“I cannot bear to think that he is alive in the world… and thinking ill of me.”
You may (or may not) be aware that I’m a bit of a Pride and Prejudice fan; both of the Jane Austen novel and the BBC mini series (for I refuse to watch the Keira Knightly film version – as I find her too skinny and annoying!).
Naturally it is the brooding but sexy Mr Darcy and the witty and pragmatic Elizabeth Bennett that appeal, although Austen certainly has a way with words that continues to live on, both through the original novel and dearth of screenplays based on her work. Tragically I know the Pride and Prejudice script / novel almost by heart and the phrase above, uttered by Lizzie, came to me when I was thinking about this blog post.
I’m sure many of my regular readers are parents, who can think of recent examples, but those of us without children may have to cast our minds back a bit to our own childhoods… To the number of times we went running to our mother or father – or anyone who’d listen – to regale them of our latest achievement and await their congratulations.
Or we’d happily present a picture of some unfathomable blur of colour and smile expectantly… all the while waiting for the obligatory pat on the back that would come from those we looked up to. Of course we didn’t realise at the time that our elders were probably being a tad condescending… “Yes dear, what a fabulous picture of an stegosaurus fighting an alien.” All we cared about was the congratulations (or validation) we received. When we were young and didn’t know better, the acknowledgement didn’t have to be effusive or even genuine, it just had to be there.
I was reading a post a couple of weekends ago by someone whose blog I admire and smiled when they relayed a story of having received positive feedback for something… which they forwarded onto their parent/s and were equally thrilled when their parent reacted as positively.
I smiled at this because I do it ALL of the time and my parents are (have been) the most obvious recipients. Just a few weeks ago someone wrote something lovely about this blog in an online Forum. I was so thrilled I was almost in tears… and naturally I cut and pasted it into an email and sent it to my mother… so she too could see that someone thought I was (vaguely) talented and appreciated by others. It’s not that I think she doesn’t believe this herself… For some reason I just wanted her to know that others thought so. It occurred to me that I was just like the cat proudly dumping the dead mouse at my mother’s feet or unveiling my latest piece of finger-painted art!
Until I read the other blogger’s post I’d been wondering if I was strange (well, or stranger than I already assumed myself to be) – given that I’m 43 years old and am seeking a pat on the head from my mother? Is it unusual, I’d pondered, that I still want to make her proud? And is it unusual – I’d also pondered – that I used comments from a complete stranger to demonstrate my worthiness to my mother, given that she would undoubtedly tell me that she (unreservedly) agrees with the comments received.
It occurs to me now that it’s human nature… to seek validation or approval from others – particularly from our loved ones. I realise I do it at work; proudly presenting things to more senior managers or others. And even more bizarrely I tweet all sorts of inane achievements or happenings to the world at large, “I’ve been to Zumba!” And just yesterday, “I haven’t eaten any junk food!” As if I should be congratulated on such a mammoth achievement (well…. actually…).
I’m sure some of us require more validation than others, and I’m sure there are possibly deep seated reasons why this is – our own lack of confidence for example. But it reminds me that I can do my bit by providing praise, unbidden, when I think it’s due. And more importantly, I need to remember that it should be ‘all about me’ (yet again). Ultimately I’m really only accountable to myself. Only I can know if I’m living an authentic life… and if I’m not, only I can do something about it.
Finally, I’ll leave you with this great clip someone directed me to some time ago. It goes for about 16 minutes but it’s definitely worth watching.
Do we ever grow out of it, I wonder: seeking our parents’ approval? Or is it common that we seek validation and a pat on the head from others in our lives?
You may have noted I’ve switched to only posting every second day over the past week. My plan is 3-4 posts a week over the holiday season, so I hope you keep visiting for updates!