to be okay. You need to give yourself permission to be your own validation. You also need to give yourself permission to make mistakes, to fail and to look foolish. Because it is going to happen. Most likely – and with your track record, let’s be honest – you are going to fail at some things and you will feel embarrassment and shame and regret. And that’s okay. Give yourself permission to know – to trust – that it’s okay. Maybe even, if you can, strive to give yourself permission to accept that those mistakes and failures are wonderful, because when the dream-house you’re trying to build crumbles all around you you’ll be able to stand on the ruins and reach higher, and you’ll learn things, and eventually you’ll be in the right place with the right tools and all four walls will stand. But you have to give yourself permission to get started so you can finally stop toeing the dirt and you can finally look up, and see, and estimate, and hope, and try.

Of course, if it took just telling myself that speech only once, I’d be a lot farther in my life than I am (wouldn’t we all?). It’s like everything else: it’s a practice. It’s a process of once again relearning this thing called life and unlearning all the self-shame we’ve carried with us, all the things we’ve allowed because we thought that’s just how it was supposed to be. It’s so hard for so many reasons, namely the fact that it takes time and we live in an age of super-mega instant gratification. Who wants to wait for results anymore? We just want to see them. But the first step is the first step, and it leads to more success, more peace, more awareness – more permission.