Self-Validation. Corona Style.

The best thing you can do is master the chaos in you. You are not thrown into the fire, you are the fire.

Mama Indigo

5 MONTHS ON THE ALIEN PLANET.

5 months since DC schools shut their doors on March 13. 5 Months since Corona turned the U.S. upside down.

Can you believe it?

I can’t.

Part of me feels like I’ve been cheated of half a year of my life–it can’t be August, yet–I didn’t get to properly finish my school year off with my 4th grade kiddos (The Zoom date goodbye party didn’t feel official enough). I haven’t been to my grad school campus since March (I miss you, Foggy Bottom!). I haven’t had the pleasure of visiting my neighborhood pool at all this summer (Maybe next year, Banneker???). I haven’t nursed a latte at local coffee shop whilst doing homework in months. And visits to the grocery store now include 5 minutes of nearly non-stop hyperventilation as I dutifully, though not happily, cover my face (because, yes, mask anxiety is still real) What is this? What a crap year of missed opportunities and anxiety inducing safety measures. THANKS CORONA.

Yet, another part of me feels exceptionally grateful that my life has been at an abrupt standstill for nearly half a year. While the one part of me still grumbles at missed opportunities and the fact that, in 2020, the awfulness that is the face mask (and its obnoxious politicization in the U.S.) is still the best virus prevention out there (In Marty McFly’s 2020, face masks would be obsolete due to the invention of something that is much more user friendly, I’m telling you (and, for the record, you can believe the science, follow the rules, and still detest face masks…it’s a beautiful think called nuance, which is seemingly dead in 2020 America)), the other, deep, intuitive side of me knows I needed this time to regroup and reset. And that, in all honestly, I think the world needed this time, too. A global wake up call has been needed for a long time, and I really hope people are waking up due to COVID-19. While there are so many losses due to COVID-19–the loss of life, the loss of work for many, and the academic losses many of our children are facing to name a few–I truly do believe that challenging times are an opportunity for people to reflect, regroup, and hopefully come out better on the other end. They say we’re transitioning into the Age of Aquarius, after all–basically we’re all supposed to awaken anyway, right?

— — —

At the end of the day, as much as I might want to grumble about the external factors affecting my world right now, the wise words of Mama Indigo remind me that, regardless of what’s going on around me in the world, I am in charge of how I show up in the world. Even during a global pandemic, my response to the world is my choice and largely dependent on how well I’ve mastered the chaos inside myself.

With that in mind, I’ve been taking these last five months to delve deep into myself. I’ve been in therapy for the past three months, which has led to some amazing realizations. After finishing up a six week grad school summer course at the end of June, I decided to take time in July to intentionally step back from life to reset and regroup–partially, because I have a 13 credit graduate semester starting up at the end of August that will, effectively, cancel out the very definition of free time. Also, though, this rest time felt crucial to me as I discovered and processed some really useful, therapeutic realizations about myself.

Chief among these realization is that I have a habit of looking for validation outside of myself. As someone who considers herself to be exceptionally independent, this was a bit of a strange realization to have: why would I look for others to validate me when I hate even an inkling of neediness in both myself and others?

If you think about it, though, an independent mindset, when taken to the extreme, is disconnection at its finest. Additionally, looking for validation in others is the perfect way to stay disconnected from others–people can often tell when you’re looking for validation rather than a genuine connection, even if you yourself are not aware of that, which can push them away. If you don’t have the tools to validate yourself, what tools will you have to build healthy relationships? After all, the ability to have healthy relationships requires the self-validating confidence that you deserve healthy relationships. Self-validation relies upon a strong sense of identity and core beliefs–e.g., I can validate my thoughts and feelings, because I know this is what I think about and believe. Up until recently, I didn’t have a core sense of my identity (even though I thought I did). Thus, it was easier to search for validation in others and retreat into myself than do the work to be vulnerable with myself, find my identity, validate my feelings, and then have the strength to be truly vulnerable with others. I’ve spent the first four years of my life in DC feeling self-conscious about having no close friends here (which is an honest to god truth, as depressing as it sounds) only to realize that all this time there has a part of me that felt I didn’t deserve close friends here. Sure, I kept in contact with friends and family in Minnesota, the place I come from but know with certainty that I don’t want to return to to live–but finding happiness in DC, a place I love and want to call home for the long term? There was this deep sense that I was unworthy of accomplishing that. Thus, it was easier to seek out validation from others without truly getting to know them. All this time, I’ve called myself independent–but really, I’ve been feeling lost, lonely, and unworthy, and I’ve been nursing those wounds by looking to others instead of looking inward and finding myself.

This realization–that a lack of identity and sense of unworthiness have lead me to search for validation from others–goes hand in hand with the Enneagram Type 4, which I identify most strongly with. For those of you who don’t know, the Enneagram is a typing system much like Myers-Briggs or The Big Five. However, it’s much deeper than these other typing systems in that it offers a path of personal growth through your type. I’ve loved exploring the Enneagram while in therapy–it’s been so useful to come to these realizations about myself in therapy and see those realizations mirrored in the Type 4. The Enneagram Type 4’s basic fear is that they have no identity or significance–thus, they often latch on to ideas and look for validation outside of themselves to numb that fear. It’s creepy how accurate the description of the type 4 is for me. When I look back at all the struggles I’ve had in my life and all the messes I’ve gotten myself into, they all go back to this basic fear that I have of having no identity or significance. In fact, there are key moments in my life that I can look back on and think, “yup, I had no idea who I was then. I had no core identity. I genuinely did not think I had significance”.

There’s an incredibly strong connection between a lack of identity and a need for external validation. And it’s been really empowering for me to see that connection and actively work to develop my core values and what I believe in to become more secure in my identity and, thus, my ability to self validate.

I still have a long way to go in working on my self validation–perhaps it will be a lifelong journey. It likely will be. That’s okay, though. I’m aware now of my need for validation, and I’ve gotten into the habit of checking myself when I find myself falling into old, unhealthy patterns. I’ve gotten better at validating myself. I feel like I’m on the right path.

These last few, Corona-filled months have been challenging, scary–and, as a white person in the wake of George Floyd’s death–eye opening and educational. It also seems there’s no end in sight–the U.S. is, after all, still knee deep in Corona cases and racial inequity.

Yet, I still can’t help but feel hopeful. Charles Eisenstein calls authentic hope “a premonition, a glimpse of a future that’s actually possible.”[1] When I work on eradicating the basic fears within me, when I work to rise above them, I feel so hopeful for my own future–and then I think, if I can feel such hope at a personal level, why shouldn’t I feel it at a national and global level, too? The more I learn to validate myself, the more I believe that, not only will I rise above my current circumstances, but that all of humanity can and will rise above our current circumstances, too. At this point, there is no going back to “normal”. We need to, and I think we will, create a new normal–something better to replace all that wasn’t working before. It won’t happen overnight, and it won’t be easy. But, I do believe it will be worth it.

I think true self-validation comes from being able to look squarely in the mirror, seeing both one’s positive and negative aspects, and still believing in one’s worthiness and core identity amidst that. I’ve been doing a lot of that in the last few months–though it hasn’t always been pretty, it’s been worthwhile, and I feel I’m a stronger and more capable human because of that. I believe the same is true at a global level–we, as a society, need to look in the mirror, question what we want to be as a global humanity, and be honest about both what’s working and what’s not working in order to keep moving forward. It won’t be easy, but it’s a challenge I hope we take.

[1] Eisenstein, Charles. “The Origin of Wrongness in the World”. Political Hope with Charles Eisenstein. Online Course. Commune, 2020. https://www.onecommune.com/products/political-hope-with-charles-eisenstein-free-from-aug-3-12/categories/3266278/posts/10903499

10 Replies to “Self-Validation. Corona Style.”

  1. I hope this crisis does awaken something in us, and the Age of Aquarius would be a welcome relief to the Age of Money… I had never heard of the Enneagram personality test before your post. I did try a couple of online versions after reading it, and, of course, ended up exactly in the middle, as always with these this type of thing (I split 4 and 5 evenly both times).

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    1. The cool thing about the Enneagram is you’re not fixed to one type as in other personality typing systems. The Enneagram says we have all 9 types in us, but there is one that each person identifies most with. One popular Enneagram theory states that each type has two different wings. The Enneagram is a circle, and wing theory states that you can share aspects of the types right next to your dominant type in the circle. I identify as a 4w5, because I see 4 as my dominant type, but I also identify strongly with some 5 type aspects. Other 4s identify as a 4w3, because they identify with more aspects with the 3 type. Since you landed right in the middle of 4 and 5, you could potentially be either a 5w4 or a 4w5. I’ve heard it said that the type that makes you the most embarrassed when you read through it is most likely your dominant type, which I’ve found to be true in identifying with the 4. πŸ™‚

      Astrology actually says we are basically in the age of money and greed (aka the Age of Pisces) and that the age of awakening (aka the Age of Aquarius) will come directly after. I’m not sure if I believe in these astrological ages, but I do find it interesting to consider–especially since people have been questioning the merits of capitalism for a couple centuries now.

      Nonetheless, I do consider myself an optimist and believe there are a lot of people out there now reconsidering how we’ve been living and what we can do better for and by our society. I’m hoping, at least, that something good will come out of this.

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      1. I’ll have to read the descriptions again and perhaps see which one makes me the most uncomfortable πŸ˜‰

        In the last few years more people have seemed to move farther towards the extremes. The “new” version of extreme capitalism… yikes. I’ve started to post some more political flavored posts on my blog (not just the mask one πŸ˜‰ ), and extreme capitalism will be one for the future. So, I am not really into astrology, but I am hopeful that this current extreme is the last big push before we try to make the world more people-centric, perhaps an awakening of sorts.

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      2. Best of luck as you figure out which Enneatype makes you most uncomfortable. πŸ™‚

        Yeah, I’ve kind of always been of the mind that we need this polarization as a catalyst for real change towards a more people-centric society. Who knows, maybe I’m just a woowoo out there optimist, but it makes sense to me that an awakening could emerge out of a time of increased polarization, the polarization acting as a bit of a wake up call. Plus, there are so many activists working tirelessly to create a more positive future. I also think that the rise of yoga and meditation in the western world in the past couple decades is a signal that more and more people are becoming aware of the power of the mind and looking inward as a catalyst for not just personal change, but societal change.

        Haha, I’m not really into astrology, either. I find it interesting (classic Millennial there, I’ve read numerous articles about the interest Millennials have in astrology), but the logical part of me doesn’t want to take it too seriously, because it’s not exactly scientific…

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      3. I think, hope, that we are seeing the last gasp of the ugliest part of “old” America right now. There is a lot of polarization which is fueled by those on the extremes (OK, I’ll say it, mostly from the extreme right) using/abusing social media, but it is unsustainable. There will be a backlash against them, and I think it has started. Hopefully a fact based dialog won’t be far behind… Yeah, I have the optimist gene as well πŸ˜‰

        I do enjoy “alternative” viewpoints/philosophies/religions/etc. that might not be quite fact based, but haven’t dug into astrology very far… Sometimes there does seem to be something in the world (Universe) that is “beyond”, something that defies any explanation, and yet I am very into science. So I get it. And remember, it wasn’t the Millennials that first really took an interest in it, it was the people 10 or 15 years older than me…. It is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius – Let the Sunshine in πŸ˜‰

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      4. Sorry to keep barging in, but a thought just struck me. I do need to study the Enneagram types a lot more, but if I remember correctly, the 4 is kind of the moody artist type, uses a lot of imagination while 5 is the scientific mind. lol, I had to think of your statement on astrology vs scientific thinking. Yep, I know why there is that conflict πŸ˜‰

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      5. Lol no worries. I enjoy the conversation. πŸ™‚ Haha, yes–4s are super moody artists. That was the part that made me super uncomfortable when I first read the 4 type–I got all indignant and thought, I AM NOT TEMPERAMENTAL AND SELF-ABSORBED–whoops except I totally am. 🀣🀣 The 4 in me LOVES the idea of astrology and other alternative viewpoints. But my 5 wing always stops me short of embracing them entirely. It’s definitely a conflict! But I also think that conflict supports a sort of balance in me, which can be a good thing, I think.

        And yes, you’re right– the counter culture of the 1960s and 70s were the first to dive deep into astrology. As if we millennial are the first to embrace astrology–us sensitive millennial souls who got medals simply for participating always need a way to feel special, though. πŸ˜‰

        And as for polarization, yes the right is ridiculous, but I also think the left can be super self righteous, which only provokes the right to be more ridiculous. Some of the ideas coming from the right are truly mind boggling and concerning (I mean, QAnon–What the actual F***?!?!?), but I also don’t think that a lot of people on the left understand that the way they shame the right only provokes the right to act stupider. The shame-defiance dichotomy is basic human psychology–and the left LOOOVES shaming the right. That’s my two cents, at least.

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      6. I have known about what we are calling 4/5 conflict here for a long time – I always split the Meyers Briggs 50/50 on the T or F. The funny thing with me, though, is that it is exactly the difference between my mom and dad – my mom is 100% F and my Dad 100% T. So the logical scientist vs. the moody artist has always been who I am. OK, taken together, a nerd has always been who I am πŸ˜‰
        In ways you are correct, the left does often come across as super righteous (so does the far right, but in a different way). The problem with the left, though, is that a lot of them do not seem to understand the average person. That term “Ivory Tower” does have basis in fact. This makes it so “middle America” can’t relate to them. People called George W one of them (despite him truly growing up as an elite) while they called Obama and elitist because he used big words. George W had no clue what normal Americans go through, while Obama went through a lot of it. I think that is one reason Biden is the D’s candidate this year – average people can relate to him. Oh well, too much politics.

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      7. Lol I’m definitely an F, but as an INFJ, I can be very logical in how I use my F. Combination of introverted intuition and extraverted feeling, I think.

        I’m totally with you on the ivory tower mentality. It’s definitely there. Yeah, I think it’s good that Biden appeals to a wide audience. Progressives insists he’s too moderate, but I don’t think we can realistically go from a Trump Presidency to a super progressive presidency overnight. Baby steps.

        Ah, yes, lots of politics. Interesting to talk about, but also good to not talk about ALL the time. πŸ™‚

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