Saturday, August 20, 2011
(5) Rejection and Validation
As optimistic as the previous post's thought of unlimited happiness, free for all to take may be, I really don't think I am there yet. For as many times as I tell myself that I am accountable to no one for my successes and failures beyond my conscious, I find I am still firmly chained in the dank dungeon of perpetual rejection with little hope of self-redemption.
Ironically I think I have all of the exterior tools to break free of my soul's shackles and leave this spiraling self-hatred behind - I already have my “knight in shining armor”, a few supportive friends, an endlessly optimistic Mother and a trusty canine companion to turn to when there is literally no one else to snuggle with (sadly, the kid kicks). Unfortunately what I've found is that in spite of these positive, constructive connections and relationships I am no where closer to freedom than I was as a confused teenager. This is not to say that I am ungrateful for their love and support, rather that somehow I've managed to hold myself from happiness and impose unremitting high standards that are persistently just out of reach.
Rationally it would make sense then to acknowledge that the source of acceptance I seek is internal and not in the hands of a determined dementor assigned to place the kiss of death on any attempt I make to be successful. As much as I'd like to place blame on the He Who Must Not Be Named, I think that a line must be drawn between the derivation of acceptance and rejection... while the two go hand in hand, there is no peace to be had or freedom to be sought if one addresses them both in the same way or gives either irrational weight.
There is a line in the movie Pretty Woman where Julia Roberts says "people put you down enough, you start to believe it... (and) the bad stuff is easier to believe." For much of my life, I've identified completely with this statement and measured myself by all the external feedback I happened upon regardless of source or validity. With the conscientious intention of avoiding arrogance and conceit, I've made it a point to evaluate my reflection in other's eyes and (no duh) ceaselessly find myself wanting... Granting more significance to and generating more motivation from arbitrary censure than a loved one's encouragement, I tighten the restraints in rejection's oubliette and, as my own warden, deny myself the comfort of support or acceptance. Unfortunately this tactic recently resulted in my husband coining the phrase “coupon compliments” to indicate the relative discounted value a heartfelt “you are beautiful” comment receives compared with a random 1990's joke about “thunder thighs.”
Irrational? Definitely. Overly critical? Yep. Unjustified? Perhaps. It's hard to overcome behavioral patterns we've created for ourselves through years of life experiences and it is even harder to look societal standards and nay-sayers in the eye with defiance. Yes, my last post was right, with time does come perspective, but only with acute, authentic self-reflection does acceptance come with perspective. I cannot change what other people think of me, my actions or my accomplishments – that is their burden to bear, not mine – but I can work to unlock my own validation and acceptance independent of external input.
Do other people's opinions matter? Right now, yes; but I don't want that to be my final answer. I am not a summary of other's condemnation and it is about time I turn their rejection back upon them. Rather, I am the sum of my failures, successes, faults and values and that alone is what I seek to establish here. I must learn to write for myself and, hopefully, I will find my voice and confidence along the way.