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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