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.