Friday, September 4, 2009


According to my parents (specifically, my mother), I am supermodel hot, Einstein smart, and I poop solid gold nuggets.

That is perhaps an exaggeration, but my mother has told me, every single day of my life, that I am smart, or funny, or clever, or creative, or beautiful, or special. Mom has cooked me big heaping bowls of validation, and I've swallowed every bite.

This is what parents are supposed to do for their children: build them up and provide reasonable challenges along the way. By meeting these challenges, the children develop a sense of self-efficacy. The kids learn to believe what the parents have known all along.

That's how it's supposed to work. Me? I'm my own unique recipe. First, take a perfectionist, type-A, first born pleaser. Add a depressive streak, and, just for fun, a bit of narcissism. Blend in a slightest bit of insecurity, and mix it all together. What do you get? Somebody who constantly wants validation.

I really, really, really like to be complemented. Of course, you're not supposed to be like that. I brush off complements when I get them, but deep down, I horde them. I walk around my cluttered mind, pulling out the kind words of others. I stroke the phrases or comments gently, as if they were one of my fifty cats.

This leads to a problem, because when I don't get complements, I assume something is wrong. I cannot tell you how many conflicts I have created in my mind with my in-laws. They are Midwest folk, who are not inclined to Constantly Kiss My Butt. When they don't tell me I'm doing a good job with the boys, or ask me about my writing, I immediately jump to the opposite conclusion: Clearly, they think I am a bad mother with no skills or talents.

You can imagine how healthy it is to live this way.

The fact is, I will never feel complete, no matter how much I try to fill that empty hole, because I've neglected to include the most important ingredient to my recipe: Grace.

If I step back and remind myself that I was made for a purpose, that God has great plans for me, and that God will use me to love Him and love others, I will find a contentment far beyond the momentary buzz of an "Atta girl."

God doesn't want me to have an inflated sense of false self-esteem. God wants me to have self-efficacy--the knowledge that He has made me capable.


Trudy Woodland said...

I think your desire for validation provides you a are great at giving compliments Nancy. Everyone loves the feeling they get when they are complimented, not everyone is at ease with giving them as you are.

Corrie Howe said...

Nancy, at the risk of complimenting you (in the way that it is bad to give a diabetic), I commend you for your great understanding of grace! Wow! I wish I understood grace as well when I was your age.

Zephaniah 3:17 "The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing."

How about pulling this up when you need assurance or a compliment. (I have to remind myself of this all the time when I need affirmation too.)