I recently asked a friend of mine on our podcast, “Did you ever find yourself seeking external validation? If so, what did you hope that person or group of people would tell you?”
As she began to share moments from her life of when she was seeking external validation, I started to think of instances when I found myself seeking approval or permission from others.
It was difficult to pinpoint the origin of when it all started.
One memory after another flashed in front of my eyes.
It was as if I was watching a movie.
The only parts missing were a 60-inch and a bowl of popcorn.
As I tried to go deeper within each memory, hoping that it would lead me to the origin of why I chose to seek validation from others, I noticed that the memories began to repeat themselves, over and over again, starting with 2005, the year that I was adopted from Chebarkul’, Russia by a family from Ann Arbor, MI.
I felt like a newborn after the adoption took place, even though I was 12 years old.
I spoke very few words of English … and only understood a handful of the culture that I was deeply immersed in …
I was desperately looking for a place of comfort or familiarity, a place where I belonged.
For me, seeking approval or permission was one way for me to develop that sense of belonging.
It was a practice I was far too familiar with from the three years of living in the Russian orphanage, a place where we had no choice, or so it appeared that way. I would seek approval or permission from the authorities before making a decision, no matter how big or small it might have been.
But, as the saying goes, “too much of anything can be bad for you.”
My case was not any different.
Although, seeking approval and permission from others might have helped me at the beginning, as the years went by, it took away my self-confidence and self-belief in my own decision-making abilities.
The lack of self-confidence and self-belief made me indecisive, in situations where I felt comfortable making my own decisions before.
Seeking approval or permission from others was becoming the norm, my norm.
It seemed that no matter what the situation was, whether it was intimate relationship I was part of, business endeavor, a friendship … I was seeking the other person’s approval or permission for the decisions I was to make.
It took years; before I was able to reverse engineer what I had created.
In fact, that is the most important message, for me at least, to acknowledge and take ownership that even in situations where I felt like I was being dependent on others, I was still the person that was making the final decision.
Even at the orphanage, where seeking approval and permission was in your best interest, unless you wanted to be punished, I could have disobeyed what I was told and chose differently.
We all have a choice, at all times, even in situations where it may not seem like it.
As I was once told, “The decision not to make a decision is still a decision.”
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