Self-Expression vs. Validation

My work notebook is filled with sticky notes that have quotes written on them. When I find words that inspire me, I write them down on a stick note and stick it somewhere where I can see it. Eventually, mainly to keep the clutter manageable at my desk, I stick them into my notebook and come upon them on the rare occasion that I find myself leafing through the thing.

Yesterday, the idea to “share for self-expression, not for validation” popped back into my head.

A few weeks ago I went to a very intense workshop run by my therapist for 11 women in the area. I had been to a body trust workshop before, but something about this one felt much more intense. And that was before I showed up on the first day.

It ended up being about 20 hours of pure emotional rawness.

That might sound terrible, but for someone who’s been in the business of repressing emotions for a while, it was really cathartic. I discovered things about myself and my truth and my stories, and I felt really free.

I was excited and a little scared to tell people, namely my sister and my ex. I never did.

Now weeks have passed and I haven’t told anybody what I learned that weekend. And yesterday I realized I was back in the place where I was before the workshop: believing that my story is little. That I am making a big thing out of nothing. That I am overreacting. That my story is less important than other people’s stories. That I should stop being so dramatic about the whole thing.

I feel like I’m building up to some great share here, and I’ll tell you now that I’m not. What I realized yesterday is that since I hadn’t shared my story, it had never been validated externally, and the longer it went on without external validation, the less legitimate it seemed to me.

Hence the idea “share for self-expression, not for validation.”

There are a few reasons that I’m not going to share my story here. But the main one is this: that as long as I can’t believe that my story is important and legitimate, I am leaving myself open for an invalidation I might not survive.

So I’m going to keep doing this work. I am going to keep learning to believe and trust myself. And eventually, I hope, more often than not, I’ll bring myself to a place where I can share to express my truth rather than to have it validated.

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What’s in Our Control?

A few weeks ago I drew a big circle in my work notebook and titled the page “Scope of My Control.”

I put

  • my actions
  • my decisions
  • my behavior

in it and

  • The weather
  • Others’ thoughts
  • Others’ feelings
  • others’ behaviors
  • others’ decisions
  • others’ actions
  • my thoughts
  • my feelings

outside.

Today, I added “the outcome” to the outside too.

A few hours later, when meeting with my new manager, I happened to open to that page. He started reading it upside down and it started an interesting discussion.

He disagreed with what was out of my control. He thought my thoughts and feelings are under my control. So we talked.

We discussed.

I don’t think either one of our minds changed.

And it was wonderful.

His point was that people shouldn’t feel hurt when they know the other person’s intentions are not to hurt them. My point was that people can’t help what they feel, what they can help is how they respond to that feeling. People can decide to act in a way that assumes the other person intended to hurt them. They can also decide to act in a way that questions their feeling. They can wonder, “why would this person intend to hurt me?” or “why would a kind person say something hurtful to me?”

I think more controversial is that I believe my thoughts are out of my control.

And as I write it again, here on this blog, I believe it even more. Our brain is on all the time. It’s constantly thinking and reacting to things. Many of my thoughts are my brain finding a pattern and thinking that something similar must be happening. I truly don’t think I can control this process. But again, I can choose how I act in response to my thoughts. I choose whether or not I believe those thoughts. Whether or not those thoughts should pertain to a decision I’m trying to make.

For me, the key to disconnecting my thoughts and feelings from my actions, decisions, and behaviors has been self-awareness.

I have spent the last year (at least) learning what my stories are, my common stories, the one my brain always tries to explain things through. I’ve told you guys some of these stories here on this blog.

Being aware of them allows me to question them. Allows me to take control of the things I can take control of, instead of following them blindly and wondering why I feel totally powerless to relive the same story over and over again.

Know what you can’t and can control. Figure out what works for you. Follow your beliefs to find the stories you tell yourself. Learn yourself. Develop this awareness. And as always, see what happens.

My Body Story, Ch. 7

It’s been a while, eh?

My body has been on the back burner for a while.

Mostly because it’s almost a non-issue at this point.

It’s surprisingly weird how easy this feels on the back end of things.

I know my journey wasn’t that. It wasn’t easy. I don’t know if my journey was typical or normal or how other people’s journeys went. I’m pretty sure my journey is not over yet.

But I do know that today, not dieting or purging via exercise (no, not all exercise is purging, chill), I felt cute and that was awesome.

I felt attractive.

I felt sexy.

I liked what I was wearing.

My hair was having an especially good day.

I know this isn’t every day for me. I know most days I don’t give too much thought to how I look. I know there are still days that I grab my belly with disdain.

I know there will always be such days.

But before, there weren’t really these other kinds of days.

Before, there weren’t these days that I felt good. Not unless I was towards the end of a diet cycle, checking out my before and after picture. Even then, they were fleeting. Quickly taken over by the question “How much more an I lose?” or “How will I keep this weight off?”

So that’s where I am today.

For the most part, I eat what I want, when I want, without guilt.

I’ve even started working out, depending on how I feel, and what my body seems to want.

And that’s all I’ve ever wanted. To trust my body to know when it’s hungry and what sustenance it needs and what movement it desires.

I’m getting closer now.

My body story is almost complete.